Friday, February 13, 2015

Stately Pleasure Dome

There are varying opinions of globalization and its impact on cultures, governments, economies and personal identities.  Many argue that international corporate conglomerates, for instance, are the twenty-first century's Mongols, invading and pillaging other cultures, impressing their values upon those they conquer.

Pictured: Microsoft, circa 1258

While such critiques may point to disturbing trends of late Modernity, it is undeniable that the forces of globalization have also effected positive outcomes, among the greatest of which must be the proliferation of border-crossing candies, a product of global exchange of a kind that Arjun Appadurai might term the "Sugarscape."

I encountered an artifact of such exchange at a shop that I frequent often.  There, alongside the Haribo Gold-Bears I have come to know and love, were "Juicy Haribo Gold-Bears," in packaging I had not seen in American stores.  Upon closer inspection, I found that these Bears were 20% fruit juice and included these flavors: blackcurrant, pear, apple, raspberry, peach and lime.  The flavors immediately reminded me of a package of Haribos my friend had brought back from West Africa-- Bears that bespoke her dedication to our friendship and that reflected the global flows that define Euro-African life.  Indeed, a closer inspection of my find revealed that these Bears were from Turkey, likely of the same type I had eaten years earlier.  My inevitable conclusion was this: Euro-Bears, chock-full of real fruit juice and exotic (for American markets) flavors, had made their way to my little hamlet.  I was shaking with glee as I walked the package to the counter.

Fruit juice, real sugar, lime gummis?  Salivary glands overload.

My excitement was magnified when the shopkeep asked for only 1.06 for the nouveaux Bears.  After I quickly shoveled my monies across the counter, lest she reconsider the price, I hurried back to the candy aisle to confirm that these new candies were priced at a mere $0.99 (their American contemporaries cost the typically over-priced $1.99).  Needless to say, I cleared out the aisle of the Juicy Bears, and for weeks, I came back assiduously to grab at least a bag or two per trip.

You know the rest of the story: like a blackcurrant berry plucked from its shrub and inadvertently dropped into the grass, this era of unprecedented flavor and thrift soon soured, and I found the Juicy Bears priced at an outrageous $2.69.  I still occasionally buy a bag, because, well, they are Haribos; but the thrill, as they say, is gone.  Ironically, the increased demand for the Bears, fueled by my voraciousness, likely led to the shop realizing their pricing was too low.

Nevertheless, for a period of about 2 months, I was king of the world, a true beneficiary of global forces, an example of the fact that not all Mongols should be turned back at the gates to the city.

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