04 Fed 2013
Globalization in America: Changes in a Traditional Religious Neighborhood
The term “globalization” is a complex concept to define in a single, precise statement as one might find in a dictionary. Although the phenomenon has many facets, it is generally described as the trend whereby countries, on a global scale join socially, politically and economically. This process is facilitated in many ways, like through public and private sector decisions, education and by the ever increasing rate of information transfer via the Internet and social media, which has been a major catalyst in contemporary politics. An example of this would be the ways in which the social media has facilitated the Arab Spring revolutions, as individuals see themselves increasingly as part of the larger picture; as citizens in the global scheme. Globalization is said to bring people of all nations closer together, especially through a common medium like the Internet, and through the common mechanism of economics.
Growing up in one of Brooklyn's most iconic religious communities, I have experienced the many changes to its population and commercialism as it has “evolved” due to globalization. I have seen the resistance to this change as well, which may be typical of areas where the majority are conservative, religious men and women. However, as all communities eventually yield somewhat to the changing political and social landscape, I have noticed the ways in which Crown Heights Brooklyn has also gave way to the phenomenon of globalization.
From a lifelong perspective on my particular block, I have see the changes in the ways my neighbors and I shop, how we interact, and the effects of this change on the community. In particular, I’ve notice mass merchants opening up around my neighborhood. Neighborhoods comprised of a dominant ethnicity or religious majority tend to favor the “mom and pop” version of food markets, pharmacies, as well as locally owned day cares, schools, banks and other institutions. It is therefore interesting to watch the process of globalization gradually change my community in similar ways it has changed other secular neighborhood. Particularly notable is how the the local hardware store (where we went to buy our batteries and Walkmans) was replaced by a home depot, and the Jewish operated kosher markets give way to (still Kosher) super-centers. Additionally, in the generation of my youth prior to the technological revolution, the idea of a cell phone for every able bodied adult and teen was as foreign as the notion of a flying car, Let alone the use of the Internet for recurrent ordering of good and service.
Before everyone was on board with “America Online” and learning the ins-and-outs of the Internet in the 1900's, the community of Crown Heights had almost blatantly-defined boundaries, and consumers rarely, if ever traversed these invisible lines for their consumer needs- they had no need for Kosher food, or religious materials or traditional Jewish food. In one article, Mele makes an analogy using the Lower east side of New York City to describe the visceral effects of globalization on the urban life (5), explaining the ways big business has reinvented and marginalized the “local character” of these neighborhoods. When big companies seek to get bigger by opening chains in small religious neighborhoods, the negatives are the same as when they open in secular locales, such as the Lower East side of the New York City- the negatives are blatant. The anti-globalization arguments are also the same region to region; that is, the fear of mistreatment to workers and low wages for them to bring home (Clawson 1) among other things. With respect to my neighborhood, I can recall discussions by a few Rabbi's about ways to slow or ameliorate such ills of the global market sprawl.
But the sprawling of global living is inevitable,...