Notes from a Russian volunteer

By Anton Burkov

Student of Columbia University, resident of the city of Yekaterinburg

September 11, 16:00. Our team of volunteers is on the first floor of One Liberty Plaza which houses a makeshift headquarters, a hospital, and a kitchen. I remember, about two weeks ago, taking a snapshot of the twin towers 30 to 40 meters from One Liberty Plaza.

A large number of rescue workers suffer from dust and fatigue. Their eyes are filled with dust: There are not enough goggles to go around. We were assigned to wash rescuers' eyes. They come on their own, some groping their way to our room like blind men while others are led by the arms (they work themselves to a frazzle) and put into office chairs with water drips hanging from above. Gauze, water, and drops: The operation takes less than five minutes. Those who feel strong enough put on their helmets and go back in. Many have their pulse checked, cardiogram taken, and oxygen masks applied. A corner in the hall is set aside for serious cases. As treatment is administered, cell phones chirp in rescuers' pockets: It's their relatives calling. The answer is usually very short: "I'm okay; sorry, I have to go."

Suddenly a fire alarm goes off and everyone is ordered to leave the building. Evacuation begins. But five minutes" later it's all clear: The fire has been put out.

It grows completely dark. In the dark the concrete dust looks like snow. Winter. Electricity is laid on from gas-operated power generators. The site of the disaster is lit by powerful searchlights: The work never stops for a second.

I get acquainted with the members of our volunteer team. All of them are temporary residents in the city. We call ourselves International Team. I can only remember a few names and the eyes shining with the readiness to help, for the faces are hidden behind respirators:

Nelly from Britain, Kelly from Scotland, Dean from Britain, Boris from Germany... Some have come for holidays, some have come to study. What country, the citizens of what state was the terrorist attack aimed against?

Water runs out. As we go to fetch more water, we see rats running out of an adjacent building. A lot of rats. Could it be another - ?

Cement crumbs mixed with water from hydrants turn into a viscous cement mess. I realize it was a mistake to put on sandals when leaving home.

It is 5 a.m. We are exhausted. Our feet are burning. A fresh batch of volunteers arrives to relieve us. The first floor is completely taken up by rescuers taking a rest. We have to look for somewhere to sleep several stories above. It's a good thing there are more dian 100 of those stories. We do not have to go up too high: On the second floor we find a clothes store. There is as much dust there as out in the street, what with all the windows on the side of die International Trade Center blown out. Taking three identical overcoats (I glance at the price tags) at $400 apiece, I fling them into the dust, make a bed, and go to sleep. I have never used such expensive bedclothes before. I take off my respirator.

September 17.The city has changed visibly. Everyone has gotten used to fighter planes flying over New York.

In between news bulletins, somber music is broadcast on the radio. There are more and more people with crape bands on their chest. There are national flags in the windows, on car antennas, and in the hands of passersby. I open a copy of The New York Times: On the back page there is a picture of the national flag. Brief instructions below say: cut out and paste on the window.

Everywhere there are notices about meetings in support of the victims. Tuesday, September 18: Three minutes of silence from 8:45 to 8:48 a.m., die time the first aircraft crashed. Every day from 7:37 to 8:37 p.m., a candle night: Everyone is asked to light a candle and go out into the street. The candles will not go out until die last rescue worker has returned home; 8:45-9:03 p.m. — lights out.

There are disturbing notices asking to stop pogroms. History repeats itself. Not far from the university campus there was a hot-dog and hamburger stand run by Afghans. After the 11* the stand disappeared.

Text 5

Who's To Blame?

By Ted Hopf

Department of political sciences, Ohio State University

I cried for a long time, looking at the collapsing towers, thinking of the horrible experiences for all the innocent victims. But as I cried, I became increasingly angry, and not angry at the terrorists, but rather at the root cause of their actions. How did it come to pass that the U.S. could become so hated that anyone would be an enthusiastic participant in such mass murder?

Well, the answer is to be found in American policy itself in the world, its unilateral arrogance, its Cold War depredations in the Third World, its continuing support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and its continuing unipolar hubris.

So far, political discussions in the U.S. and the sympathizing world in general have been tactical: How to stop a terrorist, once he has decided on killing thousands of people, from succeeding in realizing his preferences. This is the consensual U.S. approach, I've gleaned from Russian broadcasts of Bush, Rice, Powell, Weldon, Kissinger, etc.

But isn't it time to realize that THERE IS NO DEFENSE against people who hate the U.S. so much? I don't care how many b/trillions we spend on it, it ain't going to work.

Isn't it time, instead of building defenses against someone who has already grown to hate the U.S., that we should change our foreign policies that evoke such feelings? Isn't this at all a signal for some self-reflection, rather than merely Other-de-monization and self-righteous retribution? Do any of us really think that U.S. policy itself isn't at all to blame for this?

Fifty years of Cold War interventions, coups, military dictatorships, election frauds, 20 million deaths in the Third World from 1946 to 1991, every single one of them connected, either most direclty (Vietnam) or indirectly (Afghanistan), to American competition with the USSR in other lands. Do we really believe that these 50 years of violence have not bred any justifiable hatred for the U.S.? Is the U.S. really just an innocent victim who can only think of revenge? The Cold War has been over for ten years; thank God, or Gorbachev, for that. And what has the U.S. done during this decade of unrivalled supremacy? Has it tried to create a more just world order? Has it even thought strategically about collective hegemony? Has it tried to induce China to share in global governance? Has it built any new global institutions? No, instead, it has just fueled the fires of resentment against American lawlessness abroad. Over these ten years, the U.S. has broken international law repeatedly, while demanding that others obey it, and that others need to be punished if they do break it. Why should the U.S. expect cooperation from other states in controlling terrorism when the U.S. itself demonstrates ZERO adherence to international agreements whenever it feels that is expedient?

Do you remember the bully in your school? People could piss in his thermos in retaliation, or put a tack on his chair. He was hurt, and his response was Bush's response, beat up some available suspect, but of course never knowing who did it And why didn't he know? Because enough of the rest of the class hated him, so that he could get no cooperation in finding the culprits. So, he would lash out, just as Bush, and apparently the entire U.S.-public, is itching to do, indiscriminately beating some people up. Which of course misses the target and only creates more enemies. The bully only learns belatedly", that it is his own behavior that must change if he is to avoid drinking piss every once, in awhile.

How could U.S. behavior change, immediately? As a first step, various modest proposals might be implemented based on the idea that fighting terrorism is far more efficient and effective if you reduce the probability that people will have preferences for terrorism in advance; rather than wasting trillions on defending yourself against terrorist acts only AFTER the preferences have already hardened.

Such, policy changes will dramatically reduce the probability of terrorism without the expenditure of one extra defense dollar on illusory counter-terrorist hardware or intelligence. And since there is no defense anyway, it will be all to the good.

They will also multiply the number of ALLIES (remember these?) the U.S. has in the world in combating terrorism more generally, now that the U.S. itself has submitted to some kind of collective great power will in the Middle East, and has shown, in a most dramatic fashion, its willingness to pay a very high price (in relations with Israel) to bring its own policies much more closely in line with what all the rest of the world, including Europe, has been wishing for in the Middle East for decades.

It could be argued that many people hate the U.S. for reasons other than the Middle East I'd agree, but virtually all the groups I can think of, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Iran to Pakistan, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, etc. Palestinian cause as the single most important crime the U.S. continues to commit in the world. It would seem its resolution would go to the very heart of the problem, at least as it's understood today.

Finally, I believe that all right-thinking individuals could agree on one important point The more authority America has the longer American hegemony in the world will last — authority which is earned through legitimacy. The latter can only be gained in the eyes of others, not through unilateral declarations of might and righteousness. So, while it sounds; I`m sure, anti-American of me to list its many crimes, in fact the strategy I offer is fated to perpetuate American predominance in the world far longer than its alternatives.



Text 1

I went to China, India, and Los Angeles to discover what globalization feels like in three of the most diverse places on Earth. Almost immediately I found that the ideas I started out with turned out to be too small, too old, or just plain wrong.

For the past year and a half in Shanghai, for example, Chinese children have been tuning in to that American children's classic TV show Sesame Street. But here it's called Zhima Jie, and when you look closer, it's not simply the American show. The show's team of actors and educators has been collaborating to produce a program that promotes Chinese, rather than American, values. The kids are loving it.

"The Chinese want an environment that's relaxed and fun that their children can be learning in," senior producer Cooper Wright told me on the phone from New York. "They think they have enough formal settings for learning already. But they wanted it to include a lot of their ancient culture. The parents get home late, they all work, and they don't have time to teach their children this, so they feel the show will help with that."

Da Niao, Big Bird's Chinese cousin, is played here by a gentle young man who still works as a truck mechanic. The other characters are all Chinese:a lively three-year-old red monster called Little Plum; a furry blue pig, a kindly grandfather, a very sweet mother, and a little boy, An An, who is so funny and cute and smart that when I met him I could scarcely believe how perfect he was for the part.

This group does many of the usual Sesame Street activities—teaching numbers, for instance—but instead of the alphabet they teach the origin and meaning of Chinese characters.They explain the history and customs of certain festivals. They describe certain ancient art forms. And they also teach sharing and cooperation.

Why does this matter? Because the one-child policy has produced millions of only children who don't live in the large families that once fostered such behaviors. Many Chinese freely admit that a lot of these kids, with two sets of grandparents and two parents who work, are pretty spoiled. In fact, they're often called Little Emperors and Empresses. You can imagine.

"We want to concentrate on reflecting Chinese families,"explained Professor Li Ji Mei, who designed part of the show's curriculum, "such as what children could do to show their respect for the family. Another important part of the program is to make children realize how much their parents do for their well-being. In reflecting Chinese society," she concluded, "we reflect how people should help each other and how to share the joy in sharing."

I asked Professor Li if she thought there was much difference between Chinese and American children. "I think American children are more active," she replied immediately. "They're freer in expressing themselves, take the initiative more, and they're more independent. When Chinese babies fall on the ground, they lie there and expect their parents to pick them up." But Ye Chao, the show's producer in Shanghai, notes, "I think the difference today between children in Chinese cities and rural areas is far bigger than between American and Chinese children."

Cooper Wright, the senior producer in New York, believes American children could stand to gain from some of the material in the Chinese show."I think we could benefit a lot from the aesthetics," she said. "And the respect for elders. I think some of the segments with the grandfather are wonderful, and I'd hope they could influence our shows."

By now, 19 countries around the world are producing their own versions of Sesame Street, using television to interpret their unique cultures. It seems to be working. Does Big Bird feel he's promoting America to his tiny viewers? "I don't think so," Ye Chao said. "We just borrowed an American box and put Chinese content into it."

Next section: McLaks and Maharaja Macs isn't instantly perceived as being American. In New Delhi, as in Brazil or Manila, you may well buy your burger from the kid down the street who speaks the local dialect. "People call us multinational. I like to call us multilocal,"commented James Cantalupo, president and CEO of McDonald's International.

Text 2

McDonald's may be the most notorious name in the whole complex business of American culture going abroad. There are approximately 24,500 McDonald's restaurants in over 115 countries; a new McDonald's opens somewhere in the world every six hours. Like Coke, though, it's easy to denigrate as the symbol of the crass, unhealthy, commercial side of American culture. Some Japanese critics have blamed sugar-laden junk food for juvenile crime.

American scholar Benjamin Barber has gone even farther, summing up everyone's fears of cultural homogenization in the simple but oddly distressing term, "McWorld."

But McDonald's has actually been remarkably responsive to the local cultures; they offer ayran (a popular chilled yogurt drink) in Turkey; McLaks (a grilled salmon sandwich) in Norway, and teriyaki burgers in Japan.In New Delhi, India, where Hindus shun beef and Muslims refuse pork, the burgers are made of mutton and called Maharaja Macs.

And if you're vegetarian, as many strict Hindus are, even better: There's not only the McAloo Tikki burger, a spicy vegetarian patty made of potatoes and peas, but they even figured out how to make a vegetarian mayonnaise that's really pretty good, and doing it without eggs is no small feat.

I had lunch in one of the eight McDonald's in New Delhi; first mariachi music, then a disco version of the theme from Titanic blared from the ceiling. "Cooking lamb is very different from beef," the manager, Sandip Maithal, told me. "The fat percentage is very different. And for the vegetarians, we have two separate tracks of preparation. Workers with green aprons handle only vegetarian food, while those with black aprons handle nonvegetarian food.

"We even separated the two menus—being Indian, we had a good understanding that vegetarians wouldn't want to have to read about meat dishes." What this has meant is that mixed groups of people, with drastically different tastes and customs, have finally found a place where they can all eat together.Is this an American idea? Does it matter?

Pamela Singh, my interpreter, was impressed. It was her first time in an Indian McDonald's, and she didn't mince words. "I'd eat here again," she said. "It's quick, it's clean, it's cheap, and it's better than those horrible oily places—you won't get sick. If a local company did what McDonald's does, they'd do just as well.But I haven't seen anywhere this concern for the level of cleanliness. I applaud these people."

I did some reading up on McDonald's around the world, and I found that while it undeniably represents change, it's usually positive. Take bathrooms. Till McDonald's arrived, customers of many Asian restaurants were resigned to bathrooms that were horrifying. Now they're demanding better. (I approached one mother in a Shanghai McDonald's whose toddler was gnawing French fries. Did she think the food was good? "No," she replied. So why did she come here? "Because it's clean," she said.)

Women in traditional cultures like to meet at McDonald's because there's no alcohol served, and they see it as a safe, socially acceptable place for a woman alone to go.And, far from being a place where you eat and run, many people, from the elderly to teenagers, see it as a spot where they can linger. In cities where space is at a premium, like Hong Kong, teenagers like it because it's somewhere outside their often cramped apartments where they can meet their friends—sometimes they even do their homework there.

Butthe fact that the staff is all local people means that the restaurant, though obviously foreign, isn't instantly perceived as being American. In New Delhi, as in Brazil or Manila, you maybuy your burger from the kid down the street who speaks the local dialect. "People call us Multinational. I like to call us multilocal,"commented James Cantalupo, president and CEO ofMcDonald's International.

Text 3

"Culture,"anthropologist James Watson has commented, "is not something that people inherit as an undifferentiated bloc of knowledge from their ancestors. Culture is a set of ideas, reactions, and expectations that is constantly changingas people and groups themselves change."

Which brings us around to the subject of America. Where does the U.S. really fit into the big global picture?After all, America isn't the only purveyor of global goodies—it absorbs more foreign customs and objects than most Americans are probably aware of. But let me tell you first about a tiny moment I had in St. Petersburg, Russia.

One early summer evening I was wandering the fringes of a rock concert and political rally in the square outside the Winter Palace. The music was like rock music anywhere—and the square was full of teenagers in running shoes and jeans and T-shirts, some with punk haircuts and green fingernails. One boy, who was dancing alone, wore a T-shirt that said—in English, oddly—"Thank God I'm not in America."

Iasked him why. "Well," he replied, "I love my country."

Let's not dwell on the paradox to which he seemed oblivious: that in that moment he represented lots of Western, if not strictly American, elements, from the jeans to the ironic slogan on his chest. Being able to enjoy the very things you're criticizing strikes me as a fundamentally Western experience, and possibly a positive one.

But those who are quick to criticize America often seem unaware that America is not some monolithic one-size-fits-all culture,but arguably the most multicultural society on Earth. Thousands of things that we think of as American came from somewhere else: Christmas trees, hot dogs and beer, denim. An elderly Indian professor of sociology named Yogendra Singh understands this better than the boy in St. Petersburg.

"What is Western culture?" he asked as he sat barefoot in his New Delhi living room. "There's very little understanding of the diversity of Western cultures. But American culture draws on so many other cultures. America could be the best example of how cultures appreciate each other."

Americans are so quick to adopt foreign food, phrases, clothing, that it may be hard to see them as foreign for long. It has happened in India, too, a country with 25 states and more than 400 languages. "The history of India is based on linkages with other cultures,"professor Singh mused. "Even a local culture includes or incorporates elements from other cultures. But over time memory plays tricks with associations of national identity."

In other words, people forget where certain things came from, and they don't care. Americans say "ciao" and "glitch," dance to salsa (and eat it too), drink vodka, and on and on, but don't think this makes them Italian, Jewish, Hispanic, Russian, or whatever. We adopt elements of myriad immigrant cultures because they help us express ourselves better. This, I think, is theessence of cultural interchange: not adopting foreign things wholesale, but choosing themaccording to the values and ideas of your own culture.

"People complain about MTV," a graceful Indian dancer named Tripura Kashyap told me in Bangalore. "But the West is so much more than MTV. In Europe their minds are much more free than ours. Western culture has made them into human beings that are so confident, so outgoing. They're more willing to take the risks to experiment. Here, we don't risk experiment."

Tripura studied classical Indian dance as a child. A beautiful, historic art form, but one that is also rigid and archaic. "I was very interested in moving away from traditional forms, because they were very limiting,"she explained as we sat in the tranquil tropical garden of my hotel. "I think if you want to express contemporary themes you need newforms." She went to Wisconsin to study dance therapy, and returned to Bangalore to form her own dance company. Her style now includes traditional elements, an Indian martial art called "chhau," jazz, ballet, and modern dance.

"My parents really hate my dance," she said with a smile, "they just can't take it. But I feel these cross-cultural influences are very important. The way I express myself now is more authentic. It's more me."

The Russian boy with the sarcastic T-shirt has yet to discover what Tripura, Big Bird, and most Americans already know: You can love your own country without having to reject all the others.I am convinced that globalization will give us new ways not only to appreciate other cultures more, but to lookon our own with fresh wonder and surprise.