Vital Signs

Kulturklatsch of the Wholly Global Empire

"All politics is local": once a savvy saying, now a wistful whine. All culture, too, used to be local, but that's changing fast. The rule of thumb for distinguishing between vestiges of the merely local and harbingers of the emerging global is simple: efficiency.

You can fit many more units of global into your life because each unit requires you to do far less. Global is 24-7 with no capricious "day of rest." Local culture coats your tongue, colors your speech, flavors your mind, gets all over your clothes and under your fingernails, makes you a veritable zombie in its service, while global culture is clean and modular: Simple, interchangeable units plug easily into and out of the desired modemality. Local means being stuck in character all your life; global means never having any character at all.

Global permits you to be a tourist in life, just driving through, as opposed to being "on the ground," rolling around in the dirt with the rest of the planet's lower fauna; it allows you to pick and choose among the nice parts (cuisine, amusing dances, bizarre costumes, touching legends), while leaving the nasty parts (nationalism, chauvinism, sexism, religion, military service) alone. Would you rather be very good at just one culture, or appreciate many? Would you rather be "just yourself," or all things to all people? Global regards local much as the Dustin Hoffman character in...

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