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Technology and Cultural Genocide

Sample student paper By: Samantha Steerman

So here we are. It's 2007. The cold war has ended. There are technological advances every day. The world is connected by the Internet. Previously sheltered countries are now able to see what is going on in the rest of the world. People in India, Pakistan, Israel, Germany, etc. know what movie stars and fashions are popular in America, Great Britain, France, and Japan.

However, they get more than just movies and fashions. They hear about issue debates, political struggles, agricultural problems, national budget deficits, and changes of power in government. Almost every aspect of life in almost every country is an open book. People in South Africa and other places where government is challenged have heard of or seen the way democracy works in other countries. Third world countries get "aid" from super power nations. But they also end up getting a large dose of someone else's nationalism.

To me, a student studying Anthropology as a major, specifically studies in Native American history and lifestyle, I see many similarities many people might not catch between growing globalization and what happened to the many Indian tribes that lived in this country before Columbus or any other European set foot on this continent.

One problem with what globalization seems to try to bring about as an end result is shifting the focus of various crops and exports that many smaller countries have to offer. We have read about how people have
found success over countless generations in growing certain crops in their own countries, they way it has been done for many years. With globalization, there is a movement to wipe out the traditional way countries and cultures have been doing things, in order to have them grow just one 'cash crop' in order to be more profitable.

Now this may not seem like a loss of culture to most people, but it sends a red flag up to me. All it really takes is one generation to change (most of the time, involuntarily) to a 'new' way of doing things, and the original way of how something was done (i.e. a traditional way of growing rice or grain) is potentially gone forever.

Here is where I start to see the similarities between globalization, and the complete devastation of the Native American culture and people that were here originally.

Once the Europeans came over to the New World, they instantly employed Indians to work for them by collecting sea otter pelts. The Indians were of course paid way less than what the otter pelt was worth, and
they were the ones that did all the hard work. Not only that, but the whites exploited the market so much it nearly caused extinction of that species.

Once this was done, a horrible aspect of this 'trade relationship' moves into focus: dependency on Europeans for their trade goods. This sounded a little too close to the article we just read about farmers in
India who now have to rely on banks and the purchase of new machines or biotechnically engineered grains to continue to run their farm. Companies and financial institutions no doubt know what they can gain with farmers depending on them for survival, they can manipulate and exploit them anyway they want to. Hmm, sounds familiar.

Once European contact was made and Natives in America depended on new European trade goods, their traditional culture started to deteriorate right away. They way to boil water using a hand made basket of tulles and head rocks from a fire is now forgotten because the natives were traded copper kettles for their goods. A Indian woman will most likely not teach her children how to do it the traditional way if they no longer need to.

The loss of culture begins, and only ends when there is nothing left to assimilate. Many Native American studies that are done now fall under "history" because there is nothing left to study of current times. Languages, stories, art forms, and methods of survival are now gone forever due to early "globalization" of the Europeans. This is exactly what is happening on a different scale today.

Based on my understanding of the views presented here, I believe that the idea of globalization as a manifestation of cultural imperialism is fatally flawed. I can't see how it is possible to completely wipe out
someone else's culture by really just trying to make one's one culture better. I feel that although people in every nation are excited by exposure to new things, they don't really want to leave their own heritage behind. I believe that people tend to hang on to their core cultural values for as long as they can, but sometimes it can be made impossible for them. People need to wake up and see that this is history repeating itself. I am not sure why anyone would want to repeat a point of American history that is often refereed to as a holocaust.