Globalization and the end of Philippine culture

One interesting thing I saw while going through the National Museum’s Rice exhibit is its take on the “kaingin”. According to the exhibit, the kaingin was not the harmful practice that it actually was but only became so because of the demands of “the land hungry and increasingly globalized commerce”. That comment was interesting to say the least.

Never mind the fact that the Philippine population increased because of better diets, better access to better medicines, better medical attention, better access to better communications (in case of emergencies). All of which, mind you, was the result of globalization and increased trade. If ever kaingin became phased out as an agricultural method it was simply because it inefficiently dealt with the demands of a growing society and of change. And change - like death and taxes - is a constant and certain thing in life. You can’t blame globalization for that.

Changes demand innovation and creativity, which then breeds more changes, and so on. Changes in life patterns, culture, politics, science, philosophy, and even religion, are inevitable. Globalization doesn’t necessarily create those changes. It just makes the products of change a whole lot more accessible to a whole lot more people.

Indeed, by the exhibit’s logic, people should use horse drawn carriages and not cars (a foreign invention). Or people should start making their own clothes by needle and thread, instead of buying them from malls. Or write using pens instead of tapping away at computers. And write by candlelight (ala Rizal) and not through fluorescent. But the problem is that even such old fashioned alternatives are all products, one way or another, of globalization.

Ironically, with the Philippines being a mix of Christian or Muslim faiths, of a Republican government, of English speech, of Asian, American, and Spanish cuisines, of fiestas, of rock and pop, of a people of mixed descents, of Hollywood and basketball, globalization should be the last thing it should be bashing. Notably, the last two significant events whereby Filipinos were riveted as one were the death of a Polish pope in Rome and of a Filipino boxing in the US.

But doesn’t globalization lead to a destruction of cultures, leading to that dreaded Western “homogeny”? Doesn’t globalization lead to everything becoming Americanized? The answer to this question is that globalization doesn’t come about because of the dictates of any sole or singular power. The power of globalization is that it provides people with choice. Nobody has ever forced you, at the point of a gun, to eat hamburgers and french fries. Nobody forced you to buy rubber shoes and then forced you to play basketball or football with it. Nobody forced you to watch the latest Hollywood movie or buy the latest rap offering. Nobody is forcing you to buy the latest designer jeans or that affordable but cool wristwatch, or listen to an i-pod. Or buy the latest book on the adventures of Shopaholic or of Frodo.

Globalization is about choice. The world is not being Americanized or Westernized. We are free to choose. To eat curry or dinuguan. To watch Christopher de Leon or Ziyi Zhang. To drink softdrinks or gulaman. To listen to Parokya or U2. To watch Stairway to Heaven or Bubble Gang. Whatever the merits of your choice or the level of quality from which you can choose from, the point is you have a choice.

And the great thing about it is that this choice is not limited to the elite of our society. Thus, the poorer members of our country can now - compared to what was before - have their pick of cellphones, clothes, magazines, food, cd’s, books, the internet and other sources of learning. Ever since the Philippines opened its economy up, a lot of benefits normally reserved for the rich are now enjoyed by the poor. No doubt inequalities still exist and we should work harder to change that (and note, as stated in our last article, how freer trade helps the poor). The point is, far from the threat it is made out to be, globalization is about choice. It is about freedom. If you want a more egalitarian Philippines, you should be embracing globalization.