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Some thoughts on neo-colonialism Some thoughts on neo-colonialism
by Joseph Gatt
2019-05-25 09:09:04
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Yahoo, Google, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are all American companies so my non-American friends like to talk about internet colonialism. Starbucks, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Wall Mart or GAP is American companies so my non-American friends like to talk about economic imperialism. The NBA, the American presidential election, mass shootings in the US, and CNN are American, along with a lot of the music pop-stars and Hollywood productions, are all widely covered, so my non-American friends like to talk about cultural imperialism. And concepts like freedom, democracy, leadership, initiative, fundraising and searching for one's self are all very American concepts that are gaining acceptance worldwide.

But let's break down the myth for a second. 

colonialis01_400Internet colonialism: most countries apart from the United States have archaic, in some cases very archaic laws regulating the Internet. Online payment is impossible in a lot of countries, and in some countries if you try to set up an internet business you are prevented from doing so as those countries don't even have a legal framework governing business on the internet.

Let's take search engines for example. Let's take search engines in Algeria for example. Yahoo is the most used search engine in Algeria, not Google, and Algerians use the French version of Yahoo and most, even government ministers, have email addresses that end in .fr, in the France domain. Now for a country that demonizes French colonialism every day, government ministers who have French domains for the email addresses can be laughable.

But, the Algerian government always prevented Yahoo, and all other search engines from doing business in Algeria and setting up more user-friendly search engines targeted at Algerians, in the name of protectionism. Yet if I want to set up an Algerian search engine, I'm going to have to fight an archaic legal system that does not clearly regulate the internet, and in the end won't be able to set up a search engine.

Even European countries have harsh laws regulating the internet and what kind of business can be set up surrounding the internet. That is if the French or Spain or Portugal had more business-friendly laws surrounding the internet, you could have a Portuguese version of Facebook or a French version of YouTube being set up. Actually Dailymotion, the French version of YouTube, flopped because crushing bureaucracy and strict laws surrounding audiovisual content meant that for example you could not advertise on dailymotion, barring Youtubers from setting up channels on dailymotion and monetizing them. Dailymotion tried to capitalize on lax soft-core pornography laws in France, but you have better websites for pornography if you know what I mean.

Economic colonialism: you have French franchise sushi chains and Japanese franchise pizza chains and Moroccan franchise burger chains and they all work very well. Zara is a Spanish brand, H & M is a Swedish brand, so is IKEA, and you have French supermarket chains and Swiss supermarket chains competing with Spanish supermarket chains around the world.

But then what do you need for your business to go global? Money? Yes, but something else as well. Good products? Yes, but something else. Good human resources? Yes, but something else as well. What do you need?

You need immigrants! Why immigrants? Let's call my company N and let's say I want to establish branches around the world. I'm going to need lawyers, I'm going to need salesman, I'm going to need negotiators, I'm going to need go-betweens, I'm going to need managers, I'm going to need technology. France has no long-term Korean immigrants, so when a French supermarket chain tried to set up a business in South Korea, without the help of French-Korean lawyers, managers, salesmen, technology, labs, negotiators, the supermarket didn't last long.

Large retail stores can set up businesses around the world specifically because they have an army of people who can work both for the HQ and for the home country. It's easy to set up a business in a foreign country, but to stay in the foreign country for 30, 40 years like McDonald's or Pizza Hut; you're going to need a lot of educated dual citizens. Right now a lot of countries are sending back immigrant students home before they can acquire dual citizenship. So those students can't bring their wives from home, can't have bicultural children, and you lose your bilingual and bicultural workforce.

Media, cultural and linguistic colonialism: Again, a lot of countries have repressive laws regarding the media, not just some African or Asian dictatorship, but even in European democracies. For example, the French have something called an inheritance tax, where the government keeps half your inheritance money. So all the big cinema and media productions of the 1970s lost half their fortunes when their founders died. That meant cinema, music and media corporations in France struggling to find funds to make a hit movie or post-modern music video. Remember that company called Pathé? Or that Dutch company called Phillips? 

It's not just France that has those repressive inheritance laws. To have a successful media landscape you need lots of movie theaters, good concert venues, good cultural advertising channels, a vast media landscape, good production companies, and soft laws on freedom of speech. You also need to have a culture where strangers are comfortable talking to each other, because in a lot of countries, even in Europe, I will only invite musicians I know personally, so rather than invite a talented rock star, I'll invite my not-so-talented nephew to give a concert because he's my nephew and I've known him since birth.

Ideological imperialism: The US Department of State has a lot of partnership programs that brings people from around the world to foster leadership and other skills necessary for democracy, democratic governance, community service and other very important endeavors.

The problem is, try organizing a fundraiser in India! Or in Indonesia! Or in Bolivia for that matter. People aren't going to show up because they can't find transportation and won't show up to events where they're not sure who else is invited. When you give your speech begging for donations everyone else will be chitchatting, and people will forget to give their donation.

There are two ways ideology can flourish. I could be a dictator with a bent for intellect, write a book stating what my ideology is, and force my ideology upon my people. Or I could be a scholar, put my ideology out there, invite people to contradict me, I contradict them back, they contradict me back, and it's up for the reader to decide who's right and who's wrong. Unfortunately, in a lot of countries, people actually believe that there should be a designated ideologue, one who will write the ideas, and the rest of the people will passively adopt the ideas. When the ideologue dies, his ideas die with him.

In sum, neo-colonialism is not nasty Americans conquering territory with their ideas, media, culture, language, economy or the internet. It's also up to local governments to set up legal frameworks to allow local products to flourish over foreign, mostly American products. Not by cheating as a lot of countries do, by expelling American businesses or imposing draconian laws on American businesses, but through means that actually enable local businesses to flourish with business-friendly democratic legislation.

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