Globalization – A Boon Or a Curse to Mankind?

Melinda D. Teston

What is globalization? Different people from different aspects of life have different concepts about globalization. Some view it as the movement of people, language, ideas, and products around the world (IMF, 2002). Others see it as the dominance of multinational corporations and the destruction of cultural identities. Some of these people feel globalization is a beneficial process (IMF, 2002), while others look at it with suspension and hate. Whatever their thoughts maybe, globalization is nothing new, be it the use of the ‘silk route’ to trade products (Jing, 2004) or the spread of paper world wide; it has been here for centuries.

The only thing that has changed is the speed with which it is taking place. The results and effects of modern globalization have become more visible than ever and like any other thing, globalization too has come in a package of good and bad things. The earth is no longer what it used to be. The direct and indirect effects of globalization have had far-reaching results with very few things left untouched. However, in a broad sense, the most noticeable and widely affected forms of globalization have been the technological revolution, the modification of food and food habits and urbanization. In other words, the world is globalizing and the outcome is a much faster, fatter and a more fashionable earth.

Technological Revolution
One of the largest off-springs of globalization has been the technological revolution. Globalization of technology maybe regarded as the biggest boon or the biggest threat to mankind depending on how the world uses it in the coming years. Even though the matter is of a delicate nature, the wide spread use of technology has put us in a spot where very few would want to go back. Computers, television, cars, electricity, fridges, bottle openers, telephones, pilot pens, cash card, etc have added so much luxury and value to a person’s life. The advent of internet has brought people closer to each other. Information now travels at the speed of a click of a button and along with it millions of ideas and innovations. Modern technology has had hugely dramatic and drastic impacts on all fields.

As one researcher from North-east regional forum rightly points out the impact of technology on education by stating, “Technology is not going to fix the problems associated with schooling, but, at the same time, the problems that plague our educational system are not going to be remedied without the presence of technology” (USDE, 2003).
Not surprisingly though, the innovation of new technologies has resulted in substitution and dematerialization. For instance the demand of copper wires in telecommunication in the 90’s had dropped to half of what it was in 1979 as it fell prey to other advanced technologies (Black, 1992). Technology, it is said makes the world a smaller and better place. But this is only half the truth. Technology has also made the world a feared place. Fear of nuclear disasters, employees being replaced by machines, increasing gap between rich and poor, addiction and dependence on machines, sedentary life styles, genetic food, etc are all negative effects of modern technology.

Altered Food and Food Habits
The earth is becoming fatter. Modern day food and food habits are causing severe health problems and obesity. No doubt, the food has become more delicious and many more varieties of food are available in the market owing to globalization. But the fact remains that the food sold in the market maybe unhealthy. In today’s world, a lot of the food we eat are genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides. Kathleen McAfee, ‘Genetically Modified Morals’ (McAfee, 2003) seems to be unsurprised over the decline of U.S. genetically modified food aid by south-African countries. She argues that modified crops are designed for dealing with pest problems and not food production.
On the other hand, the world is witnessing a total globalization phenomenon known as ‘the McDonalization of Society’ according to socialist like George Ritzer.

Ritzer defines McDonaldization as a process in which the principles of fast food restaurants are coming to dominate society (Ritzer, reprinted, 1993:1). Today’s world has seen a growing domination of delicatessens and fast foods. People everywhere flock to food courts thinking they had able to save time and money. But fast foods are under attack for selling unhealthy food and inducing people to overeat for profit. Such intake of processed low nutrient food has led to wide spread epidemic of obesity and health related problems. If we continue this trend of McDonaldization, we could end up in grave danger by putting our own bodies at risk.

Globalization Leading to Urbanization
Global change has led to radical urbanization and the effects of urbanization have led to the process of unifying the world at an alarming pace, transporting fashion, music, products and cultural trends to all corners of the globe. For example, the ‘fashion gap’ between countries like USA and Asian countries is not very wide compared to a few years back. One can now buy the latest products, view the latest films or listen to the latest songs, be it in Nepal or in the United States. Lifestyles have changed but become almost the same everywhere, as designer and strategist David Gensler puts it “Everything is about information and speed. The trends are global. The consumption patterns are global” (Sharett, 2004).

But in all this, cultures are being lost to modernization, lifestyles are becoming monotonous and sedentary and social values are being torn apart by globalization. Backed by trends and power of influence, Western ideals are falsely established as universal, over-riding local traditions and cultures. Products and ideas are being misused without knowing their consequences. These consequences and effects of urbanization have raised several and serious questions about mankind’s futures.

While one can try to weigh the pros and cons of globalization, the whole issue of globalization is very complex. This makes it impossible to judge and categories globalization at least for the moment. Globalization has caused the world to change and some of these changes have been good while other have not. Globalization in itself is inevitable and people will always have different opinions on it because of its diversity. To underestimate it and not take the right actions to curb ‘unwanted globalization’ could be disastrous. One may therefore talk about globalization, not as a boon or a curse but as a necessity to mankind for all-round world development. Globalization, thus one may add, must be handled with care.

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