Culture: the most important source of “Soft Power”
In the 21st century, everyone is facing a significant change of daily life. This fact gets seen in the Rapid growth of technology and the economy. These developments facilitate our ability to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds. Through interacting with people from different cultures, we get a deeper understanding of each other. Culture refers to the customs, beliefs and arts and many other aspects of a particular group or society. Culture brings progressive force to the society in terms of human equality, women rights, etc. Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho once commented on the power of culture: “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers, but first they have to understand their neighbor.” (My Favorite Coelho quotes). In other words, he believes that culture can eventually unify people to make the world a better place.
Although culture is an abstract idea, it can be understood though different kinds of media, most notably the movies. “Titanic”, one of the most important and influential American movies had a huge impact on a global scale. 20 years have passed, we could still remember the scene clearly, when Jack holding Rose’s arms, she is saying: “I am flying!” This movie, as well as the essence of American culture inside it, has widely spread in 57 countries. Crothers, the writer of “Globalization & American Popular Culture”, said “Titanic’s popularity rests at least in part on the values and variables of American public culture.” The movie successfully establishes a bright, talented, confident, romantic, optimistic character of Jake. He exemplifies that love is not about class, wealth or pure romance, but is about unselfishness and self-sacrifice: He risks his own life to save Rose and tries to save other passengers, including children. In contrast, this movie also denounces the value of love that gets associated with wealth and class by portraying the Rose’s fiancé Cal as a deceitful, manipulative and uncaring figure. The character of Cal is indispensable to the entire movie because he serves a foil to praise Jack that even makes him more heroic; therefore, it reinforces the movie’s perspective of love as being unselfish, self-sacrificing and caring “Titanic”, as a “soft” but rather a “hard” weapon.
Culture also promotes the development of human rights, which can be seen in Hong Kong society. Rosaldo, the writer of “The Anthropology of Globalization”, mentioned in his paper that women in New Territories were unable to inherit land in 1994. However, enlightenment of western ideologies-freedom, freedom, humanity, democracy, empowers women to fight for their true freedom and rights in a radical way than ever before. Millions of women participated in a protest in front of the Legislative Council building, singing songs with lyrics about social injustice and inequality, wearing oversized hats of farm women. Western ideas of human rights have totally revolutionized Hong Kong society. Now, women in Hong Kong are no longer deprived of rights or discriminated by society. Instead, an increasing number of women have occupied important positions from different fields. 30 percent of women in Hong Kong who work in companies are on management level. English poet Matthew Arnold once said: “Culture, then, is a study of perfection, and perfection which insists on becoming something rather than in having something, in an inward condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of circumstances.” The influence of western culture in Hong Kong testifies Matthew’s idea of culture and the promotion of human rights. He explains that it breaks social barriers and eliminates stereotypical views of human equality. Such vies include that of the subjugation of women that women are inferior to men.
Culture influences different age groups, not only women, but also young people. Rock & Roll, a controversial piece of western culture, has expanded all over the world. Despite its rebellious and dangerous nature, Rock and Roll still undoubtedly benefits a large group of youth all over the world. This generation of young people is faced with tremendous pressure from their school, family and society. Rock and Roll provides them with an outlet to express our anger, happiness and other different emotions, encouraging us to hope for a better tomorrow. In his book “Globalization & American Popular Culture”, Crothers thinks that the core of rock’s global success is its esoteric nature and the vigorous singing style.
The yearnings and dreams of adolescence are universal. Unlike other music genres, which often contain lot of fancy rhythm or wonderful lyrics, Rock and Roll represents the simplest and most honest kind of music that exposes a real world in front of everyone. My favorite song is “Hey, Jude” by The Beetles. In its lyrics, Paul McCartney portrays Jude, being a shy, timid boy like anyone else in his or her adolescence. He encourages this boy, specifically, the son of John Lennon and ex-wife, to be confident and to embrace a whole new world throughout the song. This song has changed many young people’s lives by inspiring them not lose hope for the future, always stay positive and always stay optimistic.
Culture has permeated into our daily lives. From examples of Rock & Roll, “Titanic” and Hong Kong, “Power” is no longer defined as merely military or political forces, but as a flow of culture that carries on essences of value. In our current world, wars still exist in some countries and cause tremendous trauma on people. People seek to use military power to resolve social issues. However, military force did not end the war; instead, it even causes more people become destitute and homeless. Mistrust and misunderstanding between people are roots of social problems; therefore, we need more cultural communications around the world in order to make people understand each other better.
Crothers, L. (2012). Globalization and American popular culture. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
My favorite Paulo Coelho Quotes - Food & Photos RTW. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foodandphotosrtw.com/2015/04/27/my-favorite-paulo-coelho-quotes/
Rosaldo, R. (1994). Cultural citizenship and educational democracy. Cultural anthropology, 9(3), 402-411.