Sabotage of Culture

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Picture with me… The scene is the small town outside of Xianjiang in Northeastern China,

a place seemingly transported from many decades ago. It is Sunday afternoon, time for the

weekly public market as peasants sell snacks, crafts and spices on the ground. Wagons full of

produces and fruits are pulled around by store owners. But in this very traditional rural farming

community, something is a little out of place. In the middle of the market, stands a group of fresh

swagged out Chinese kids, decked in their American street-wear, flat brim hats, tight jeans, high

top shoes listening to the newest track of American rapper Kanye West on their MP3 players.

Xiao-Bao, my friend the host of my recent exchange trip to China is one of these youth. He turns

to me and says “ohhh Aaron ni zenme yang wo de xiong di” which basically means, “what’s up

Bro?” in Chinese.

After a day at the market, we go back to his home. Xiao-Bao kicks up his feet and turned

on the television, as MTV fill the room with latest beats. In between music videos, he hums

the McDonald’s jingles and stares intently at the Chevrolet commercial while we talk. In his

voice, I could hear the conflict. His deep ambition is to move to Hong Kong and pursue the

Western lifestyle he sees on TV. Yet, his roots belong to this little town built by the generations

of subsidence farmers. If he and a whole generation of young people leave, this town, which

have survived over one thousand years, would slowly but surely die... Along with it, their ways

of life, culture, art and music would also become extinct, killed not by “progress” but by the

powerful façade created by American popular culture.

American pop culture is a powerful force. It has the propensity to penetrate any market

and dominate without consideration of consequences to native culture. This tendency has

prompted Harvard Professor James Walton to state, “We don’t use Marine Corps or Delta

Force; we use McDonald to dominate.” Such domination allows American corporations to push

products into Mexico, Sri Lanka, and Uganda, anywhere within the reach of the American

pop culture.

Xiao Bao and his generation, the irresistible nature of American export can overwhelm the local

cultures. May be you are thinking, “Good for the U.S. of A” (Yeah!); but is it good for people

like Xiao Bao, his parents, or this little town? Perhaps the questions that we need to pose today

are: What makes American pop cultures so irresistible? How does the American pop

culture detrimentally affect the youth around the world and the culture they live in?

And finally, what are some necessary solutions to address this problem?

fast cars and gorgeous women! Take the latest stereotypical Hollywood film, for example. Agent

007 goes on a mission, shoots the bad guys, seduces a beautiful woman, blows up the lair, and

drives off in a fast car.

younger generation. To the average teenager in Peru, China or Pakistan, these are pretty much

the most awesome things ever. In fact, the most popular American films in each of the last four

years grossed more box office-earning outside of the United States than they did here. Miley

Cyrus and Justin Bieber are teen idols in…India. Meanwhile, a recent Reuters report shows

that 80% of American TV watchers in China are youth… It follows that the clash of culture is

inevitable.

other societies, the American pop culture is subversive to the local cultures. Last year, French

President Jacques Chirac accused the United States of spreading a “generalized underculture in

the world.” He went as far as saying that “all other countries would be stifled to the benefit of...
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