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May, 2003, Volume 10 Nr. 9, Issue 117

Homogenizing the Global Cultural Paradigm

by Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

Sgt. Michael Sprague of While Sulphur Springs, WV, a member of the invading U.S. forces in Iraq, was quoted by the British reporter, James Meek, as saying, 

I've been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I ain't seen one shopping mall or fast food restaurant. These people got nothing. Even in a little town like ours of twenty five hundred people you got a McDonald's at one end and a Hardees at the other.

Power possessed through the barrel of high tech weaponry often reveals the folly of analysis blinded by the paradigms of the powerful, especially since the powerful and the powerless are working people indigenous to their respective societies.  In the Sgt. Sprague scenario, the powerful may spend more on lunch at McDonald's and Hardees than the powerless live on for a month.  Pitying the powerless and poor for lacking access to U.S. acultural icons, such as Ronald McDonald and the Smiling Yellow Star,  misses the significance of power's presence on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates.  But, that is precisely the point -- bringing U.S. capitalism and consumption to a heretofore non-market, to yet another global corner pre-emptively made pliant for profit.

Steven Gowans, in the February 22, 2001 edition of Media Monitors, in an article entitled, "A McDonald's in Every Foreign Port Worth This?" writes,

...New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that: "For globalization to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is...The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist -- McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Gowans' article was written almost 7 months before 9-11, just after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole at a time when Madeline Albright was quoted as saying, "We think it's worth it" to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children as a result of sanctions.  Gowans wonders whether the "blowback" deaths of the USS Cole sailors was worth it.  He concludes, 

To people like Albright, perhaps. To the dead sailors themselves, and their families, no.  After all, what did they, themselves, get from their country's global hegemony beyond, say, a McDonalds in every foreign port?

And today, after 9-11, after the war on Afghanistan, the war on Iraq, the soon to be wars on Syria, Iran, Libya, North Korea, et al, what price do the working class people pay for installing access to a quarter-pounder and Coke, or Monster Burger and Raspberry Nestea, in Kabul, Baghdad, Damascus, Tripoli or Pyongyang?  

Sgt. Sprague may just be slightly ahead of his time.  Perhaps, he knows something the rest of the world is just beginning to understand.  U.S. commercialism has no boundaries and no co-optation is off the boards.  If it can be sold through marketing, even through lies as the Iraq war was, then so be it.  The homogenization of the global cultural paradigm is well underway.  It is the blueprint for world acultural domination, that is, the subservience of indigenous art, music, song, food, and most important, thought, to transnational corporate control.  So, we see,

... Pepsi and McDonalds (or at least some of their franchise holders in Arab countries)...donating a share of profits to provide medical aid for Palestinians.

In both cases the motive was perfectly clear: to protect their businesses by dissociating themselves from American policy towards Israel. Many people were delighted and marketing experts praised this as a brilliant example of enlightened self-interest. Nobody seems to have condemned the move as an exploitation of other people's misfortune for cynical commercial reasons (which would be another way of looking at it). The Guardian, "Saddam's Happy Family", Jan 19, 2003.

Sgt. Sprague need not worry much longer.  I suspect the corporate boardroom is planning planting a Ronald franchise or two in Baghdad shortly.  And, as a consequence of bombs and burgers, there will be more blowback, more pre-emptive strikes, more blowback, more pre-emptive strikes pre-empting pre-emption. etc.  McDonald's Workers Resistance (UK) puts it this way,

The attacks in America cannot be understood without reference to decades of US military and political imperialism, which in turn cannot be divorced from the economic imperialism epitomized by McDonalds. McDonalds do not share much with Islamic fundamentalists, but they have one thing in common- both share an intolerance towards other cultures and a disregard for diversity, both seek to impose their version of the world on others. If you look deep enough then it is apparent that the homogenized totality represented by McDonalds is the result of generations of violence and continues to be sustained by force.

The sad part of Sgt. Sprague's lament equating poverty with lack of McDonald's and Hardees is that it is enigmatic of the corporate culture indoctrination of the self.  This self image is a personally adopted  as brought to us by Clear Channel, FOX, NBC (G.E.), CBS (Viacom), ABC (Disney), CNN (AOL-Time-Warner).  It is, through the intoxicating power of war and conquest, a projected global paradigm masquerading as liberation.  If only the road from Basra to Baghdad were lined with the likes of McDonalds and Hardees, perhaps, then we could sleep comfortably knowing that Iraqis have arrived in the promised land.

The citizens, rather the consumers, of the United States, having been told what freedom is, accept the dropping of tens of thousands of pounds of ordnance and bombs on a major city as acceptable.  As Sheila McCarthy (Catholic Worker, "The Veneer of Normalcy", May 2003) states, doing so, makes "sense of the glorification of military power" if we accept the assumptions that "the lifestyle of the American people is worth killing for" and that "the United States has a divine right and destiny to police the world."  Inherent in these assumptions is the religious belief that everyone in the world shares our world view.  If they don't sooner or later, the war that doesn't end in our lifetime will bring a McDonalds and Hardees to your neighborhood whether you like it or not.  McCarthy's "veneer of normalcy" goes further.

It was possible for Adolf Eichmann to carry out his duties because he accepted certain assumptions, the most important of which being that the Nazi government was a legitimate institution to which a good German must be loyal.  Once this authority is accepted, anything it decrees is permitted and quickly becomes routine.

We, the U.S. consumer, with a manifold propensity for consuming the homogenized, easily accepted the bogus claims of Secretary Powell speaking before the United Nations.  We accepted our governments declarations of huge stockpiles of Iraqi WMDs even though, now that we control Iraq, we cannot find them.  We accepted making Iraq children quadriplegics for the greater good as defined by the same people that lie to us daily.  We are sheep.  We are Good Americans.  

Mark Twain writing on a conversation with Satan:

"Oh, it's true. I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise -- perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it -- and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

"Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all based upon that large defect in your race -- the individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his desire, for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his neighbor's eye. These institutions will always remain, and always flourish, and always oppress you, affront you, and degrade you, because you will always be and remain slaves of minorities. There was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions."

I did not like to hear our race called sheep, and said I did not think they were.

"Still, it is true, lamb," said Satan. "Look at you in war -- what mutton you are, and how ridiculous!"

"In war? How?"

"There has never been a just one, never an honorable one -- on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful -- as usual -- will shout for the war. The pulpit will -- warily and cautiously -- object -- at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.' Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -- as earlier -- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -- pulpit and all -- will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception." 

History of War, Never a Just War, (Chapter 9), 1916.

Now, in the 21st century: We the sheeple, in order to form a more perfect corporate Union, establish global capitalism, insure international profit, provide for the complete exploitation of indigenous natural resources, promote the Welfare of the rich, and secure the Blessings of the Free Market to the wealthy and their inherited offspring, do ordain and establish the hegemonist constitution and policy of United States of America.  

2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD

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