Going Global (the prequel)

22 Oct

Cleaning out the clutter deep thoughts on my laptop, I came across this draft of a blogpost which is related to my rant about globalization. Rant on…

Today we managed to get out of the house for the afternoon for a short trip to Crosswords, a bookstore somewhat akin to a small Borders books. Happily, there is a section devoted to Indian authors (in English). I found a copy of Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian in paperback.

Crosswords has a reader rewards program, which I asked a sales associate about. Here was the reply:
Thecrosswordsreaderprogramenablesthemembertoenjoythebenefits

ofapointsystem.Costing150rupeesthislifetimemembershipallowspoints

tobeearnedperpurchaseover40rupeesandonce100pointshasbeenreached

thiswillbeequivalentto100rupees.Inadditionforspecialeventsandcelebrity

appearancesmeberswillreceivenotificationandalsoenjoythebenefitofhome

deliveryandphoneordersforthislifetimemembership.

Which reminded me of the similar robotic monologues that I’ve heard from, among others: Telmex representatives in Mexico, BanInter reps in the DR, and Pizza Hut staff in Pakistan. Is this the corporate mentality being imparted to people in these countries? First, there’s an absolute lack of customer service sense, which doesn’t trouble me, but what are the potential effects of this approach of retail in a place like India? What it feels like is that Indians of a certain class and status – the ones who might work at a place like Crosswords – will end up as impersonal, non-thinking drones.

The battle over globalization, if it’s even continuing these days, has included very little discussion of its social impact on these classes. Guess what I’m trying to say is that there doesn’t seem to be any humanity in the “new” faces of India and other developing countries, and how could there be when you’re taught to memorize a corporate script and sell your product without ever being asked whether you actually like that product and what it stands for? Sound familar? Look up “diplomat”…

This change in India, whether you call it “India Shining” or simple progress, or something else, makes what was to me an unknowable place one that is all too familiar and lacking in substance to boot. It makes it a poor, developing copy of Western countries.

Which makes me wonder…

Is this a time in between eras? The internet may very well be the biggest, most groundbreaking change I’ll see in my lifetime. It’s not a historic change in the sense that the end of the Colonial period was a moment in history. The changes are simultaneously on a more personal scale, but massive in terms of the numbers of persons affected by it. What was the use of learning all that history? The use of dissecting independence movements in India or Africa? Nationalism now is a thing replaced by religious identity and tribal loyalties. What was the idea of India has been subsumed by people continuously “sculpting their own celebrity” or mouthing the credo of a corporate superculture.

Maybe those in the generation before mine feel this loss greatest. Maybe for them the push and willingness towards war is a way of making life today similar to the way it used to be. The internet allows us to erase lines and boundaries. Those who adapt to it best are those who create new individual identities (real or fictional, it doesn’t matter, and the irony is that these identities are meaningless anyway), and those who get the worst of it are the ones trying to re-create the national divides of the last century. If one looks through today’s newspapers and journals, do you ever see articles on what any of us have in common with each other? The resounding answer is no, excepting the random article examining small, local concerns. For all our inter-connectedness, we’re now more strangers than ever to each other and to ourselves. And for the United States and other pluralistic nations that celebrate their diversity, that puts them at a huge disadvantage . Welcome to the 21st century.

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