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The Case For Contamination

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The author, Kwame Anthony Appiah, starts the essay, The Case of Contamination, by describing the veranda of a palace in Ghana. His description paints a vivid picture of a place full of custom, color and tradition. However, he presents a contrast by describing that some of the people were dressed in western suits, sporting cell phones and having business meetings. This place is a mixture of tradition and innovation subsisting in one place. The author presents the arguments of globalization of the standpoint of cosmopolitans, the preservationist and the neo-fundamentalist stating also how religion plays a role in each.

“Cosmopolitans take cultural difference seriously, because they take the choices individual people make seriously” (Appiah, 2). This has allowed for globalizations of many villages, the introduction of western civilization. The author presented an example of chocolate. Because of the globalization of chocolate, the villages of where the cocoa beans grow have been introduced to many things. Many in which have made their live better. They may have electricity and radios to keep with current events. Missionaries have come to those villages to introduce the inhabitants to Christianity. The people have adopted Christianity but have mixed it with their own rites. But because of globalization, Pentecostal missionaries have also arrived and have condemned the villagers of mixing their own rites with Christianity. Some like it and change, but others oppose. They feel threaten by the change. Everyone chooses what he or she wants and discards what he or she doesn’t.

The author quoted John Stuart Mill, “But different persons also require different conditions for their spiritual development; and can no more exist healthily in the same moral, than all the variety of plants can exist in the same physical, atmosphere and climate. The same things which are helps to one person towards the cultivation of his higher nature are hindrances to another” (Appiah, 4). This clearly supports the idea that one has its free will to choose what he or she wants. Then there are the preservationists. These people wish to preserve cultures and old ways. But the author states a compelling argument, “preserving culture – in the sense of such cultural artifacts – is different from preserving cultures” (Appiah, 4). Kwame states how preservationists go to great length to preserve artifacts to keep the authenticity of the culture. However, there isn’t really anything authentic to the culture. They have imported different ideas and customs from other places and made it their own. The preservationists argue how cultural imperialism is just pure evil. The western media has penetrated the homes of many eastern countries.

Granted that they have, however, they have not tarnished the existing cultural foundation. “Talk of cultural imperialism “structuring the consciousnesses” of those in the periphery treats people as blank slates on which global capitalism’s moving finger writes its message, leaving behind another cultural automaton as it moves on. It is deeply condescending. And it isn’t true” (Appiah. 6). Western media has served to actually strengthen the cultural foundation of some eastern families. Last, the author mentions the neo-fundamentalist. As an example the Muslims and Christians are used. It is the state of being universal but not tolerant. Fundamentalists believe that their way is the only right way to live. They invite everyone to join but those that don’t are doomed to destruction. The author clearly explains it by saying, “Join us, the counter-cosmopolitans say, and we will all be sisters and brothers. But each of them plans to trample on our differences – to trample us to death, if necessary – if we will not join them” (Appiah, 9). The issue of globalization is well established by this author in the essay.

The analysis made from different viewpoints is valid. However, towards the end of the essay, the author begins to write how we should get used to one another. “I am urging that we should learn about people in other places, take an interest in their civilizations, their arguments, their errors, their achievements, not because that will bring us to agreement but because it will help us get used to one another – something we have a powerful need to do in this globalized era” (Assiah, 11). I agree, but only to a certain point since religion plays a vital role in my life. I’m open to learn but don’t expect me to change my views on God or my moral standards. Actually learning about other religions and cultures strengthen my stand on my beliefs. I believe in the biblical foundation of our country, that we are all created equal. I believe in the Holy Scriptures when it states that a marriage is between and man and a women. The author has a compelling argument of getting used to people. But at the end of the day, “toleration has its limits”. As Kwame himself stated, “They [cultural consumers] can adapt products to suit their own needs, and they can decide for themselves what they do and do not approve of” (Appiah, 6).

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