Marrakesh, Morocco. I was there last week. Very much a different world from what I’m used to. I don’t think I was there long enough or in a context to make many valid observations, but I do want to share this detail: I saw satellite dishes and television antennae everywhere. That was also in neighborhoods that otherwise looked old and relatively poor.
I mention it because I think there’s probably significance to it. How fast the world changes. How much the images from one place are available to all other places. How much people who might seem to be very distant from major media are still able to connect.
Question: is this bringing the world together, or is it a divisive catalyst of change?
One issue is that the images people see may reinforce stereotypes ("the ugly American" kind of thing). The same way that we get stereotyped images of Arab peoples from war/terrorism coverage.
I mean, I know there is plenty of world media there and now it's just MORE in these regions, but it isn't likely to be of any higher quality and maybe it's worse when everything comes at you from loads of other cultures with no filtering in place.
Another issue that troubles me sometimes is: Is it really good for the whole world to have at chance at homogenizing? Isn't this idea that everybody needs HBO, America's Next Top Model, YouTube, CNN.com (and everything else) sort of Manifest Destiny electonically modified? Didn't we (the U.S., the British…) decide we were kinda sorry for steamrolling over other peoples?
I know there isn't really any way of stopping it, it's "progress," but it concerns me.
Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. People who are close-minded can certainly use modern technology to isolate themselves even further, since they can get their blindered fervency from even more sources. But anyone who is the least bit curious now has a tremendous wealth of information at their fingertips.
Ultimately I think it's going to bring people together, but it's going to take time. People without access to something are first going to defer to the people who claim to know what's best for them. It happened when tomatoes and potatoes were brought to Europe; early TV was heavily censored; and the early days of the Internet were more about controlling access and filtering content than a free exchange. It'll get there… eventually.
In this particular circumstance it's a bit of both. Morocco is a fascinating country because it's torn between its Muslim heritage and European aspirations. These satellite dishes (which aren't that much of a sign of development, they really aren't that expensive given many will be shared between several houses, and are often tuning in to satellite broadcasts illegally) are picking up TV channels from the rest of the Muslim world. Egyptian TV features particularly heavily, if memory serves.
So it's making Morocco more united with the rest of the Islamic world, but you could argue that when "grey countries" like Morocco cease to be "on the fence" you get closer to an Iron Curtain-like division in the world.