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2003-06-03 Let's not all end up the same

On a trip to South America earlier this year, we travelled through the night up the spectacular Chilean fjords to Puerto Montt, in the heart of the country's stunning volcano and lake district, a sort of Southern hemisphere Switzerland.

 

I awoke just before dawn (she's a heavy sleeper) and when I drew my curtains, the first thing to greet my tired eyes was a large yellow `M' on a red background. I am aware that this American fast-food chain has infiltrated every corner of the globe, but this only served to highlight the fact that often I feel we are all becoming the same.

 

I am not talking `cloning' here, but are we all slowly but surely becoming `globalised'? I realise that comfort is in familiarity, and it is in our human condition to constantly search for comfort - the English looking for `egg and chips' abroad for example.

 

But sometimes, it would be nice to travel abroad and not see that yellow `M', KFC, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Body Shop, Sock Shop, Starbucks and a whole host of others. Confectionary seems to be much the same worldwide - Mars, Snickers (the bar formerly known as Marathon), Starburst, Skittles, Kit-Kat etc. Every airport shop has the same stuff, no matter where you travel, same perfumes, same designer labels, same everything really. People pay through the nose for designer label suits, and yet they can be found in every High street throughout the globe.

 

Would it not be more original to have a suit made by a designer from home, or a bespoke tailor from your town? If from Dublin for example, you could sport a Louis Copeland suit? There are a mere handful of Irish fragrances, so when we are dressed in our Irish designer suit, we could spray on some "Eau de Garavogue" or some "Gill Breeze". We would instantly be more original and would be supporting our own home labels.

 

Are we ourselves becoming globalised in the way we talk and behave? Rather than expressing dislike for something, thanks to programmes such as "Friends", we now instead say "I am so over that!" Even children's behaviour seems to be affected by programmes such as "Barney", "Sesame Street" and those dreaded "Teletubbies". I mean, why teach a child to say "Eh-Oh"? Words such as `ace', `cool', `wicked' and `whatever' have become part of a sort of alternative global vocabulary.

 

I am often guilty myself when I find myself looking for a particular supermarket chain when away from home, and I even find frustration setting in when that shop is not laid out in exactly the way my local branch is at home. Why can't the fruit juices always be beside the yoghurts?

 

Irish bars are increasingly popular worldwide, and I have seen them in Moscow, Singapore, Madrid and Auckland. It is fantastic that other cultures can sample the atmosphere and fare available in a typical Irish pub, and though I love a good (non-smoking) Irish pub at home, when in Spain for example, I would prefer to go to a `Tapas bar' and do as the Spanish do! I am a huge fan of `the Euro' and a `true European' just so long as we all retain pride in our own individual cultures within the framework of that united Europe.

 

Even though most of us have faith or beliefs of some kind, there is even something comforting about having lots of different religions worldwide. The years of `teaching the word of God to the natives in the colonies' meant that we were all becoming globalised in the `one true religion' as well.

 

Is it not better that people discover `God' for themselves rather than having it force-fed? By reading about Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, I have found that there is much common ground, and hopefully this will spread further afield and the scarier more extreme religious ideologies will be alienated and even forgotten. An awareness of all religions at a young age might be a better way. It seems to me that by one section of the world believing their religion to be the one true and only faith not only implies superiority, but is also the spark needed to ignite further conflict.

 

Anyway, let's not all end up the same.