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Impact Of America Threatens World's Diversity
Published on Wednesday, August 9, 2000 in the Kansas City Star
Impact Of America Threatens World's Diversity
by Lewis W. Diuguid
The world continues to grow increasingly uneasy with Uncle Sam, whom some people see as the big bully in our global village.

That jumped out at me recently with news of more than 15,000 demonstrators who gathered in Millau, France, in support of French sheep farmer Jose Bove. He and nine others went on trial in June for vandalizing a McDonald's restaurant in France. A judge is to rule on the case in September.

The crowd chanted: "This is only the beginning! We will continue the fight! We will win!"

A Paris protest in July took place on the site of a future McDonald's restaurant. Demonstrators favor small, French-cuisine neighborhood restaurants instead of America's worldwide spread of fast food.

Bove has become a national celebrity in leading charges against multinational corporations and what he calls the industrialization of agriculture in France. Our fast food has just become a symbol of America's trade dominance. The global conflict now engulfs the World Trade Organization, multinational corporations and includes opposition to hormone-laced and genetically engineered food.

Bove and European protesters essentially are echoing the historical concerns of other people in other cultures. Gary R. Howard touched on this in his book, We Can't Teach What We Don't Know.

He wrote about the World Indigenous People's Conferences on Education, which occurred in 1987 in Canada; in 1990 in New Zealand; in 1993 in Wales; and in 1996 in New Mexico. The hosts have included Native Canadians, Maori people, the Aboriginal people and American Indians.

"The conferences themselves have been a vehicle for acknowledging the common suffering of the colonial experiences and a means for coalescing the power and vision of colonized people," Howard wrote. They're trying to emerge from the "forced assimilation and cultural genocide."

Demonstrators in France fear the same fate in Uncle Sam's push to dominate global markets. Already nearly a quarter of the human population, or 1.5 billion people, now speak English as their common language.

It is the official language of 75 countries and is being studied by about 1 billion people. My 16-year-old daughter, Adrianne, found on her trip to Spain and France with her high school Spanish class this summer that she hardly needed to use the language she'd been studying.

Nearly everyone spoke English, and people wanted to test their skills on the visiting American teen-agers. But that should be no surprise with the push of American fast-food restaurants, soft-drink companies and others into the many corners of the global village.

All-American trademarks showed up in the photographs Adrianne took on her trip. People are picking up our language and culture from MTV, Hollywood movies, American TV shows and 24-hour news programs.

Folks in other countries also are becoming one with us through the Internet, where English has been the main language since the beginning. But other nations of the world aren't celebrating the loss of their languages, identities, customs, cultures and businesses in America's multinational corporate reach for new markets.

They see our Americanization of their citizens as their economic and cultural loss. It's no different from a national discount chain moving into a small town and diverting the stream of commerce from mom-and-pop shops.

Big companies often do the same thing overseas using the media, fast food, soft drinks, cigarettes and money to sell other countries on our way of life. Some nations even base their economies on our currency. Two-thirds of all U.S. dollars are held by foreign countries.

Call me a old-fashioned, but I like the diversity of the world's different cultures, races, religions, currency, languages, art, ideas and food. Life would be boring without the variety other places offer. It also would be scary.

Uncle Sam's push is adding to the threatening noises coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said in June that he wanted to put his country at the heart of Europe's defenses against missile attacks.

His concerns were that a U.S. missile-defense system could lead to a new arms race. Putin, who had been with the KGB, told German business leaders that Russia is a natural ally of Germany and the new Europe.

He's also said America was insensitive to European concerns. I only know the world is too small now, and the political climate is too volatile for bullying and such sabre rattling to ever start again.

Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star's Editorial Board.

2000 The Kansas City Star


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