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poniedziałek, maja 30, 2005

It's getting more difficult to tell Warsaw from Wausau

It's getting more difficult to tell Warsaw from Wausau

News Poland
This in from Houston Chronicle

The tour bus is rolling along a busy street when suddenly there's the Philadelphia 76ers star, staring from a shoe ad.Welcome to the United States of Poland. At least that's the way it feels sometimes, what with all the Pizza Huts, J.Lo and Levi's.

Sixteen years after communism fell, the Polish embrace Western pop culture with a stunning eagerness. Watching on the streets of Warsaw as a beefy guy in a Chicago Bulls cap passes a petite blond babe with a blouse cut down to there, it feels like I never left home.

Indeed, unlike travelers of a previous generation, I have no need to walk around with a Polish-English dictionary pointing to phrases and mangling the language. Most people ? at least most I come in contact with ? speak English, some flawlessly. After a while, you begin to expect it.

Frankly, there's a certain pride that comes of seeing your country's products, fashions and mores so eagerly adopted by a new democracy. But at the same time, I find myself wondering if these people realize what's happening here. Do they understand that they are selling their uniqueness for the price of an MTV video?

I think similar thoughts when I drive through the United States and find it difficult to remember where I am because this town looks like every other town, the same jumble of Exxons, Taco Bells and Holiday Inns.

"McWorld," political scientist Benjamin Barber famously dubbed it. He saw a world that was simultaneously being pulled apart by tribalism and extremism, and drawn together by free market forces. Meaning, teach the people what to want, then give it to them.

The result of tribalism and extremism was on view on 9/11. The result of McWorld can be seen here in Poland and in the ongoing homogenization of the world's cultures and languages into a blanded, blended uniformity in our image.

Small wonder France has sought ? futilely, of course ? to institutionalize French as the nation's one and only language, waging war against the encroachment of English into daily life. If you think that's much ado about nothing, well, you probably haven't seen the Nike swoosh sign in the old marketplace at Krakow.

Which is not to pick on Nike. Rather, it is to note ? and lament ? the passing of a time when American popular culture was ... escapable. But if it's really a choice between McWorld and extremism, I'll take McWorld. Reluctantly.

Still, I wish Poland looked more like Poland.

Comment: Nicely done and accurate (I guess) piece of report from Polish cities. I remember even attempts to introduce official ban of using non–Polish names. Fortunately the idea failed but now we are at pretty the same point of the question. Are we doomed to have dozens of McTowns and Mc Cities across Poland?


At 30.5.05, Blogger ~JS said...

Perhaps a more individualized McWorld, call it McPoland...but the notion that everything will be reduced to a homogeneous cookie cutter model is only partially true...the noted economist Tyler Cowen, claimed that there are two seemingly contradictory forces at work...on the one hand you have the phenomenon of major cities and towns across the globe becoming similiar (i.e. you can get sushi, cuban, or mcdonald's cuisine in most of them), while at the same time individuals have more choices (i.e. for development, careers, hobbies, etc) -- this is a global multiculturalism. On the surface we only see global brands and clone-cities, but underneath there is endless choice and creativity for individuals.

At 12.6.05, Anonymous PierreM said...

It's a little ironic to complain about the Nike swoosh in Krakow when so much of the architectural style there was imported from Italy. I imagine an 18th century Italian tourist wishing that Poland looked more like Poland and less like Florence.


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