Academic journal article ARIEL

The Indigene and the Cybersurfer

Academic journal article ARIEL

The Indigene and the Cybersurfer

Article excerpt

    L'inavouable de la communaute, c'est aussi une souverainete qui ne
    peut que se poser et s'imposer en silence, dans le non-dit.

    [The unavowable of the community, it is also a sovereignty which
    cannot help posing itself and imposing itself in silence, by way of
    the unsaid.]
    (Jacques Derrida, Voyous; my trans.)

In a call for papers for a special issue of ARIEL on "Globalization and Indigenous Cultures," Fengzhen Wang and Shaobo Xie define our present world-wide situation in apocalyptic terms. We are, they say, experiencing the rapid destruction of indigenous cultures by three corrosive forces working together. These are global capitalism, Western (primarily American) popular culture, and new communication technologies. New ubiquitous forms of telecommunication fuel the irresistible hegemony of capitalism and American popular culture. Technology, capitalism, and American popular culture cooperate to uproot and destroy every autochthonous culture around the whole world. "The processes of globalization," say Wang and Xie,

    are irresistibly sucking every nation and community into their
    hegemonic orbit.... The desire of global capitalism challenges and
    undermines all traditional forms of human interaction and
    representation. Multinational capital with its hegemonic ideology
    and technology seems to be globally erasing difference, imposing
    sameness and standardization on consciousness, feeling, imagination,
    motivation, desire, and taste. In exchange for multinational capital
    investment and for access to American lifestyles, fashions, values,
    and conveniences glorified and romanticized by Hollywood films, the
    underdeveloped and pre-modernized of the earth are unabashedly and
    unhesitantly surrendering their landscapes, resources, traditions,
    and cultural heritages to cultural capitalism. (Wang and Xie 1)

The image of the "hegemonic orbit" into which indigenous cultures are being "sucked" is particularly forceful. Western cultural capitalism is a kind of black hole into which everything around it swirls and then disappears, never again to be seen.

Since I want to challenge to some degree the paradigm so cogently expressed by Wang and Xie, let me begin by saying that I agree, for the most part, with the dismal picture they present of the destructive effects of global capitalism and Western popular culture. I would add to their picture the present terrifying mutation, in the United States government, of global capitalism and the ideologies of Western popular culture into a straightforward push toward global military conquest. This means a transformation of United States civil society into a permanent "state of emergency," a permanent "state of exception," a permanent "state of war." This goes along with a state of unrelieved and unrelievable terror that justifies the suspension of civil liberties and of constitutional rights. If the goal of the so-called terrorists is to strike terror into the hearts of American citizens, they have certainly succeeded in that, with the eager cooperation of the American government and the American mass media. Examples of the mediatic generation of terror are the endlessly repeated television shots of the Twin Towers falling down on 9/11 and the endless repetition of the phrases "the war or terror" and "weapons of mass destruction." The threat to national security posed by the "terrorists" is used to justify repression at home, in the name of "homeland security." It also justifies aggression abroad, again in the name of "homeland security."

The slogan of imperialism used to be: "Trade follows the flag." Often, in nineteenth-century Western imperialism, the missionaries were there first, attempting to convert the "heathen savages" to Christianity. When the missionaries got in trouble, an occupying army had to be sent in to protect them. "Trade," that is, economic exploitation, followed soon after. …

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