Hold on ...let's think LO11572

Eric Opp (eopp@mrj.com)
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 09:15:08 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO11559 --

On Tue, 24 Dec 1996, Benjamin B. Compton wrote:

> Diana Mordock wrote a wonderful message about the impact of technology.
> I have just a few thoughts that her message brought to my attention.
> > Another thing that concerns me is the loss of culture in each country.
> > Yes, I believe that sharing values is great but much cultural richness has
> > been lost already. McDonald's in Peking? The same chain stores all over
> > the world? The tapestry of music, art, costume, design and language must
> > be preserved and integrated into the future for the future to remain rich
> > and passionate. Doesn't the tradition of Christmas unite all of us in the
> > world, low these many years?
> What's wrong with a McDonald's in Peking? We have Chinese resturaunts in
> America. At the same time I think I hear what you're saying: Culture
> plays such an important part of who we are, that its may leave us
> bewildered. I've lived in a few cities where there is great cultural
> diversity (Vancouver, British Columbia, being one of them), and I found
> it to be a great adventure. I got to know the Sikh's from India, the
> Chinese from Hong Kong, and the British who had immigrated to Canada. It
> was a real thrill to be able to learn so many traditions, customs, and
> beliefs from so many people.

There is a wounderful quote, which comes to mind as to why *not*
McDonald's in Peking. I believe it was Teilhard de Chardin (but I don't
trust my memory on this one), who said: "Differences unite, uniformity
(unity, sameness - I don't remember the exact word) divides." Having spent
much time overseas, I can attest to my own and others reactions to the
"global culture," which at this point is driven primarily by the American
(business) culture. In life, we have the hardest time and learn the most,
when we encounter someone or another culture, which is totally foreign to
us, which questions our fundamental outlook on life.

It becomes very disconcerting to me, when I see American pop culture
invade the world. It is true that other cultures can learn from our
particular successes, but it is extremely arrogant of the Americans to
think that they have little or nothing to learn from other cultures. I was
amazed, however, to see how strong this tendency has become, particularly
after the end of the Cold War. I spent a year in Germany (1992 - 1993) on
a very high level management/public policy fellowship with 14 other
Americans. I was astounded at how often in subtle and not so subtle ways
the statement would be expressed: "We do it so much better in the US, if
they (the Germans, French, Belgians .....) would only do it our way, they
would be much better off." The point of such an experience is not to help
spread the American culture overseas rather it is to take up the lessons
that that other culture might teach you. It is not that we do things
better or worse than another culture, rather each culture has its own
fundamental mental models and simply perceives reality differently than we

On a personal note, it disappoints me to see the decline of some of the
richness of the different European cultures by the invasion of the
American culture. I have been going to Germany and have had regular
contact with Germans since I was a child. I am astounded at how, over the
past 30 years, the American pop culture has invaded Germany. I do not only
have the option of McDonald's in Germany, but Wendy's, Burger King and
many other American fast food establishments. The amount of American
vocabulary words that have slipped into every day usage in the German
language in the past ten years is absolutely astounding. It also astounds
me that there are not more movements or protests such as the French are
continually undertaking to keep their language and culture in tact
(expunge the American expressions that have slipped into the language and
American culturalism that have come into every day use in France).

Will we (can we) only be satisfied when American English is spoken,
dollars used as the currency and cultural symbols used from New York to
London to Paris to Berlin to Moscow to Peking to Tokyo to San Francisco,
or can we learn from what those other cultures have to offer us? Food for


Eric N. Opp eopp@mrj.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>