Selamat datang daripada Langkawi,
In the dying days of his presidency, Barack Obama said that whether we like it or not we live in an interconnected world. Here in Langkawi, Malaysia, there are very few who disagree, some who like it and some more who don’t like it. Globalisation came to this part of the world a long time before the term was even coined. The evidence is all around.
Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society in which the majority live easily with the minorities and vice versa. They could easily have shared Indonesia’s famous national motto. Here it’s common to see Muslim women riding motorcycles without any paternalistic opprobrium or societal harassment. It’s common to see intermarriage. And it’s common to see international brands on signage, clothing and packaging.
The mixture of Chinese, Indian and Malay indigenous manifests itself in the variety of rituals for rites of passage, religion and death. The Persian influence also brought Islam. The modern wave of globalisation, driven by business and relentlessly insinuating itself into every nook and cranny, is also here.
globalisation – good and bad
Linda chortled when she read the label of her eucalyptus oil, made in Viềt Nam from trees imported from Downunda. She’s shrugging her shoulders at the incursion. In this case it’s a fairly harmless one. She’s one of billions who feel the wave washing over, mostly benevolently but so unstoppable as not to worry too much about trying. But the most shameful episode of globalisation was possibly the brazen theft of rubber seeds from Brazil in the 19th century when globalisation had a different name.
Although Malaysia is famous for rubber production – exemplified amply here by numerous commercial plantations – the plant is not a native to this part of the world. The industry here owes its origins – Obama may say it was inevitable – to a daring theft of sovereign property. In 1876, Sir Henry Wickham secreted 70 000 seeds on a ship he had commissioned for the purpose.
Some historians argue that Wickham acted with the goodwill of the Brazilian government but the modern-day Brazilians beg to differ. Wickham was financed by the British government of India and took the seeds to London where many of them germinated. These were later used to foster the rubber industry in Malaya. Pneumatic tyres could not have rolled the modern car industry without it. The Malayan rubber industry is therefore an example of the seamier side of globalisation. The contemporary incursions are more gradual perhaps but no less damaging to local culture.
But isn’t culture a man-made thing anyway? Doesn’t that mean it’s open to evolution and renewal? And doesn’t globalisation bring some benefits? Won’t globalisation ultimately bring to an end the despicable practice of female general mutilation? Doesn’t it open people’s eyes to secular understandings of the world? And doesn’t it beget easier travel for people like us? We think so.