A Life Lesson

“The world’s a big place. You can’t do or be everything, nor should you. Life is bigger than any one man. But when you read about other people’s lives, when you read their stories, you catch a glimpse of a world bigger than your own. You may never travel a hundred miles from where you were born, but if you read stories, you’ll get to see the entire world.”Steve Dublanica

It’s funny how your perception of the size of the world changes as you grow up. As a child, your house is your nation, the backyard your countryside, and the fences your national border. A play date at a friend’s house is the equivalent of travelling overseas, as you are whisked away to a foreign land bursting with strange and exotic sights, sounds and smells.

There are many times that I wish I could be transported back to this blissful ignorance of childhood. As our knowledge of the world ripens with age, so too does our responsibility as global citizens to act on the injustices that face us all. Poverty, famine, war, asylum seekers. As a university student studying in a first world country, these issues, like a difficult math equation, are almost impossible to fully grasp. Growing up in a prosperous environment, where both food on our plates and clothes on our backs are a careless given, it is difficult to fathom the hardships suffered by many people around the world. We are caught up in our own microcosmic bubbles. A bad day is when our phone prematurely runs out of battery before the sun sets, when we step in a puddle with our new Gucci heels, or the only milk left in the fridge is skim. First world problems.

And yet, when it’s all that we know, we can hardly be blamed in our exaggeration of these struggles. BCM 111 has opened my eyes to the world beyond our horizon. My global ‘consciousness’ has grown through exploration of key concepts including globalisation, transnational film and television, hybridisation and glocalisation. Furthermore, it is the insight into the lives of other people and their stories that have expanded the borders of my international knowledge exponentially. While this personal growth may seem like a drop of water in the ocean of truly tackling global issues, this education is what I believe to be the first step towards enacting real change, and to making a difference on the world stage.

Self Preservation in an Age of Amalgamation

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In days gone by, the world was conceived as a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each piece represented a country. Although all the pieces could be placed together to form the one picture, the final image remained fractured, with each segment isolated within its own boundaries.

While countries may be still separated by geographical and political barriers, in a way the world’s population behaves as a singular organism in which invisible products in the form of information, ideas and commentary flow fluidly around the globe.  Within this interconnected environment, ‘media capitals’ have emerged as centres of media activity, locations where complex information paths and products interact, and where cultural boundaries dissolve. Today, the frontrunners of the media landscape are cities that act as hubs for finance, production, and the distribution of media, including Bombay, Cairo, Hollywood and Hong Kong (Curtin, 2003).

However within this unified media ecology, it has become clear that the concept of “cultural essentialism” holds true, the idea that certain cultural traits and characteristics do not change over time. In particular, this concept can be embodied in the orientalist opposition between the east and the west.

The Australian reporting of a number of attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2009 caused international controversy, representing to many the begrudging acceptance of the west to shifts in media power to those media capitals in the east (Khorana, 2012). Australian newspapers, such as the Age, responded to the attacks by blaming Indian TV as creating ‘hysteria’, lacking in balance and reporting sensational and exaggerated facts. This scenario followed a string of controversial interactions between the two countries, including an alleged racist comment made by an Indian cricketer to an Australian player in 2008. Following on from the attacks, India proclaimed that Australia was an inherently racist country.

Such an incident reveals that, despite the cultural flows facilitated through media capitals and by globalisation, countries remain firm in defending their self-interests and cultural characteristics against external challengers.

Another clear example of countries asserting their cultural independence over the world stage is the controversy surrounding supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In 2003, the UN and the Bush government of the US declared that Saddam Hussein was in the possession of large stockpiles of WMD. The media itself became a weapon of “mass hysteria that created tremendous fear in the population”, before it was exposed in 2008 by the Senate Intellgience Committee that the Bush administration had misrepresented the intelligence in an attempt to justify the war. In this scenario, the paranoia of the US post 9/11 saw America take all possible measures to protect itself and its self-interests against international threats at the same time ignoring the facts.

As can be seen, while it is true in many respects that the world has become one entity through which products, ideas and cultures flow, it is clear that the concept of “cultural essentialism” holds true. Embodied in cultural differences and expressions of countries’ self-interests, perhaps the world really is still a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Globalisation: The Intolerant Truth

A visionary’s utopia created by globalisation promises a world of equality and understanding across cultures. However, this wistful dream has proven to be a great distance from the truth.

Marshall McLuhan envisaged a “global village”, an international community characterised by the empowerment of its citizens in which all people, cultures and beliefs co-exist in harmony. A place where diversity is encouraged and multiculturalism celebrated.  Where global citizens unite to address universal issues.  A fantasy, no more.

It cannot be denied that we, as citizens of the world, have benefited greatly from many facets of globalisation. Rapid advancements in technology have bridged traditional notions of distance and subsequently dissolved cultural and national borders around the globe. Every day we find ourselves connected to, and immersed in a melange of sights, sounds and experiences of a variety of cultures.

While this may be convincing evidence of the positive impacts of globalisation, harmony remains an intangible notion borne away by the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. If truth be told, the economic gap continues to widen and topical issues of race and culture remain prevalent in the ‘global village’ of democracy and equality.

For example, recent controversy surrounding Adam Goodes’ ordeal on the football field sparked the Australian Human Rights Commission to launch an anti-racism campaign throughout the country.

Furthermore, outrage has exploded over the recent American design of The Sapphire’s latest DVD cover. The cover has relegated the four soul singers, who overcame the adversity of sexism and race in Australia during the 1970s to lead a successful career, to the

The Sapphires DVD Cover in question

The Sapphires DVD Cover in question

background of the image in a whitewashed hue. Meanwhile Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, who plays the manager of the Sapphires, features as the salient point of the cover, in full colour in the foreground.  Naomi Meyers, chief executive of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service where two of the Sapphire’s work, echoes the global outrage generated by the image, describing it as “disrespectful to women of colour everywhere who have stood up against this sort of thing all their lives”.  While it seems odd to diminish the importance of the key characters of the film in what has been construed as a racist move, many argue that this design is simply a clever marketing tool for commercial purposes. Rising to fame following his starring role in Brides Maids, Chris O’Dowd featuring in the foreground may merely be a smart move to sell the movie to a global audience. While many may not have heard of the Sapphires, Christopher O’Dowd is perhaps “the best shot Anchor Bay has of finding an audience for The Sapphires”.

It appears that in a world of globalisation, the hard truth is that fame and the promise of money triumph over the desire to inspire real change. And while we may all wish for the harmonious utopia that could be offered by globalisation, it is clear that a lot more action is needed to make this dream a reality.