Friday, November 25, 2005
The Ugly American : Net Edition
Sometimes, in the midst of talking about edge competencies and low-cost coordination, we tend to forget about how economic forces are affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. The more the world shrinks, the more we see the ugly reality of life in different societies. I can't remember who it was that articulated this profound and counterintuitive viewpoint that globalization and cheap communication will *not* lead to a more homogenized One World utopia, but in fact, create even more sharply defined boundaries among people as they get first-hand experience of other societies and cultures. Communication is not the problem, we are. Sad, but true.
Update: it was McLuhan, one of my ATF thinkers. As with so many other things, he was right on the money on this one too.
It is sad.
But don't you find it ironic that a country that perpetuates cast predjudice internally finds it so surprising when it occurs externally. Is it possible the upper Indian working classes now know what it feels like to be trated as a 2nd-class citizen the way they do their lower casts?
Actual BPO data shows shows that the majoruty of US customers have no issue with Indian support. It also shows that in instances of poor service, this tolerance disapears rapidly. It does not show that US customers on the whole have a problem with off-shore service workers. The Indian press would do well not to encourage more predjudice in what is already a highly predjudiced society.
Do I detect from the title "The Ugly American
" and your conclusion that "Communication is not the problem, we are" that you believe America will come off looking the worst? If so, then I completely disagree with you.
The most recent 'globally' shared story is the riots in France. Ismael Ahmed, the executive director of ACCESS, a social-services agency for Arab immigrants, reckons there are clear reasons why the sorts of immigrant-driven riots that have recently shocked and shamed France seem hard to imagine in Arab communities across America. In contrast to France, he points out, the children and grandchildren of Arab immigrants to America, both Muslim and Christian, climb the same ladder of education, income and advancement that other immigrant groups have scaled successfully.
I suspect many people around the world may still see America as the land of opportunity. Immigrants are a self-selected elite: in a world where nine out of ten people live within 100 miles of their place of birth, they have already taken a big, bold step by moving away from home. And statistics show that immigrants still choose America by far over the rest of the world combined.
The "We" in the post refers to all of humanity - Canadians, Indians, Americans, French, Africans, Arabs - each and every one of us with all of our warts, prejudices and biases. I thought that this would be clear from the contextual references to "One World" and McLuhan.
Whether America remains a Land of Opportunity for those who choose to immigrate to the US is practically irrelevant to how the US and Americans are perceived abroad. Case in point: the perception of America in the minds of people of Middle-Eastern origin living in Detroit is vastly different from that in the minds of those actually living in the ME.
For some really cool insights on understanding this dichotomy, I'd refer you to Kishore Mahbubani's excellent work in this area, for example, his latest book "Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and The World".