Facebook, materialism, basketball, HBO, cellular phones, Skype, iPod, doughnuts, individualism.
These, and many others too numerous to name, came like a tsunami sweeping our global village at bullet-train speed. Over the past two decades, a trend toward individual self-indulgence, shaking the very fabric of our world, has been observed. This so-called “Cultural Revolution” has spawned a generation of individualistic thought, monetary gain and instant-oriented behavior that have gained tremendous momentum. Via social media, increased opportunity to travel, student exchange programs, movies, television and general media, our young people have now more access than ever to their peers around the world.
There still is, however, a shadow viewpoint echoed by corporate executives and educators like me that the global village is becoming a cultureless world.
Let’s focus on some common ground. We see people coming together around money. Young and old alike, the rush to make the dollar, euro, yen and rial has never been more urgent. The increasing number of OFW’s and the unparalleled amount of remittances can attest to this.
Money has also led the parade as individuals seek their share of the total pie through entrepreneurial effort. And what’s the reward for working harder or owning one’s own business?
Material possessions, spontaneous consumption and the dream of ultimate wealth. The ability to demonstrate this wealth comes in many forms—dining out, automobiles, yachts, private jets, cellular phones, international travel, multiple houses and investments.
Other similarities include sourcing goods, labor, and production facilities, as the move toward becoming a global organization has yielded a best practices standard for most companies to emulate. In addition, we see English continuing as the language of business in many parts of the world. In multinational teams the most common language nearly every member of that team will speak is English. That is why we see a proliferation of English language schools thriving in non-native English speaking countries.
As an educator, I also believe that what brings the world together is education. The growth in international student exchange programs in universities has been geometric and will continue to be so. If I’m a native of the Philippines, completed my university education in Berlin and return to Manila to work for a leading financial institution, most probably I have more in common with my classmates who are working in a similar company in Singapore or the UK, than I might with my countrymen who are engineers or educators.
Finally, we have seen a coming together in people’s focus on individualism. We observe the younger generation exercising individual rights to leisure activity, romantic relationships and personal pursuits in sports, travel, and entertainment. It used to be that what was best for the group (e.g. collectivistic society) commanded what action one might take. Now, individual needs are acknowledged, prioritized and often exercised.
While this common ground may capture our attention, it is critical that we look deeper, beneath the iceberg’s water line, to learn the foundation of an individual and the group, and what makes them tick. My experience in training expatriates tells me that there are deep cultural roots that are unlikely to be shaken overnight by this new “cultural revolution.” We may perceive our global village to be headed toward a “cultureless world,” but it is only a facade that can have negative repercussions if we fail to recognize the strong roots of culture.
Dr. Beatriz Kaamiño-Tschoepke teaches at the Management and Organization Department, RVR College of Business, De La Salle University. She is also a professional trainer in Intercultural Management and Communication. email@example.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.