Globalization, Live and in Person
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Globalization, Live and in Person <br> by Marc Porter Zasada<p> At noon today, the Urban Man went down to the mass demonstration on Broadway in Los Angeles to bath in the ocean of immigrants. It was a great and boisterous sea built of giddy tides and foreign currents. A warm eddy from Guatemala here, a crowd of Hondurans there. Overhead, the helicopters rattled like great seabirds, and every now and then a beautiful young woman was hoisted above the crowd like a leaping dolphin, waving an American flag. <p> Me, I went fully armed with the jingoistic tonics of radio shock jocks, the vague goodwill of liberal activists, the backyard-barbeque patriotism of the Minutemen, the awkward maneuvering of the big unions, the corporate loyalty of my president, and the demagoguery of, well, just about everyone who owns a microphone or a keyboard. <p> And I must say that none of their slogans seemed to frame the sea of humanity as it poured along Broadway. No, it was like a Winslow Homer painting that had burst its canvas: an overwhelming sight uncapturable by any political nostrum...just as the nation-state no longer seems quite capable of capturing the human condition. <p> Like the real ocean, this crowd recognized no national boundaries. In fact, like Hollywood movies, multinational companies, downloadable music, and of course, the internet, these demonstrations mock the very idea of national boundaries. <p> It's globalization, live and in person. <p> As he was swept along in the march, the Urban Man tried to recall that his own patriotic notions of a nation-state are a recent and possibly short-lived invention, something whipped up a only few centuries back. Not so long ago, national boundaries were vague and unimportant things. Families were important: Hapsburgs. Medicis. Tudors. And yes, religions: The Pope. The Caliph. These folks were extra-national. <p> For a time, didn't England have a king who spoke German? And those great families, didn't they spend their time trading land and peasants as if they were markers on a game board? <p> Like most people I know, my day job now includes direct competition with smart people in Chennai and Singapore, each of us slaving ambitiously over a hot monitor. If I have to compete with a guy in Sydney to pay for oil from Oman, why shouldn't the people who wash dishes and trim chickens have to compete with folks up from Mexico? <p> I'm mean little by little, we are all becoming stateless --- unrepresented by any particular flag. Migrants wash up and down Europe uncontrolled. Free marketeers eliminate tariffs, and Islamic militants long to do away with borders altogether. <p> I understand that back in those good old days, the word "nation" had an entirely different meaning. It meant more a tribe than a place. One belonged to a "nation" of Christians or Muslims. One traveled with the Hittites, the Jebusites, or the Perrizites. And surely, in our own time, as tribes make a comeback, mere countries, like political ideas, will come to mean less and less every week. <p> As usual, L.A. is on the cutting edge, and today, as I wash up against city hall with a few hundred thousand furriners, I get a special sense of extra-nationality. L.A. feels less like the home of Americans, than Angelenos --- and all of us giddy, up-rooted pioneers. <p> After a while, I retreat uphill along First. From here, I can better see the happy crowd, and out across the hazy afternoon, I can imagine the whole L.A. basin stretching off, less a city than an inland sea, filled with ethnic eddies and far-flung islands. <p> You can worry that we share no common language, or you can take out your canoe and go with the flow of history. Come 1:30, the Urban Man maneuvers into the great current of the 10 freeway, and heads back to his own little archipelago. <p> Copyright -- 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved. <br>
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