Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Entr'acte: Next lone U.S. dissent: Cultural diversity pact

*This is just a little odd*

It's an alright article if you just ignore the aspect of the article that touches and concerns whether the cultural diversity pact is a good thing. The good part talks about whether it makes sense for the US to be the lone dissenter of pacts and conventions where nearly everyone else is going to sign and ratify it and thereby making it good international law (this however does not say anything on whether it becomes domestic law. Some countries like Germany make internation treaties and conventions which automatically become binding on domestic law and will take precedence over domestic law in a conflict. Other countries will need the legislature to pass new law that brings them into effect.)

Anyway, read the following 3-4 paragraphs and see if I'm happen to be the only one who finds it weird.

"So what is wrong with cultural diversity?

Well, here diplomatic mirror games begin. In the language of Unesco, "cultural diversity" is not what outsiders might imagine it to mean. That is, rather than promoting, say, ethnic traditions, minority languages or integration of immigrants, it has become the buzz phrase for opposition to cultural homogeneity à l'américaine.

In Washington's view, then, this version of "cultural diversity" poses a danger. It believes that the proposed convention not only empowers governments to control culture, but it also authorizes protectionist measures that could restrict American audio-visual exports, notably Hollywood movies and television programs, worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

The problem is that the rest of the world disagrees - and the "rest" includes the 25-nation European Union, which currently has Britain as its president. The European Union sees no danger to artistic freedom or freedom of expression and it notes that countries are already authorized to use subsidies and quotas to bolster their movie, television and radio sectors."

Um, hasn't he basically demonstrated the opposing viewpoint? The fact is that America rightly sees it as giving carte blanc to countries to impose (further) restrictions on Hollywood products and movies. The EU is a shining example of such a protectionist stance, France for example only allows 15 movies in a year, almost every other country either has similar restrictions or are heavily subsidising their local film industries in a bid to compete (or avoid getting decimated) by Hollywood. In fact the fact that Britain, as president of the EU, is trying to broaden the principles to include something on respecting current treaties and obligations demonstrate that there is quite some truth in the USA's fears.

I personally just find it mildly hillarious that a country like France whose culture is revered nearly everywhere in the world (including one might think Algeria) is so worried about 'American Trash'. In addition to that, I think fears of cultural hegamony is seriously overblown and Hollywood is basically diversifying its products to subsume more cultural ones (The Guru, Bride and Prejudice, Bend it like Beckham and all those remarks of Japanese and Korean horro films). Note that this becomes more true if one broadens the issue and consider media content industries as a whole, local culture plays a huge huge role in the manner in which computer games are designed for example. This is paralleled in the rise of social anthropologist being hired by companies for product design. Similarly the American media industry does provide for something for various cultures to call their own and put their own stamp on. The Hip Hop Culture is no longer exclusive black ghetto and block parties. Nearly every ethnic group has something to contribute to and take from it.

Oh well, better minds in more powerful positions than me will settle this one way or the other.



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