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Focus | These things might surprise you

“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” the saying goes. In 2003, some 16 years ago, the Pew Research Center, a think tank dedicated to tracking global attitudes and trends, published a report entitled “Views of a changing world 2003”. In chapter five of the report, having the heading “Nationalism, sovereignty and views of global institutions”, it revealed its findings from a number of surveys about the subject. It might surprise you to know what was revealed. In a broad observation, it noted that, “even as the world grows more comfortable with globalization, people continue to feel the strong pull of nationalism”. The report notes that there were three distinct attitudes that people displayed that revealed this:

1. They felt that their culture was superior to others;

2. They felt that their culture needed protection; and

3. They felt that territories of others near them belonged to them.

Let’s look at these findings, at least two of which might be strongly shared by Bahamians today, a bit more closely.

People felt their culture was superior

According to survey results, “in the United States, Eastern Europe and throughout most of Africa, Asia and Latin America, majorities believe that their culture is superior to others.” In developing countries, according to the report, the sentiment, was even stronger. All developing countries surveyed, except Jordan, felt this way. If this survey was conducted in The Bahamas today, what do you think the results would be?

Many saw their way of life as threatened

According to survey results, a majority of people felt stronger about their way of life needing protecting than they felt that it was superior to that of others. “Nearly nine in 10 Turks (89 percent) agree that their way of life needs defending; an overwhelming 69 percent completely agree with that statement – by far the highest percentage in the world. But the general view is nearly as widespread in Indonesia (87 percent), Uganda (87 percent), Kenya (86 percent), Senegal (86 percent) and Egypt (85 percent). Strong majorities in most of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East/conflict area also want to defend their way of life from outside influence,” noted the report. Fewer but still narrow majorities in France (53 percent), Great Britain (51 percent), Germany (51 percent), Italians (68 percent) and Americans (64 percent) said their way of life needed defending from foreigners. If you asked Bahamians this question today, what do you think the answer would be?

 Seeing neighboring territories as belonging to one nation

“Territorial nationalism”, the report notes, “the cause of many conflicts throughout history, is still alive and well. Majorities in 22 of 42 countries where the question was asked say that there are parts of neighboring countries that really belong to their own country.” This is not a big issue here at home, but I am sure there are some Bahamians who might argue that the Turks and Caicos Islands are part of The Bahamas.

With such prevailing views, it is not surprising that feelings toward immigration were widespread throughout the world. According the Pew Research 2003 report, “Immigrants and minority groups are generally seen as having a bad influence on the way things are going by people in most countries. Only in Canada does a strong majority of the population (77 percent) have a positive view of immigrants. Among other advanced countries, Americans show the greatest support for immigrants (49 percent). Nevertheless, a large minority of Americans (43 percent) believes immigrants are bad for the nation. Half or more in France (50 percent), Britain (50 percent), Japan (55 percent), Germany (60 percent) and Italy (67 percent) say immigrants are bad for their nations.” What would be The Bahamas’ showing in this survey?

What might surprise many in The Bahamas is what the survey found in 2003 about three things. First, it found that most people had a favorable view of multi-nationals or foreign corporations. “Approval of foreign firms is highly favorable in Vietnam (93 percent), China (76 percent) and the Philippines (74 percent), but less so in South Korea (56 percent), Bangladesh (48 percent) and India (46 percent). Latin Americans also have a generally favorable view of multinationals – with the notable exception of Argentina,” noted the report. Views in the developed world were more measured with “just half of those surveyed in the U.S. (50 percent), France (50 percent) and Italy (51 percent) giving global firms good marks. Multinational companies are viewed favorably by even fewer respondents in Poland (44 percent) and Russia (42 percent)”, said the report.

Second, most people gave multilateral organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, good ratings. Third, most people did not recognize or know many anti-globalization protesters. I would venture that these last three views might not be seen the same way by Bahamians.

This was the state of play of these issues in 2003. Sixteen years later, I suspect that much remains the same, if not more intense. Globalization continues to advance, but so too does nationalism. Can the two ever marry? That is a question we will take up in another piece of writing.


• Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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