[FOUNTAIN]We need cultural diversityAn economist and a student were walking down the street. The student saw a $100 bill on the ground. When the student reached for it, the economist said, “Don’t even bother to pick it up. There is no possibility that the bill is there. If a $100 bill were on the ground, someone would have taken it already.”
The joke makes fun of the inflexibility of economists, who believe that an action must follow a motivation. However, Europeans use the joke to criticize American-oriented cultural standardization. They are displeased that the American system has been globalized and has standardized the tastes of people all over the world. The French are the leading critics. After all, French actor Alain Delon had justified his retirement, saying, “I can no longer make films in a France dominated by American cultural imperialism.”
Europeans are overly sensitive about genetically engineered food because of its potential influence on their cultural identities. They believe that food is as important as languages to maintain their unity. Jeremy Rifkin analyzes that Americans do not understand the cultural connection Europeans feel toward agriculture and food because the United States had given it up early on to establish the fast-food culture.
It is only natural that the “slow food” movement began in Europe. While its birthplace is Italy, the cradle is, as one might expect, France. In 1989, the International Movement for the Defense of and Right to Pleasure was announced in Paris. The official manifesto states, “Our defense should begin at the table with slow food. Let us rediscover the flavors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of fast food.” Slow food reconfirms identity through diversity.
The forefront of the war of cultural diversity is film. U.S. movies make up one tenth of the films produced in the world, yet they dominate over 80 percent of the international movie market. When it comes to the film industry, the French pay respect to Korea. Thanks to the brisk domestic film industry, Korea is one of the few countries standing against the cultural invasion by Hollywood. In the 2003 International NGO Convention on Cultural Diversity, Korean was designated as one of the official languages.
We welcome the adoption of Unesco’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. The United States, which was one of only two countries to oppose the pact, should listen to economist Michael Porter. He says that in the global economy, local specialties, which people cannot easily acquire from a distance, have the long-term advantage.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.