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Western culture, particularly popular culture, has spread beyond the Western world. At present, it penetrates even the traditional eastern societies such as Chinese and Arab. Entering a new location, popular western culture influences the weakest categories of the population. As a rule, young people are the first to fall under the influence. At present, the young generation whose representatives are from 20 to 35 years old is known as Millennials. These are the people who were raised in conditions of the rapid development of technologies and the Internet. The technological progress granted access to the world’s cultural heritage together with mass culture. It was sure to have an influence on the local lifestyles of countries which for long periods of time remained isolated from western culture. One of the countries that observe the impact of western culture on the life of the young generation in the United Arad Emirates.
Theory of Cultural Imperialism: Herbert Schiller
A global spread of culture in other societies is often treated as “cultural imperialism” (Mirrlees, 2013). The issue of cultural imperialism can be explained as the dominance of a culture of a bigger, economically, and military stronger country over the one which is less strong. It is often connected with media imperialism since media is a perfect channel of distribution of cultural information (Mirrlees, 2013). Herb Schiller, the American media critic, developed the theory of cultural imperialism in the 1970s (Mirrelees, 2013).
His goal was to explain the existing situation in the culture and media of that time. Schiller defined cultural imperialism as “the sum processes by which a society is brought into the modern world-system and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating center of the system” (as cited in Mirrlees, 2013, p.24).
According to the theory of cultural imperialism, Western countries and their national cultures prevail in the world media. Consequently, their influence on the cultures of third world countries is strong. They impose foreign values and views which in turn can ruin the domestic cultures (Mirrlees, 2013).
Cultural imperialism is considered a “by product of Western and US imperialism, a corollary of the economic, military, and technical growth and dominance of empires” (Mirrlees, 2013, p.25). there are some claims of the cultural imperialism paradigm. They include the dominance of media system of the dominant culture, its power as the source of entertainment, the global expansion of the media industry, the governmental support, the nationalist and consumerist ideologies of this culture, etc. (Mirrelees, 2013).
Speaking of cultural imperialism, Schiller meant the cultural expansion of the United States (Mirrelees, 2013). Its global media corporations were among the most influential in the 20th century. Thus, despite the use of the term of western culture, the major power belongs to the United States.
Sources of Cultural Influence in UAE
Although Arab society has always been reserved and closed for the external impacts, it did not escape the western cultural influence. One of the reasons for this fact was the technological development which increased the availability of information through various media. The most influential sources of information that can be accessed in the UAE include the Internet and satellite TV (“Western culture impacts on local lifestyle,” 2014). These are mainly the channels which do not conform to general code of conduct accepted in the country and promote travelling abroad and communication with the foreigners.
A research conducted by the Centre for Decision Making and Support of Dubai Police on the influence of foreign cultures on the young generation in the United Arab Emirates revealed the following facts (“Western culture impacts on local lifestyle,” 2014). There appeared a group of youth who tended to copy the lifestyles promoted by Western culture. It included imitating the style of clothing, unusual haircuts, the use of typically Western language in everyday conversations, and the attempts to copy appearance and clothes of Western celebrities (“Western culture impacts on local lifestyle,” 2014).
Another influential factor in choice of style and behavior includes social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (Kamal, Chu, & Pedram, 2013). The desire to follow something seen on the Internet is characteristic of the Millennial generation. The UAE Millennials are not an exception. One of the features observed among the representatives of this generation is materialism (Kamal et al., 2013). They believe that “goods and money is the central path to happiness and social progress” (Kamal et al., 2013, p. 29). It is one of the results of Western culture expansion. One of the consequences of materialism growth is a tendency for purchasing luxury fashion goods (Kamal et al., 2013). It is challenging for the UAE young people since the country is a rich one.
One more factor that empowered the influence of Western culture is the spread of English as a global language. According to Arab youth survey 2015 (ASDA’A Burston-Marsteller, 2015), the majority of young Arab people consider English necessary for their career. Broader access to information provided by foreign (mainly Western media) is a side effect of English language globalization. It also led to the cultural fragility of the UAE (Hopkyns, 2014).
Among the crucial influences in the UAE was its economic development. A boost of the country in the oil market increased its GDP and then wealth of the citizens (“Conflicting cultures in the United Arab Emirates,” 2014). As a result, young Emirati were raised in prosperity and with access to any goods. In fact, they formed an urban society with a culture different from the one existing in a previous older rural generation (“Conflicting cultures in the United Arab Emirates,” 2014).
Religion and Family as Factors of Lifestyle Change
The UAE as an Arab country is known for its religious beliefs. Although the country makes international business quite secularly, the religious component of the society is very strong. New generations are not so traditional. The society has to balance modern and traditional values to preserve its historical heritage and not to lose young generations (Khamis, 2014). With the shift of values which is observed in modern Arab society, the influence of religion became not so strong. It was one more reason of quick expansion of Western culture over the UAE youth. It has also influenced the style of clothing. Thus, it is normal to wear jeans for Millennials. However, the traditional dress if still used and respected (Khamis, 2014).
The role of parents in the cultural shift observed by the UAE Millennials should also be considered. Achkhanian (2017) states that parents do not spend much time with their children. It is characteristic of the epoch of technological development since various gadgets provide opportunities for children entertaining themselves without parents’ participation. The absence of parents in child’s life has social, emotional, psychological, behavioral and educational impact (Achkhanian, 2017). A consultant psychologist at The Lighthouse Arabia, Dr. Rose Logan, states (as cited in Achkhanian, 2017, para.15) that “children are likely to become disengaged from family life and will form their own moral compass around information and experiences that they encounter outside the family, including online.” Thus, they become open to external influence.
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Despite Western influence, the UAE together with other Arab countries desires to keep untouched their cultural heritage. Thus, the governmental policy of entertainment media censorship is discussed (Martin, Martins, & Wood, 2016). It may help to reduce the negative influence of Western culture on the coming generations and to preserve the traditions that were formed during centuries.
On the whole, the United Arab Emirates still look traditional. The country together with its popular capital city of Dubai has a cosmopolitan culture. It was developed because of many cultures and nationalities living in the same area. Apart from Arab population, the UAE are the home for Asians, Indians, and Westerners which “has added a different dimension itself to the culture” (Fathima, 2015, para.3). With Islam as the major religion, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs coexist in the country. Historically, the UAE were exposed to numerous cultural influences. Nevertheless, the country managed to preserve the traditions and culture. A more responsible approach of older generations to bringing up their siblings can change the situation of great Western culture influence and make the Millennials together with the following generations more Eastern than Western.
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