Obama Is the Key Example of Globalization

Some customs, from security procedures at airports to requirements for suits and ties at restaurants, divide people in unnecessary ways. But the election of US President Barack Obama – "a Chicago man, born in Hawaii, with an African father, an Indonesian stepfather and a mother from English-Irish stock with Native American elements" – stands as a reminder that a mixture of people and cultures carries broad appeal, inspiring cooperation and good reason. Columnist Nury Vittachi writes a tongue-in-cheek column that points to the mix of countries that combine forces in what he calls the "miracle of globalization," creating innovative technology, diverse media, favorite foods, iconic events and even a US president. – YaleGlobal

Obama Is the Key Example of Globalization

Nury Vittachi
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Security guards at the airport just made me take off my belt. Huh? How could my belt be a threat? Did I really look like I could subdue 300 people on a jumbo jet using only a 30-inch strap designed to stop my trousers falling down?

Instead of being irritated, I decided to interpret this as a compliment, which made me feel much better. (Yes, men are sad creatures.)

It's been an odd week. I had lunch the other day in a restaurant that had previously always banned me. My earlier crime? Refusing to wear a tie.

I've disliked ties ever since someone told me ties were a type of noose: same knot, same level of tension, same ability to kill. (Why are ties not banned on aircraft?)

The opening up of fancy restaurants to the tie-less is due to globalization. It is no longer possible to exclude people like me on the grounds of our not wearing Western clothes.

The world's ultimate example of globalization was surely an incident which took place a few days ago: the ascent of Barack Obama to the most powerful seat in the world.

Get this. He is a Chicago man, born in Hawaii, with an African father, an Indonesian stepfather and a mother from English-Irish stock with Native American elements. His first name is Swahili for "blessed one", his second is Arabic for "good-looking" and his third is a town in Japan. His family members speak French, Cantonese, Bahasa Indonesia and German.

His favorite possession is a BlackBerry, a Canada-assembled phone made from Chinese and Indian components. His favorite dishes are Italian (shrimp linguini) and Mexican (chilli) and the foods he misses from his childhood are bakso (Indonesian meatball soup) and rambutan (a Malaysian fruit).

He and his family dress in clothes from J Crew, a firm which buys Italian cashmere, Czech glass buttons and British wool and ships them to Asia for assembly into American clothes.

His not-very-secret vice is Marlboro, a British cigarette made with American tobacco and sold in boxes bearing a Latin motto. His favorite reading matter is Harry Potter (Scottish), Spi-der-Man (American) and The Bible (Middle Eastern).

His inauguration takes the title of The World's Most Globalized Event from the death of Princess Diana, defined thus: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel in a German car with a Dutch engine driven by a Belgian drunk on Scottish whisky. She was followed by Italian Paparazzi on Japanese motorcycles and was treated by an American doctor using Brazilian medicines.

In the meantime, you may be reading this syndicated article in a newspaper: a British publishing format using German movable type printed on paper, a Chinese invention. Or you may be reading this on a computer, a machine designed in the west and assembled in the east, using Taiwanese chips, Korean monitors and Chinese casings, assembled by Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan workers in Singaporean plants, and transported to you on ships manned by Filipino and Indian sailors, hijacked en route by Somali pirates and rescued by US gunships.

The miracle of globalization means this column will be read by people from the Caribbean to Colombo to China. Even though it is written by a man in an airport whose trousers just fell down.

The writer is a columnist and journalist.

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