Globalization - Symphony of Metronones and Mavericks?
January 8, 2007
Before I found the guitar store I mentioned previously, I found a piano store selling guitars. What occurred in that store was a wonderful illustration of the difference between Chinese and American cultures.
While I sat trying out guitars, a young woman was playing a guitar in a corner. She was clearly a beginner on the guitar, but probably played another instrument. She had a music book open. A metronome was clicking away, keeping time as she played.
A metronome? A METRONOME? With a guitar? Who on earth plays guitar with a metronome?
Go into any Guitar Center across America on a weekend. Don't forget your earplugs, because you'll find about five to ten teenagers competing with each other to see who has the best chops on the guitar and who can make the most noise. It's chaos at high volume.
Watching her quietly playing, I realized how she illustrated the difference between Chinese and American culture.
Chinese culture is deep, and disciplined. It's planned. It keeps time, and it knows where it is on the page. It doesn't easily step out of time, or out of line. It works.
American culture is a marketplace of chaotic ideas, battling with one another in a cacophony that's not always easy to follow. on the surface, it doesn't look like it works very well. Everyone's competing, trying to drown out everyone else. The quality lies at the individual level, and the individual contributor, the maverick, making his or her statement undisciplined, but creative, defiant, and sometimes utterly original. It works.
For the moment, we in America are the fountain of new ideas, and China is the factory of disciplined production. Globalization isn't a competition with winners and losers. It's a symphony of human strengths, each nation making its unique contribution.