Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fragmentation in a Global Society as Seen through the Eyes of a Soccer Near-Great

The great paradox of the world today is that as individuals transfer more of their social, economic and cultural identities from sovereign states to a trans-statal community with increasingly permeable borders populated by para-statal institutions of public and (increasingly) private origins, the same individuals use the Internet, telecommunications and other contemporary media to coalesce in smaller, intimate, (often) largely virtual communities. Globalization and fragmentation go hand in hand.

No, that doesn’t sound right. In fact, it sounds awful. I think that I should be talking about the Evangelion community and neo-Nazi websites and Daily Kos and Rush Limbaugh and what have you. But I don’t have the time or energy to do it. So I’ll just link to the this article on Brazilian soccer players, which started me on this jag a week ago.


Janne Morén said...

When I had just arrived in Japan I was taken to a pub catering to foreign residents in Osaka a few times. There you have crowds of mostly English-speaking foreigners - language teachers, true, but also a lot of expats - people stationed in their company's Osaka offices. There they eat western-style dishes, drink beer and watch European sports in a Irish-pub setting. I talked to people there who had been in Osaka for ten years, fifteen years and they still could not read hiragana or know more than a dozen words of Japanese and never went to any non-western style restaurants, entertainments or events of any kind. They socialize with other expats (mostly from the same country), and with the expat parents of the other kids in their expat school.

Those people never needed the internet to isolate themselves from their surroundings. Go back thirty years and you'd have the exact same scene for each foreign expat community, repeated with minor local differences, in any country in the world. My parents lived in Germany for a few years before the general uptake of the internet, with many Swedish expats clustering together. Or go back even further, with special clubs and societies for Britons living in the colonies where they could cling to the illusion of still living at home.

In a way I'm lucky - there's too few other Swedes around here for a viable community to form and isolate us.

Jun Okumura said...


It's also much easier to assimilate when you are a minority of one; the dominant community does not feel challenged.

On a less personal level, I was surprised to learn that there were a few Koreans who were third-generation residents of Japan in the Korean neighborhood in Osaka who could not speak Japanese with the fluency of a native speaker. I imagine that’s a thing of the past though.

Going back to your point, I think that Müller gives us an example of how virtual communities are proliferating by way of improved telecommunications, Internet, and satellite and cable TV.

Those ex-pats probably think that they are the lucky ones.

Janne Morén said...

The expat community phenomenon makes plenty of sense for the "real" expats - people coming for a period of 1-3 years, not for a cultural experience, but to do a job and advance their careers at home. They just aim to minimize the disruption of life. It's when an insular lifestyle is extended to people staying indefinitely - and their children, even - that it becomes dysfunctional.

This ties in very well in many ways with shisaku's latest post about language requirement for long-term stays. It probably deserves a more thoughtful treatment than a blog comment is able to.

Jun Okumura said...

Hmm, you know, we (I mean we Japanese) need more gaijin input. Right now, we're just talking to each other.

Hey, Robert, do you think TUJ could do something about this? Inject yourselves into the demographics/immigration policy-making process? At a minimum, there's a book waiting to be written here.