Over at the New York Times, Princeton philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has written an extremely thoughtful look on the cultural and consumerist “contamination” of traditional Ghanaian life. There’s so many good quotes in it, we could just go nuts with the blockquote tags, but overall, it is a remarkably fair piece on the recent influx of Western media and products into a largely agrarian, tribal African country; a piece on contamination, unlike most, that doesn’t sneer at third-world consumers as unthinking automatons too ignorant and unworldly to see their kente cloths as more “authentic” than imported Levis, but people who make cultural and consumerist choices based upon their own free desires, and who should be encouraged to continue doing so as the drivers of their own cultural destiny.
It’s a really stellar piece. Here’s a snip.
When people talk of the homogeneity produced by globalization, what they are talking about is this: Even here, the villagers will have radios (though the language will be local); you will be able to get a discussion going about Ronaldo, Mike Tyson or Tupac; and you will probably be able to find a bottle of Guinness or Coca-Cola (as well as of Star or Club, Ghana’s own fine lagers). But has access to these things made the place more homogeneous or less? And what can you tell about people’s souls from the fact that they drink Coca-Cola?