Nowadays, we are used to talking about globalisation and industry and how these two things are influencing our habits, needs, culture. However, we rarely think of industry and culture as two elements that cross each other. I tried to Google “cultural industry” and I found this definition: “The term culture industry was coined to indicate a factory producing standardised cultural goods—films, radio programmes, magazines, etc.—that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity. Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances”.

It goes without saying how much culture is useful. We might be so used to considering it as something important, the milestone of life that we don’t associate it anymore to some utility. On the contrary, this use exists and it is strong and it is confirmed by the definition of “culture industry”. I am not referring to a country level of literacy or the research field. Culture is a political and diplomatic tool, too often underestimated when it comes to conceiving it that way.

However, two countries have not neglected this “secondary” aspect of culture: USA and Japan. Culture manifests itself in different ways, and the feature that these two countries chose is strictly linked to their history and customs.
On the one hand, in the Asian country, Mangas became the most important mean through which a new idea of an army is being diffused. Japan is, in fact, facing the process of modifying its Constitutional Chart in order to reinforce its army. The main issue has been convincing the public opinion that a stronger army would be used just for defence and that soldiers are “good defensors”. In order to achieve this goal, Japanese Ministry of Army and the Ministry of Culture formed a real alliance in order to set out a campaign so to use mangas and the Japanese cartoons, “anime”, to get across the message of a Japanese army that is in fact good. Bright colours, characters that move peoples’ feelings are used.

On the other hand, USA is using baseball as a tool for foreign relations: Obama is visiting Cuba after decades of paralysed relationships between the two countries and the first step to renovating the relations has been to organise a baseball match, just as it happened in 2002 with president Carter. We don’t know yet if Obama will be allowed by the security services to enter the field, but the real first stroke has been played.

Obviously, not only do Japan and the USA use culture as an instrument to spread a political view or project. In Italy, for instance, prime minister Renzi wants to give the so-called “culture bonus” to 18 years old people, which consists in 500 euros to be spent for books, theatres, museums, concerts and other cultural events. The one condition? People must vote in order to have that bonus.

Is it wrong to be given tools that make culture more accessible? I don’t think so, at least not as long as we learn to take advantage of this facilities to enhance our personal culture and we learn to select the information we are given.

Chiara Merlino, Correspondent (Our World)

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