An American Voyage to Explore Globalization

An American Voyage to Explore Globalization

The collection of essays by Dr. Patrick Mendis reflect on his experiences and observations of globalization during a "Semester at Sea".
Glocalization - Freedom on the March: An American Voyage to Explore Globalization Freedom on the March: An American Voyage to Explore Globalization, Dr. Patrick Mendis
(2005)

Freedom on the March: An American Voyage to Explore Globalization is a compilation of essays by Professor Patrick Mendis in which he discusses his travel experiences. As Professor Lincoln P. Bloomfield describes it, "This book is three quite different - and quite wonderful - things. It is first of all a political-cultural travelogue by a professor who took advantage of a semester lecturing aboard ship to acquire penetrating insights into a dozen nations from the Caribbean south and westward to the Sea of Japan. Second, it is a richly illustrated essay on globalization (what the author calls "glocalization") vividly brought to life by his first-hand experience. Thirdly, it is confirmation to those who know Patrick Mendis of his extraordinary devotion to the best of the American ethos he adopted - and enriched - in an impressive career since arriving as a student from Sri Lanka."

Professor George Bond continues the praise, calling it "a series of insightful essays that examine the processes of change that are occurring in various countries around the world. In this volume, he critically examines the dynamic interactions between global and local forces that are transforming these societies and cultures in unique ways." Freedom on the March is hailed as "valuable reading for our time" and "a feast for the mind and the eyes."




Excerpt from Chapter One: Freedom to Travel

This is an eyewitness analysis of a voyage around the world with the "Semester at Sea" Program of the University of Pittsburgh. During the voyage, I taught courses in development economics, international political economy, and economics of public policy as well as conducted field research primarily on global development issues, poverty, and American foreign relations in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

My perspectives are influenced by my Third World upbringing and my Midwest traditional values from the United States. Born in Sri Lanka, I grew up in a three-acre rice farm with 13 water buffaloes until I came to the United States on an AFS scholarship to attend a high school in northern Minnesota. In Minnesota I worked on a 5000-acre farm with 30 milking cows and lived with a Scandinavian family who later became my "adopted" parents.

I began to appreciate increasingly my privileges in freedom and liberty that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and to understand better how it works in the evolving American Experiment.
After the voyage, I reflected on our experiential learning, in-country interviews, and field observations to understand better the dynamics of globalization processes, which have more often been interchangeably associated with the concept of Americanization. In this process I learned more about America from others' perspectives. I also began to appreciate increasingly my privileges in freedom and liberty that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and to understand better how it works in the evolving American Experiment.

A brief introduction in Chapter 2 highlights the importance of travel, not only to learn more about other cultures but also to know us better. Traveling is important for Americans because we are a mobile nation, which I emphasized in the Conclusion with an analytical framework to understand the United States as a special place in the world. To rediscover America from various perspectives, I explored different types of globalizations or Americanizations in a form of case studies in the Bahamas, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Macau, South Korea, and Japan. The sequence of the countries indicates the route taken by the voyage, starting from Washington D.C. to the Bahamas and sailing across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans to Seattle, Washington via Japan.

The country case studies present many forms of globalizations and the influence of American footprints, whether they are McDonald's hamburgers, Hollywood movies, or the resistance against tyranny or communism. The analysis critically examines the dynamic changes resulting from interactions between global and local forces that are transforming these societies and cultures in unique ways, which I called a "glocalization" process. These case studies illustrate convincing perspectives that they are neither globalization nor Americanization, which are fully responsible for these changes. But how these societies respond and adopt these global forces to local contexts will ultimately determine the nature and the form of glocalization.

The case studies demonstrate the various types of processes within which globalization changes these communities in creative, and, more often, destructive ways. One may observe that there appears to resonate a set of similar forces that are shaping the American Experiment in the globalization process. Can globalization then be an extension of Americanization? Or, vice versa? The spatial map of American Honduras is a good example of globalization of other nationalities and cultures in the Americanization process in the United States. Can globalization and Americanization then be synonymous, but in different "glocalized" places?

The United States is a global nation. This spatial distribution map of Honduran-Americans depicts an example of the pattern and extent of the immigrant population of this one country.

Unlike previous global and colonial powers, the United States, as the remaining superpower, projects universal values that attempt to make democracy safer for global diversity. Yet we observe that there is no single theory that perfectly captures the complexities of the dynamic processes that are unique to each and every culture. A broader generalization can simply be made only to understand the general forces that drive globalization to make the world a rapidly shrinking global village.

The three major driving forces are:

  • The constantly changing Information Revolution (i.e., the marriage between telecommunications and computers that led to the Internet).
  • The spread of democratic values after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
  • The liberal economic and trade policies advocated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the structural adjustment policies, which are imposed on developing countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (IBRD Group).


A single person, an institution, or a nation cannot monopolize the driving forces of globalization, forces such at the Information Revolution and the institutions of the WTO, IMF and World Bank. Rather, globalization is a collective enterprise that is driven by and in societies where freedom reigns.
This attests that a single person, an institution, or a nation cannot monopolize these forces, but it is a collective enterprise that is driven by and in societies where freedom reigns. That freedom needs to be governed by a set of democratic principles and mechanisms, which were fundamental to our Founding Fathers who expounded on those ideals in the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and other documents.

It seems that the American legacy continues globally in the name of silent revolution for fairness, justice, and liberty for all, where "no-one is in charge" as my mentor Ambassador Harlan Cleveland wrote in his Birth of a New World: An Open Moment for International Leadership. It is then safer to state that the changing patterns of Americanization - from a "melting pot" to a "salad bowl" - appear to capture the dynamics and the workings of glocalization or globalization.

The undercurrents for that dynamism seemed to generate from the evolving notions of American Experiment, which lies on the tripod of rationality, empiricism, and mobility. After reflecting on the voyage around the world, I realize that there are a wide range of American resemblances - whether these countries act on the rationality of their economic policies, the empirical aspects of social changes, or their citizens' freedom to move and express freely. The concluding chapter provides a more detailed analysis of American Experiment at a global scale - from Cuba to China - to highlight that freedom is the most valued commodity everywhere.




Dr. Mendis has a broad range of leadership experience in philanthropic, corporate, and non-governmental organizations. After his government service at the U.S. State Department, Dr. Patrick Mendis returned to teach MBA courses in international trade policy and management at the UMUC Graduate School of Management & Technology at the University of Maryland. He then joined the University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea Program and served as a visiting professor of economics and public policy during the spring voyage of 2004.




Reprinted with permission from OPEN.

For questions or to order Freedom on the March, please contact Professor Mendis at pmendis@umuc.edu.

To read another Global Envision book review about globalization, see Is Globalization Passe?



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