Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cultural Imperialism

I'm puzzled about all the excitment over the World Cup.

Isn't it just the legacy of colonialism? Soccer's historical roots in England are weak (the game is less than 200 years old) and in the rest of the world it's a legacy of the British Empire and cultural imperialism.

Economists and other sensible people would have us believe that soccer is popular because people like to play the game. The rules are simple; all it requires is a ball, some rocks to mark the goal, and a field; and everyone enjoys a little exercise and competition--especially kids.

But this belies the truth. Every people has its own historical set of games and recreational activities, just as it has its own language, music, and culture in general. Soccer is popular because it was imposed through imperialism and globalization. The fact that Africans love soccer isn't something to celebrate--because it provides some joy in what is for many a short, drab life--it's something to protest. Africans should play African games, just as they should wear African clothing and speak African languages.

If Africans don't like that, too bad. If we allow soccer to become the "world's sport" and the World Cup to become a semi-annual ritual sucking up the time and talent of countless billions of young men (and, one day, women), everyone will suffer from the lost diversity. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that languages, sports, and musical traditions don't die.


Has American Pop Music Displaced Local Culture?

Kwame Anthony Appiah with relevant thoughts

No comments:

Post a Comment