Americanising the World

S.T.A. RIZVI complains how the USA is out to control the world through its imperialist and capitalist policies, military interventions and cultural invasions, economic measures and marketing strategies.

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S.T.A. RIZVI complains how the USA is out to control the world through its imperialist and capitalist policies, military interventions and cultural invasions, economic measures and marketing strategies.

Imperialists continue to regard the Third World countries as storehouses of raw materials, spheres for capital investment, marketing outlets and sources of cheap labour-power and fabulous super-profits. The imperialist powers have maintained scientific, technical and production potential in the capitalist world. They keep the industrialised capitalist countries at one pole and most of the developing countries, with their low level of productive forces, at the other. The industrial production and high technology are concentrated in the metropolitan countries. And the periphery of the world capitalist economy has been predominantly agricultural with low level of industrial production. National income in the developing countries ultimately remains minimal. The relationship between the two produces inequity and exploitative international capitalist division of labour. The imperialist powers have been using a wide range of political, military, ideological and economic instruments to keep the periphery of capitalist world within their sphere of influence.
Although, they had not intended to give up the brutal political, military and coercive methods of pressure on the developing countries, the imperialist colonial system was the most gigantic system of colonial slavery in the history of mankind. And it had a mix of the fiercest exploitation involving direct coercion and various forms of economic enslavement.
The brunt of imperialism has been manifest historically, in the division of the earstwhile world of late 19th century among several capitalist countries spearheaded by the Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and to some extent the U.S. And the greatest spectres of imperialism appeared in the form of the two World Wars. And the period of 20 years in between the outbreak of two World Wars witnessed the most brutal, anti-human and bestial ideology of fascism in Germany and Italy. With the bombing of two cities of Japan – Hiroshima and Nagasaki – in 1945, America destroyed the human life there by the first use of nuclear weapons while today it talks of nuclear-free world on humanitarian grounds. The imperialist ideology consisted not only of military intervention and conquest of the weaker countries but of cultural and ideological subjugation of the colonies. The world became both economically and culturally unequal. It means that after the official end of the World War II, the world polarised on the pro-American and the pro-Soviet blocs. Standing aloof from any of these blocs was the group of countries named as the ‘non-aligned’.
After the collapse of the USSR, the U.S. emerged as the only ‘super-power’. It indulged in increased production of war weapons which helped in the expansion of its neo-imperialism. It supplied war weapons to Third World countries, as it did to Iraq in Iran-Iraq war during 1980s, so that it could have exchanged weapons for oil. Following the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, the relationship between the two got estranged. Due to America’s intention to capture oil of Iraq, it invaded Iraq to establish what it calls ‘democracy’.
In case of Afghanistan too, America supported it earlier, when it perceived the threat of the soviet government. But after the disintegration of the USSR, it started to tell the world that the democratic institutions in Afghanistan had collapsed and Taliban emerged as a threat to the democratic set-up, therefore, the U.S. should invade it to establish democracy there. So the outcome was the occupation of Afghanistan.
With the revolution in mass communication around the world, people have been entrapped in the imperial culture unconsciously. The ‘cultural imperialism’ has been working in the society that manifests itself in clothing, food habits and overall lifestyle. And it creates an identity belonging to imperial power which captures our mind. Advertising not only changes the buying decisions but also has the power to change the mindset and attitude of people. It has been observed that advertising is the reflection of the culture of a nation. In fact advertising and culture both affect each other. Advertising industry also supports media industry. Media survives on advertising and they go hand-in-hand.
Beauty contests throughout the world were popularised by the capitalists to create demands for their products. These contests created interest in beauty contests on television that started electronic capitalism in developing countries like India. Electronic capitalism came to fore during miss world competition in 1996, first time in India. A large number of beauty competitions were staged with considerable pomp and pageantry throughout the country. The beauty contests represent the power politics of electronic capitalism not only in India but in other parts of the world. And the winning of Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai in beauty contests on international platform created interest among women in India. Consequently, the attractions of India’s emerging consumer markets went hand-in-hand with the success of these Indian women on the global beauty stage.
The media is a very powerful medium to promote the American brands around the world. The world’s topmost advertising agencies have been working to promote U.S. products. Sometimes advertising cost of a product is more than the actual cost of the product itself. It maximises the profit of producers and the brunt of it is borne by consumers as well as by small industrialists. And these small industrialists, despite having quality products, do not stand out with the foreign competitors. Big corporate cartels monopolise the market to suit the imperialist interests. The U.S. gives free hands to capitalists to work freely. Even the manufacturing of weapons having been essential for national security, is done by industrial capitalists. The state does not directly interfere in the smooth functioning of U.S. economy. Not only this but critical issues like foreign policies, defence, etc. are influenced by this capitalist interest. As a consequence of it, the USA is the largest producer of war weapons in the world.
American imperialist tactics is not only confined to invasion but exercises its power in different forms. It has encouraged fast food culture round the world, for example familiarisation of burger and beverages like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc. Coke and Pepsi are the major players in the trans-national capitalist empire. Together, Coke and Pepsi are larger than the combined GDP of 40% of the world’s poorest countries. Almost all soft-drink sales are controlled by either Coke or Pepsi through their monopoly of the distributor network. Fortune Magazine calls water the oil of the 21st century: “The precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations” and an access to drinking water could be a major source of international conflict around the world. How has Coke responded to the global water crises? Coke is taking water out of our ground, filtering or chemically treating it and selling it back to us for a price which can fetch a can of water. A proliferation of beverages marketed under different brands by the same company monopolising the points of distribution and sale actually reduces choice of consumers by simultaneously swallowing entrepreneurial companies and brands and killing local enterprise. After the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. the Islamic world campaigned against the multinational companies and its prominent products like soft drinks and McDonalds preparations. They came up with a new substitute of Coca-Cola and Pepsi called Mecca Cola and Zamzam (Iranian products) which registered good sales in the Muslim world.
The U.S. provides markets with state protection for the capitalists around the world. Its brand products in cosmetics, textiles, food, etc. are supported with the help of catchy advertisements which even change the taste and choice of people. It exercises what Antonio Gramci calls cultural hegemony with an intention of Americanising the world. The Victorian culture in the 19th century prevailed over a big part of the world. More or less, in the same way the US culture is influencing the present world.