Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stirring the Pot

I chose this work by Durer because it was painted around 1500. Yet I can recognize at least four (possibly five) species of plant life that are living happily in my yard as I write this. It's true that there are many species native to both Eurasia and the Americas (like some roses and rhododendrons), but I know that dandelions and miner's lettuce were both imported by colonists from Europe. As were honey bees, apples, almonds, starlings, wheat, rosa multiflora, oriental bittersweet, english ivy and, of course, Europeans! (With the discovery of Solutrean stone tools on the East Coast of the United States, Europeans may have been here far longer than we think they were.) In turn, Europeans benefited from the introduction of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, rubber and cheap rum. It could be argued that world globalization began when the first representative of Homo ventured out of Africa. By the time of the development of industry and the advent of global exploration and trade, the pot was well and truly stirred.

If I may take the liberty, I think that opponents of globalization feel that individual cultures; their languages, cuisines, artistry and beliefs will be subsumed within the great homogenization. And they're right. There are far fewer living languages than there were a millenium ago. Local farmers, bakers, and weavers have long suffered the introduction of imported goods. Archeologists regularly find Roman coins next to Hadrian's Wall and Minoan pottery in Turkey. Also, Anti-Globalists target the WTO because they suspect that corporations will end up ruling the world. Again, they could be right. You and I both know that pharmaceutical companies are actually writing legislation that will be introduced to Congress. Oil companies don't just consult on our energy policies, they dictate them. Literally!

I often wonder what's happened to all the people who worked for the Olivetti Typewriter Company. I mean, the company may still be in existence but I'm sure that plenty of their staff have been laid off. How about all those factories that used to make vinyl records? And what about the people who were employed to install and service public telephones?

Human history is a long list of cultures that have risen and fallen. The Age of the Pharoahs lasted 4000 years. The Roman Empire extended to Constantinople in the East and the British Isles in the West. Portugal and the Netherlands were once significant world powers, and that really wasn't very long ago. History 101: Every Culture Fails.

I don't like the idea that corporations are influencing Congress. But I'm informed enough to know that I will take aspirin instead of Plavix and niacin instead of Crestor. I will never be manipulated into buying an SUV or having Botox injections. I'll continue to read; Shakepeare, S.J. Perelman, Douglas Adams, Carson McCullers, Lawrence Durrell, and John Gower. ("Johannes Gowere, thou art a wanker!" says Chaucer!) We baffled dwarves stand upon the shoulders of giants. And time isn't going to stand still just for us.

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