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If You Are Not “me” , You Are The “other”
MAKALE #5954 © Yazan Psk.Nazlı TUTAN | Yayın Kasım 2010 | 3,238 Okuyucu

This article inspects the ways in which the film Babel processes in displaying the effects globalization by the means of four different cultures. This paper is an attempt to understand how globalization creates a time-space compression between a developed, an underdeveloped and a developing country. By shedding light on richness-poorness, civilization-being underdeveloped, loneliness-crowd, I underlined the importance of the ways in which globalization influence the different stories of people in Japan, Mexico and Morocco and how high-speed technologies shape people’s perceptions of the real world.. Finally. the article is focused on the idea that it is inevitable to escape from the feeling of alienation and loneliness which is the result of the dark shadow of globalization.

If You Are Not Me, You Are The Other

Stories of different people, from different countries intersect as a result of time-space compression which refers to the speed up in the pace of life, while abolishing traditional spatial barriers in film Babel. The breakdown of time and space is best illustrated by the influential global village thesis posed by communications scholar Marshall McLuhan in Gutenberg Galaxy. Instantaneous communication, predicted McLuhan, would soon destroy geographically based power imbalances and create a global village.( McLuhan 1996: 146)

In Babel, richness – poorness, developed – underdeveloped, loneliness and crowd creates an unexpected chain of events with the effects of conditions and coincidences in countries whose levels of development can be classified into three. Just at this point, we can recall the ideas of Anthony Giddens who claimed that two major aspects of globalization were separation of space and time and the disembedding of social relations developed in a locale and their re-embedding in different places. And indeed, people in a desert, from different religious and ethnical backgrounds who speak different languages find themselves into the same events thanks to the fast developing and various communicational technologies.

While the air conditioned tourist bus which is the symbol of American imperialism, makes its way into the desert, heat and misery outside the bus is emphasised. During the break time, the fact that two American characters’ want of food and coke which they are accustomed to, confirms Americanisation which can be vieed as a cultural westernization of entire globe. The fact that people’s intention leaving Susan and Richard there, when Susan was shot and Moroccan guide’s refusal to Richard ’ s money and his help to Susan is the indication of underdeveloped countries being more adherent to human values. Because , there is no disregard of opportunist and artificial protectionism of the bureaucracy in an underdeveloped country. In spite of all these , they consider strangers of “the other”, we can understand from the fear in both Susan and Richard’s eyes; we can also understand that their cultures create prejudices on the others. The fact that Americans’ perception of a simple wound as a terrorist attack is due to September 11 events and their prejudice against Arabs.

Mexican Woman- The Weak, Feminized Other

There is no doubt that mass communication others certain religion, language and races. Underdeveloped Islamic country model, represented by Morocco, forms the basis of fear among the European countries. The real question to be asked is what the relation between Islam and underdevelopment. The fact that these countries used to be colonies of western world and this is the basic reason of their underdevelopment. As a result, a Moroccan can shoot an American with a Japan made gun. On the other hand, Mexican caretaker is the representative of an inter-culture which is neither as developed as USA, nor as underdeveloped as Morocco. The fact that Mexicans perception of fun in their wedding ceremony and their loyalty to their culture proves that globalisation does not always create homogenisation and what comes from the west does not necessarily replace of the one coming from the east. It can be also explained by the notion of ‘glocalization’ which has been used to suggest that the global and the local may be mutually reinforcing rather than necessariliy in conflict. Markets, customers and products in Mexica may be global in some contexts, but they are local in design and content . However; a Mexican woman is also ought to work for and live with an American family in order to earn her living and make money. This case expresses the expert of Western commodities, values, priorities and ways of life. While America, the pioneer of modernity is powerful, Mexican woman is portrayed as the weak-feminized other. Caretaker who selflessly worked for an American family for years, considered to be an illegal immigrant. While we expect her to have hostile feelings towards the American society, her concern for kids, underlines humanely feelings of hers and destroys the clichés based on racism.

Victims of Technology Fetishism

The fact that Japan’s overdevelopment particularly by the means of digitalization of communication technologies and Japanese’ lack of communication and loneliness is represented so well by Chieko who is deaf mute. Chieko’s father can not maintain an efficient communication as a result of stress of daily life which leads Chieko to seek happiness in artificial things. Barış Saydam mentions about the technology’s repellent effect in his article:

“As individual gets closer to the world that is far away, he looses ties with the world he is living in. Technologies that are produced to ease the daily life raise social prosperity and render work power more productive, trigger people to become a part of consumer culture. Individuals become victims of technology fetishism.” (Saydam 2009)

The fact that Chieko’ s use of drugs and sexuality to sustain communication with men and be a part of the community shows the sick structure of technology society and miserable state of individuals. Despite the fact that Chieko’s father didn’t have bad intentions at all, his present of a gun to a Moroccan, created a ‘butterfly effect’ and caused local problems to spread to the whole world with the acceleration of globalisation. It is not a coincidence that her mother committed suicide with a gun because the gun is considered to be the real enemy in the film. Chieko becomes the symbol of opposition against the technology when she claims that her mother committed suicide by jumping out of the window, not with a gun.

In the last scene of the film, when Chieko was seen naked and defenceless on the top of the skyscraper, one can figure out how a human can be so tiny, alone and helpless in such a huge and technological city. As the world gets smaller through the communicational technologies, alienation between the cultures, religious and ethnical discrimination increase. And as science and technology advance, human values diminish. To sum up, the film is a successful illustration of how the new high-speed technologies which are the origins of the modern annihilation of space and time, shape people’s 19th and 20th century perceptions of the real world!

List of References


McLuhan, M. (1962) The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Huntington, S. (1996) The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Sarıbay, A. (2004) Modernitenin İronisi Olarak Globalleşme. İstanbul: Everest Yayınları

Saydam, B. (2009) Babel: Bolluk Dünyasında Yoksunluklar
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