Sunday, April 20, 2008

Globalisation, today and in 300 BC

Globalisation, in 2009 and in 300 BC - Hellenism, Globalism and "Americanism"

Based on the points that I made in an 2008 online discussion re comparisons between USA and Ancient Rome.

A. Introduction:

For all those who like to analyze the current globalization process, for or against, it is worth noting that the Hellenistic times, post-Alexander the Great were characterized as a "globalization" of sorts.

Alexander's venture into most of the "world" of those times led, in spite of his untimely death, to a single space/area which led to the exchange of ideas and knowledge as well as trade. That area was Hellenistic in its cornerstone, but very "multi-culti". Alexander made a point of embracing and incorporating ideas, cultures, religions et al of the areas he conquered. A good example is his stance in Egypt. Another is his marriage to Roxanne, a native of what nowadays is Afghanistan I think or that he strongly encouraged his generals to marry women of non Hellenic nationality, natives of the conquered areas.

Thus the globalization model that Alexander employed was quite different from the Roman one and from most if not all of the models of globalizations ever since, including, to a certain degree, the model of the current one.

Historians and other scientists study how various "Empires" were built. Maybe a similar study on how past globalizations were structured would be insightful.

Is the current globalization "too Anglo-American", in mentality, pop culture, architecture and ideas? That is not easy to ascertain in such a post. But it is worth thinking about.

Plus: Can this globalization learn a lesson or "best practice" or two from Alexander's model?

B. Hellenism, Globalism and "Americanism" (1)

The Hellenistic era is the period of history that covers the campaigns of Alexander the Great and after his death.

I have heard a comparison between Hellenism (a hybrid of Greek culture with the cultures and ideas of the various parts of the single area created by Alexander, eg Egyptian, Persian, etc) and today's Globalization.

So why not compare and contrast:

a) Hellenism and the Globalisation of that era with today's Globalisation
b) Hellenism and Americanism

I start the C+C with:

On (a):
Hellenism was a hybrid of Hellenic (primarily Athenian of the 5h century) culture an ideas and customs with local ones in the "world" of the times. It did not seek to impose one central one to all, like the Roman Empire and other Empires later did. To what extent is today's globalization a hybrid between American and other cultures, ideas, customs, etc?

Hellenism had one lingua franca: Greek. Today's has one as well: English.

There was lots of trade IN ALL DIRECTIONS in Hellenistic Globalisation and there is lots of trade, but in how many directions, in the current one?

On (b):
Is the so called American pop culture dominant in the world today "pure" American, or is it a "hybrid" of American and other pop cultures?
To what extent are the fundamentals of Hellenistic culture inherited by Americanism?

C. Hellenism, Globalism, "Americanism" (2)

How purely "American" is American pop culture?

And what is "American" in a country so "united nations" as the USA?

Are the United States of America producing a pop culture that is so "global" because the US is so "multi-culti" or not? Mind you, it is IMO American pop culture that has more enemies than US Foreign Policy.

But who are the enemies of the US pop cultural products? Is the root of the "problem" that many countries and nations do not have a "popular modern culture" and/or that US pop culture promotes a liberalism that does not suit the ideological mindsets of many "national (wannabe or threatened by the appeal of US pop culture) cultural and ideological champions/monopolists"?

Is the Pop Culture produced is the US today "representative" of the US ie "American" as a whole or is it as hybridically "American", in the way "Hellenism" was hybridic of those times?

I argue that pop cultural "Americanism", as well as the English language, are not as American (or British, for English) as many people think. Why? Because they do take into account other "national" cultures in the inputs, maybe because they are produced by people who are sons and daughters of immigrants or "imports" (writers, actors, and most importantly, directors) from the rest of the world.

Eg how many Canadians are in Hollywood or the work for the TV networks? British? French? Dutch? Chinese? Many more than people realise! Where was Kirk Douglas from? Carry Grant? Merilyz Theron? Most directors of Hollywood movies? (as an analogy, how many Americans play in the NBA and how many Brits in the English Premier League? PhD students and professors in US universities? all 4 are pretty "multi-national" in their synthesis)

As a litmus test, I see many Americans not "relate" well with American pop culture. Eg I have read critics who call it "too liberal" and not representative of the mainstream or grass roots USA!

Another potential test. Take a 25 year old non American who has grown up "consuming" US pop culture and put him/her in the US. Will this person feel at home or say "where is the "America" that I grew up with?". Nowhere? Only in his/her mind?

Or are NYC, London and LA "metropolises/centers" of "Americanism" in the "Hellenism" sense of the term?
Even London!
It is a question!
Why are or are not other locations (eg Paris or Brussels) centers of "Americanism" (or to shock less "Globalism")?
Is the European Union's main "problem" that there is no "European pop Culture", only national ones? Or is the problem something else? Is Europe's problem (and hence why so many in Europe are "Anti American") that Europeans go to the US to produce pop culture and not stay in their countries or go somewhere else in Europe? In the old days, artists gathered in Paris, scientists in some places in Germany, others in London.


How many Brits consider London "English" or "British" these days?

How many Americans consider NYC or LA "American"?

D. How American is today's Americanism? And how about "Britishism"?

The US is not an "Empire", IMO. It is a superpower. But definitely not an Empire. Eg it has no colonies. Maybe it has an analogous role/status to the one the city state of Athens had in the Delos Alliance of the Greek city states in the 5th century BC (Delos in 2007 being NATO or the WTO or both).

But my "thesis" is that "Americanism" is somewhat analogous to "Hellenism" (the hybrid of Greek, Egyptian, Persian, etc cultures etc) in the post Alexander the Great period called Hellenistic Times.

But back then, globalization was more "balanced" than the 21st century version of globalization.

An interesting issue is whether "Americanism" is
a) a result/"product" of a multi-culti culture in the US or
b) a result of a hybrid of American culture and other cultures from other countries, or
c) both.

Hellenism was partly Greek.

In other words, how much American is today's "Americanism"?

The US is or has no Empire, unless one overhauls the criteria and factors of what constitutes an Empire and adapt them to economic/business, know how and pop cultural strengths and world influences of the US.

Instead, I think that a new term rather than Empire is merited.

But the question remains: To what extent is modern "Americanism" American and modern "Britishism" British?

I argue that they but are of partial American or British "content".

The other interesting consideration IMO is whether London and/or England (or Britain) have or are going to overtake NYC and the US as the main cluster/center of modern globalism (see also the "Open Britain" concept). The way Alexandria in Egypt was during the Hellenistic Times (a "meta-Athens").

In the last few decades, IMO, more science, philosophies, arts, pop culture, pop art, etc, have been produced in the US (often using people from around the world) than in any other country or all combined.

And that bothers intellectual circles in Europe and elsewhere! What good are culture works if they are produced for the elites?

Athenian culture was for the masses, the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, the theories of Socrates or Plato, etc, were not "produced" or "consumed" by elites.

European and other cultural products these days are mostly elitist and produced by people in ivory towers and in non-market conditions. Hollywood movies ARE culture, US sitcoms too, management theories developed by an international cluster of professors in universities in the US are too.

Plus, it should be noted that Homer was a story teller after all, not an "intellectual" producing "content" for elites.

It is that mix of popularity and quality of US culture that really makes many European intellectuals and others so upset!

But my thesis is that both Hellenism and Americanism were/are a hydrid of "a national" (eg Greek or Athenian) culture with others (Egyptian, Persian, etc).

To what extent is Americanism a hydrid of American and other cultures and influences?
THAT is IMO the core of the topic.

Plus, to what extent is "Britishism" a hydrid of British/English culture and other cultures and influences?

Will 100 years from now the rise of China and the Spanish-speaking world diminish the global impact of "Americanism"? Well, in my opinion it will depend on whether they will incorporate elements from other cultures and influences.

"Pure" cultures, a la Roman, can they become globally popular as Hellenistic was (and still is) or "Americanistic" is?

Nobody imposes Americanistic culture on a Brit, French, German, Italian, etc!

They choose to "consume" it. Rome imposed its culture on the others. And that is why there is no "Romanism", in my opinion.

E. USA vs. Rome

What happened was that the Roman Empire's capital was moved to Constantinople in the 4th century, later the Empire split into two, the Eastern part evolved into the Byzantine Empire, the Western part did indeed "collapse", and there was a lot of volatility and changes for many centuries, including The Plague and the Middle Ages and then in the late 15th, Renaissance.

The Byzantine Empire lasted until 1453 and is said to be the first Empire that actually used culture as a "cohesive glue" of the Empire. And it fostered intellectualism, including "saving" cultural "capital" from Ancient Greece, etc, etc, to the extent it is argued that the intellectuals who fled westwards from Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire after the 1453 fall, contributed significantly to the Renaissance.

So, if we adopt the Roman Empire - USA parallelism/analogy today and the collapse of the "Roman Empire" scenario, does that mean a break up into two parts, and the survival of one part as a "culture cornerstoned" "Empire"?

And what would the Byzantine Empire equivalent be in that scenario of the future? Europe? Eastern USA, Western USA, other?

F. Observations

1. I do not see the factors that would lead to a comparison and contrast analysis that Globalization today is that similar to the Roman Empire.

2. In the Hellenistic and Roman days, the "world" was only a fraction of the Earth. Today it is very different, IMO.

3. The US and the UK did have a head start in the globalization economic "game", but other parts of the Americas, Europe and the rest of the world (eg Japan, China, India, etc) are catching up or caught up long ago (Japan).

4. Can we leave Russia out of our analysis?

5. The "collapse" theories, how do they define "collapse"? In defense/military ways? Are these relevant today or are economic or social or cultural or other "factors" ones that define "survival", "cohesion" or "collapse"? The USSR "collapsed" due to economic reasons after all, run our of money due to the arms race, if memory serves me!

6. The Rome based empire lasted about 6-7 hundred years at best. The Constantinople based one, lasted about 11 hundred, right, 6-7 hundred after the collapse of the Western part? The "vital core" of the Byzantine Empire was in SE Europe, not Asia Minor or the Middle East (Constantinople is in Europe, not Asia Minor).

7. How "solid" was the Rome based empire and what made it so? IMO it was based solely on oppression and Rome based laws and government.

8. Why did the British Empire collapse? The Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the Belgian?

9. Empires are usually one country/node "ruling" over others. Are the US an empire ruled by NY or CA or DC or the North East US? Is the EU an "Empire" being ruled by Germany? No and No, IMO (IMO the EU is not even united because IMO too many of its members are former superpowers and have not psychologically overcome the "culture shock" of not being ones anymore, see eg France and Britain).

10. The success models IMO have been Unions and United States ones: The Ancient Greek city states, the USA, The Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland.

11. The US economy is 75% Services by now. We live in a global services economy an before the entry of China in the WTO trade game, manufacturing was already in decline in the OECD countries and the world was moving faster towards post-industrialization.

12. The US and the UK today make much of their GDP and exports out of Services and put of "intellectual products" of two main categories a) music, films, etc b) telecoms and financial services (that is why they push for those agendae, eg intellectual property protection, in WTO talks as well as bilateral trade agreements recently)

13. The game of power has much less to do with military might and more with economic and cultural - ideas power/influence!

That is why I think that a compare and contrast "exercise" between the post Alexander the Great Era and the Post WWII era is MORE relevant than an Roman - US/UK Empires one.

And my working theory that it is pop cultural Americanism that irks many around the world more than other US "influences".

And that the US is not as "American" as people think, the UK is trying to become "multi-culti" and an "Open Britain" model is in deployment, that London has the potential of taking over World Metropolis status from NYC or DC or others, LA has the same, and that mobility of the human capital is where the key to a lot of things lies.

G. Strategic Implications?

1. Once North America and Europe decide, for climate change or other reasons (eg independence of energy sources) to move really away from fossil fuels and into either nuclear (!!!!) or alternative and energy saving changes to the way of life (much lower energy footprinting per citizen per day), some of the factors mentioned by other posters I think will not play a factor anymore.

We do indeed live in very interesting, pivotal, times, but I do not see any real "doom" scenarios as probable.

2. The US and the UK are indeed IMO, especially the UK, going through an "identity crisis" period.

The US has to decide whether to become a fortress or become open again, more open than ever before. "Americanism" is a quite liberal and libertarian (!!!) cultural mindset , "written" in English, but open source code and that is why it is globally appealing.

Globalization is much more multi-variable and multi-culti and open to all than people give it credit for, and part of the evidence of this is IMO in the shock that many Americans and Britons have in seeing "teams" from non traditional "economic football/soccer" places "beat" them in games they invented (so they think) and were champions at the first stage of the cycle.

If this globalization is US or UK made, it is no surprise that anti-globalization is also made in the UK and the US!!

An Oxymoron?

Well, the world systemics and dynamics were always oxymoronic, IMO, but one did not have the global print and electronic media to report it, daily and instantly, until a few years ago!

Yet, IMO, nobody controls the matrix, in spite of many theories to the contrary.

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