In the age of mass-consumerism, individual cultures are slowly disappearing in favor of mega-corporations. Multi-billion dollar businesses such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Huawei and Disney have a global reach. Begging the question are individual human cultures being wiped out in favor of a single globalized culture that revolves around productivity and the market? The answer is too complicated to cover in one piece. Modern globalization has a complicated history steeped in imperialism and greed. The short answer is yes. Monopolized mega-businesses are rapidly changing cultures. Big business has offered some economic opportunity in developing communities but outsourcing to countries with less regulation means corporations can cut corners without repercussions. Workers consequently pay the price of corporate carelessness in order to save a few dollars.
A notable example of culture being stomped out by corporate interests is the American annexation of Hawaii backed by sugar giant Dole. As dated as this incident is, Dole’s greed destroyed Hawaii’s sovereignty and still has lasting effects on the culture. The Hawaiian language was banned in 1896 and cultural practices were discouraged by American educators and missionaries. Currently, there are multiple efforts to revive the Hawaiian language and traditions in order to reclaim the heritage stripped away by American acculturation. The Hawaiian people were forced to be Americans in the name of profit. Some might point out that Dole didn’t annex Hawaii by itself and that the American government played a significant role. Yes, but we must remember that imperialist conquest is nearly always driven by greed. As significant as Dole was at the time, the coup was far before the modern age of globalization that we live in now. Dole was nothing compared to the monolith it would grow to be today.
The flood of global corporations into communities is directly tied to the loss of cultural identity. The loss of traditions associated with globalization is cultural imperialism. For example, the Maasai, an ethnic group in East Africa, are historically pastoral and semi-nomadic. Throughout the past century, many Maasai have transitioned to farming or other occupations besides their traditional lifestyle. Classes in Kenyan schools are taught in English and speaking native languages is frequently discouraged. On one hand, it makes sense the Maasai would adapt to a changing economy. On the other hand, years of British occupation in Kenya and mega-corporations from China and the U.S. are taking advantage of East Africa’s rich resources. The jobs multinational corporations bring to Kenya largely aren’t available to people in rural areas. Moving to cities for work further separates individuals from their culture. The challenges the Maasai culture faces are directly linked to global corporate interests.
In the U.S., big business is a staple in our everyday lives. As Americans, it seems we have the tendency to forget how influential large corporations are. Think about the effects of big business in our own backyard. Boone is littered with fast food chains. For college students who are often short of cash, Wendy’s is the cheaper option to a local restaurant. Especially in the age of COVID, it’s safer, easier and often cheaper to shop online from big businesses like Amazon rather than local small businesses. We can see first-hand the impact big business has on the culture in Boone.
Cultures are going to change regardless of globalization but is forcing change for a few dollars ethical? No but the market doesn’t care about ethics. People should not have to give up pieces of their identities for corporate gain. People are more important than profit.