Anti-Globalisation As Xenophobia
Andrew StroehleinRecently, the Czech Republic has been witness to several demonstrations of young people protesting against "globalisation." One often thinks of young people being more tolerant toward other cultures and generally more open to foreign ideas, but there is a disturbing element of narrow-minded nationalism in these protests.
Telling people about rain forest destruction and the huge amounts of waste generated by fast-food chains is all quite fair (though it would seem better to talk about the values of the consumer culture in general), and if you don't like McDonald's, you don't have to eat there. Recent protests, however, go beyond these arguments.
What the protesters seem to be saying is that they are against "one world" trends of globalisation altogether. Foreign companies are seen only as destroyers: multinational firms should be resisted. The protesters not only rebel against these firms for their apparent domination of the local market, but also because the multinationals are allegedly standardising the look of every part of the world. The world all looks the same, the protesters say, and they don't like it.
They don't want to see the same restaurants and shops in every town and city. They don't want Prague to look like New York and Tokyo (as if it could). Their fight against multinational companies seems to be a fight against anything international, and therein lies the nationalist element. Sure a bit of local color is nice to have, and the traveler is comforted to know that Prague will never look much like New York. But strict dedication to preserving "local color" is simply nationalism cloaked in romantic dreams of an imagined, bygone era. It is an attitude that denies change and rejects modernisation: it is a neophobic and insular view of the world.
The ironic thing is that many of the people who publicly protest globalisation and are influenced by this narrow nationalism are the same people who publicly protest against racism. They do not seem to notice the inherent contradiction. Xenophobia -- the fear of things foreign -- is a driving force behind one of their causes and yet is something to be fought against in another.
The xenophobia of the protesters of globalisation is simply backward-looking. The world is one market and has been for years. Communication from one corner of the world to any other has never been easier or more commonplace. Freedom of movement of goods, capital and people has never been freer. These are trends which unite all people around the world and should be welcome.
Besides, what is the protesters' alternative? Limit the Czech market only to Czechs? Ban foreign firms from doing business here? Cut Czech society off from the rest of the world again?