National Identity, Culture and Globalisation
Lithuania wakes up to a new social and cultural reality
In the academic and intellectual Lituanian debate, globalisation and Europeanisation is often regarded as a deadly threat to the national culture, an „evil mission“. Almantas Samalavicius looks at the arguments and proposes a completely diffent concept of identity. The impact of globalising cultural trends on variety of national cultures has become one of the burning issues of the day. These days globalisation is often seen as a hegemonic discourse enveloping and affecting all possible cultural forms and its elements all over the world, both in post-modern and traditional societies. Post-Soviet Lithuania, like many other countries that shifted from a close to an open society is now being subject to global forces operating in the contemporary world no longer divided and dismembered by competing political and economic systems and their militant ideologies - the two opposite poles that demarcated former „East“ and „West“ that shaped the post World War II era until the spectacular and truly epochal events of the 1990’s.
Obviously the Lithuanian society is not „tax-exempt“ from the pressures of globalisation. It is a tiny country as far as its geography is concerned, though it has shrunk to these dimensions from a ten-times larger Medieval kingdom. It is burdened by the many cases of historical turbulence that befell on it during the last centuries, when it was forced to give up its statehood to foreign powers, and burdened by traumatic experiences gained during the Soviet occupation/colonisation that lasted almost half of the 20th century. So it is naturally cautious of the pitfalls of globalising trends that threaten the fragile and ambivalent content of its national culture. It is no wonder that questions of national identity during recent years have been articulated openly and heatedly, occasionally even desperately in academic and public discourses. It might be added though, that rapid expansion of globalisation and penetration of global forces into local societies and their markets inflicts feelings of insecurity, fear and disillusion in many regions of the world. Anti-globalist movements encompassing all of the globe seem to resemble the desperate activities of Luddites during the ascent of the industrial revolution. Distrust toward neo-liberal doctrines that seem to be most powerful ideological tools and prime-movers of free market, and the conduct of transnational companies and corporations today, becomes stronger as these operating forces threaten to destroy national economies and sovereignties.
It should be further added that Lithuanian society itself is undergoing a social transition; accordingly many layers of its social strata feel insecure since some of its social groups have neither economic nor intellectual means to tune to the new rhythm of social life of this „brave new world“. Unemployment, lack of social security programs, and limited re-educational and career opportunities are felt very painfully in this stage of post-communist transition. Many Lithuanian social critics admit that disillusionment in the ruling elite (no matter if left or right wing parties have been in power), lack of trust in state institutions (such as the parliament, government, courts and law enforcement - well-documented by many opinion polls during the last decade) readily gives itself up to mass fobias and social hysterias. Its is also obvious and noted on many occasions by researchers and critics that these development have been accompanied by the waning of communal bonds and communal spirit that were so strong during the upheaval of 1990 when the country won back its national independence.
Perhaps there are good reasons to suggest that many Lithuanian citizens voted for Europe not because of a newly-born feeling of pan-European community and solidarity, but because of fear of remaining on the...