My IAS Class

One of the classes I am taking this semester is History of the Middle East since World War I. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my first choice of class; however, it counted for a few general education credits, it was online (which is nice with Kiddo around), and it did sound genuinely interesting. It also sounded useful considering all that is happening in the world today. (I have a theory that World War III is going to come out of the current state of the Middle East, but that is a post for another day.)

I’ve learned some interesting things in these first two weeks of the semester.  First of all, I can’t believe how badly I was taught about the first world war. Everything I learned about it was through a program called Academic Decathlon, which is, quickly put, a nerd competition. One year all of our subjects were based around the first world war, and I thought myself well-informed. Well, apparently it wasn’t, because the Ottoman empire was barely mentioned and it was, in fact, very important.

Second of all, sometimes Europe just needs to mind its own business. The roots of much of the Middle Eastern conflict, especially the civil wars, rest in the fact that the borders were commonly placed in a fairly random manner. There are no logical divisions along ethnic or terrain boundaries. Britain and France just pulled out a map and said, “You take this part, I’ll take this.” Previous promises to Middle Eastern officials and regions about independence were for the most part ignored. Israel is a whole other mess, which I haven’t yet decided to be positive or negative, though I look forward to learning more about it.

In summary, I’ve learned a lot about that area of the world just in two weeks. This is going to be a good semester.


Living in an Interconnected World

I may live in America, but the things I own say otherwise. I wake up and put on clothes made in Indonesia, then grab my backpack from Taiwan before going to class. I use pencils made in China and a laptop from Malaysia. I eat food grown in Mexico and order products online from India.

Not so many years ago, many of the things I own and use would have been made locally. Now, with the world becoming ever more connected, economies are becoming more and more intertwined. I see many benefits to this, but there are downsides as well.

When I was growing up in small-town Idaho, there was a unique pizza place and a family-owned auto repair shop. Now they have Pizza Hut and O’Reilly Auto Parts. The globalization of the world is weeding out the diversity in brands and shops; if it isn’t big enough to expand, it gets crushed.

Fortunately that is not always the case, nor are there only downsides to this trend. The interconnectedness of the world is bringing new products, new flavors, and new music to different parts of the world. I can go online right now and order spices from Ethiopia or chocolate from Indonesia. I can buy clothes from European designers or towels from Turkey. I enjoy having the world at my fingertips, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And yet I’m still nostalgic for the little family shops of the older days.