Global vs local village

It seems that many of us love multiculturalism, but not on our home ground.

For decades we have been talking of the Global Village. The Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the now-famous term in the Seventies. A global village, as presented by McLuhan, is a situation where modern technologies connect all people worldwide. This interconnectedness implies that people worldwide can share information and experiences even when they are not physically close.

This transformation of the world into one big village had, according to McLuhan, also changed our behaviours into those typical of a villager. Interestingly, McLuhan’s visionary idea predated the popularisation of the Internet and social networks. Rumorology in networks, the proliferation of reality shows, the desire to see what others are doing, are some of the aspects and consequences of these new behaviours.

Radios, televisions, and then computers, tablets, and cell phones have become the new windows from our homes to the street; that’s where we see what is happening and, as Jean Luc Godard also predicted, now we can see on television how the Japanese water their plants and what Ghanaians in Africa cook at home.

Today we have online dating, online classes, online concerts … everything brings us closer and relates us to what is far away. We share the same series and movies in the new video libraries/platforms Netflix, HBO, or Prime; we buy in the same stores, in the big supermarkets Amazon, Alibaba, or Ebay; we have the same big “text library” Google. We can read the news in real time from any newspaper in the world and know what is happening live in a war not so far away.

Then we have cities which look to the future, like Dubai with its Global Village, which boasts of having the best entertainment, shopping, dining experiences, attractions designed to keep visitors enthralled all season, and helps them discover “a more wonderful world each time you visit to enjoy myriad cultures, cuisines, and conversations.”

The thousands of Maltese who travel every year come back relating their experiences, wondering at what they have seen, and asking why we cannot have those same things and experiences in Malta. They mix with the locals, enjoy their cultures, eat their food, and will not feel they have been to India unless they have ridden a rickshaw. Before they used to go in droves to London and Rome; now you find them in Machu Picu, at Wat Arun temple on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, or at Waikate or Matamata in New Zealand in search of the Hobbits’ Middleearth.

Every day, those same Maltese post on Facebook or Instagram about concerts they have been to abroad or, if they haven’t been there physically, how you can watch them on YouTube. I think I’ve already had my fill of Andre Rieu this year. Others are texting each other and their friends about the latest movie or series on Netflix.

Our women spend hours surfing the Chinese websites Temu or Shein for the latest affordable fashions. I personally know men who go wild when somebody on Facebook lets them know of an extra virgin olive oil from Calabria and some have gone there with friends just to buy a Librandi Organic Nocellara del Belice. Others travel every year to France because they just must have a Terres Blondes Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay from the Languedoc.

They have Facebook friends in every part of the world and message them regularly. Some fall in love with people from all over, romance them, and even marry them if the chemistry works. If it’s not romance, it is the urge to connect with them and invite each other for a holiday in the respective countries.

One would therefore think that the Maltese are the most cosmopolitan in the world. Surprise, surprise. A survey conducted last May found that over 37% of the participants are not comfortable with multiculturalism in Malta, while 33.8% remained neutral. Youths aged between 26 and 35 years of age are those who are most comfortable with the mix of cultures in Malta’s society; however, no big differences were noticed.

It seems that many of us love multiculturalism, but not on our home ground. Having said that, 25% wish they could have been born and raised in another country. Again, those under 25 years of age are those who most wish to have been born and raised in another country (42.7%).

Could it be that the concept of a Global Village is seen by some people as causing a loss of individuality and uniqueness? Why should people behave, consume, and function in a standard norm? Is it a case that we see the risk of a homogenisation of our culture, where our unique cultural practices, beliefs, and traditions may be lost in the process? This could explain the outcry a few months ago when the Filipino community in Malta organised a Santo Niño feast in Marsascala. Come on, surely Santo Niño is not as good as Sant’Anna or il-Madonna ta’ Pompej?

It seems that other people are afraid that the Global Village might lead to cultural appropriation, where elements of our culture are taken and used by another culture without proper respect or understanding of their origins. From this perspective, we would consider such a practice harmful and disrespectful to our original culture and one that can contribute to the erasure of Maltese cultural traditions.

I suspect that, just like in physics with Newton’s Third Law, we have a case of action and reaction at work, with the Global Village and the Local Village alternately mating or clashing. Which one will prevail is anybody’s guess.

Photo: Fauxels

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