Western nations take pride in having exported ideology and entertainment to far corners of the world and commodified culture all along the way. Without judgment, it can be said that globalization has brought with it a virtual and real force of change that has irreversibly altered the complex interchanges within tribal cultures of the Middle East, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the island in the Caribbean ocean representing a disappearing communist system, Cuba. Countries in these where leaders and systems of government stand to lose the most are generally where the resistance to modernity is the strongest. Analyzing the areas of society that have been affected most dramatically over these past twenty years characterized by globalization are the places where political participation and rights for marginalized groups have been most suppressed.
Middle Easterners and citizens of Northern Africa could not have prepared for the radical political and social revolutions of the “Arab Spring” of 2011. Saudi Arabia, in particular, is going through a definite paradigm shift caused by the uprisings in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain. Yemeni, Saudi Mai Yamani, who wrote a book about how Saudi identity is now influx, was asked in an interview if she saw the innovations and benefits of globalization as winning out over the loss of connection between people and their native cultures and a sense of being alienated as a result. Her reply reflected unequivocal support for efforts to end tyranny and corruption from having let Islam become politicized (Lolashvili 2011). Yamani echoes many others who are watching as these tribal customs and traditional practices that have oppressed youth from being deciders and kept women from asserting themselves outside the home are being challenged at long last. Before the modernization wheel began to go around, these types of freedoms would have taken generations to achieve.
As well as impacting policy and practice in Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Muslim nations in the world, the influences of globalization are also pronounced as on the island of Cuba. Since the 1950s, Cuba has remained isolated by economic embargos and sanctions from the U.S. in protest of the nation’s affiliation with Communism. What this has meant for the average Cuban is a life of limited exposure to the force of globalization until 2001 when an economic transformation began. More than two million tourists were documented tourists to Cuba in 2008 proving that globalization is unstoppable. Cuba’s change exposes the ambivalence that naturally emerges when tourism is the industry (Babb 2011). While the influences of modernity in Saudi Arabia were more indirect and rooted in external events, Cuba struggles to reconcile the class divisions and homogenizing forces embedded in the tourism industry.
One Spanish idiom expresses the conflicted identities of both countries embroiled in upheaval and transition it is: “todo tuenes su preco,” or everything has its price. For decades Cuban Americans demanded their motherland be returned to dignity and offered a chance to transform into a modified free market, but were denied. Giant resorts and hotels separate the local Cuban culture from the visitor experience, and more bribes and organized crime develops in the streets of Havana, Cuba every day as a result of the influences from outside. In a 2014 article entitled “City Speaks,” the visual landscape is examined and analyzed to show a new public image that shows a dialogue that has grown out of the unrest over the tourism situation (Calvente 2014). Ultimately, one can do nothing but accept and reinforce the notion that regardless of the location, political orientation, religion or past, no country is immune to globalization with its intended and unintended consequences.
In closing, Lolashvili referenced a famous quote from George Bernard Shaw when interviewing Ms. Yamani about her views on traditional cultures immersed in change. The quote states that “Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder” (2011, 98). This implies that these fundamental changes are false when they are in actuality the true course and inevitable path.
Babb, F. E. (2011). Che, Chevys, and Hemingway's Daiquiris: Cuban Tourism in a Time of Globalisation. Bulletin Of Latin American Research, 30(1), 50-63. doi:10.1111/j.1470-9856.2010.00450.x
Calvente, L. Y., & García, G. (2014). The City Speaks. Cultural Studies, 28(3), 438-462. doi:10.1080/09502386.2013.871049
Lolashvili, E. (2011). Mai Yamani Talks Arab Spring, Identities and Globalization. New Presence: The Prague Journal Of Central European Affairs, 97-104.