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Does a BA really matter?

I have now been home a month and, after battling reverse culture shock (see: #TravelProblems: Transition back”) I, for the first time, had zero plans in regards to what I would do in the coming months. And what a scary feeling that is!

All I knew was that I wanted to write and experience life out of a university setting where my schedule was not set for me and where I had to really “bring it!” So, I applied to internships and jobs and shockingly people started calling! I never imagined I would be wanted by BIG companies or be asked to be on the core staff of a new start-up or work at the HUB, an entrepreneurial space WITHOUT MY BACHELORS DEGREE!!!!

I am so shocked that people in San Francisco really do not even blink an eye when I tell them I have not yet graduated college. This has gotten me excited and intrigued and has led me to believe that no, you do not need a Bachelors Degree in San Francisco if you have entrepreneurial instincts, a strong skill set and are willing to learn from others through experiential means. However, I tend to believe that this new wave of thinking does not have a very big radius; rather, it appears in certain areas around the globe, in pockets of open-ness. As the UnCollege  (http://www.uncollege.org/) and DoItYourselfEducation movement (http://eduventurist.org/) have grown in the past 5 years, I do believe the world is moving toward a different educational model but, while the tide is shifting course, higher education is still an extremely important part of moving up the social ladder or, quite noticeable on the international stage, maintaining that standing.

Upon many months of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that a Bachelors Degree is extremely important for most of the world as it denotes a stamp of intellect and class upon the person (now, if the person actually does have that knowledge is a different topic!) and, if one does not want to work in technology or entrepreneurial fields in the limited liberal innovative spaces scattered around the globe than, a BA is probably a good idea!

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I am just now settling my internship/work deals and seeing how to juggle multiple projects. There have been letdowns, miscommunications and miss-following of protocol on my part, as I have never had to “be” anything other than a full-time student. I certainly have learned a tremendous amount. Seeing how complicated and difficult it all is made me comment to my father:  “I want to go back to school! Going to classes everyday, turning in assignments and labs was SO much easier!!!”

In the following months, keep reading to find out what I decide to do in regards to that whole University and BA degree issue 😉

 

 

“Creating” the Orient: Reflection on Part I of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”

 

This summer, while studying Arabic in Beirut, the name “Edward Said” kept popping up continuously and so, as soon as I got back to the states I had to pick up his renowned book: “Orientalism”. His writing, it so turned out, responded to many of my longstanding questions and concerns. Through the telling of the past, Said has given me a much more thorough understanding of the complex relationship between East and West and where we thus stand today.

I must acknowledge that I dislike writing on the many diverse peoples, cultures and states of the Middle East using the over-bearing words “Orient” and “East” and “Middle East”, and likewise “West,” since they are all relative. But, the reality is that the many lands of olives, dabke, hieroglyphics and Arabic are encapsulated in these “umbrella terms.” Pardon me.

In reading “Orientalism,” my understanding of present Western attitudes of superiority towards the East have increased tremendously.  It is astounding to retrospectively observe the West’s historic position in molding this area of the world. As Said puts it: “It is Europe that articulates the Orient; this articulation is the prerogative, not of a puppet master, but of a genuine creator…”

From 1815 to 1914 Europe controlled 85% of the earth but as we will see, “To say simply that Orientalism was a rationalization of colonial rule is to ignore the extent to which colonial rule was justified in advance by Orientalism.”

Orientalism, as a field of study, is quite expansive and to make it palpable for a European audience, scholar d’Herbolet wrote Le Biblioteque Orientale (1697), which organized information on the Orient alphabetically and helped spread the belief in the acute differences of the Oriental in comparison to the European.  Orientalism is therefore: “Knowledge of the Orient that places things Oriental in class, court, prison, or manual for scrutiny, study, judgment, discipline, or governing.”

With help from colonial encounters in the East, the 18th century saw the relationship between East and West grow in complexity. Scholars of the Orient, who most often used other Western scholars to validate their hypotheses, were able to capitalize on the military expansion of European territories and thus systematically increased awareness of the Orient in Europe on THEIR own Orientalist terms.

For example, the definition of the Prophet Mohammad,  in d’Herbolet’s Biblioteque, reads: “C’est le femeux imposteur Mohamet, Auteur et Fondateur de u hérésie, qui a pris le nom de religion.” Since d’Herbolet was considered an expert on the Orient, Mohammad thus becomes a figure of “heresy” in the minds of European readers. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri even brings up Mohammad in his Inferno.  In fact, “Maometto” turns up in the 8th of the 9 circles of Hell.  That Dante talks about Islam in this way shows that the Orientalist vision is “by no means confined to the professional scholar, but rather the common possession of all who have thought about the Orient in the West.” We are seen how by increasing vilification of the Orient Europeans are able to create their own perceived reality. “d’Herbolet’s character of Mohamet is an image” writes Said and just adds to the theatrical characteristic of the portraral of the Orient to the West. Thus, all that is produced by the Orientalists creates, in all it’s falsities, “the very reality they appear to describe.”

“Since one cannot ontologically obliterate the Orient (as d’Herbolet and Dante perhaps realized), one does have the means to capture it, treat it, describe it, improve it, radically alter it,” wrote Said. And today, sadly, it still seems that the West is fighting, both literally and metaphorically, to sculpt the expansive East. In the eyes of many Americans, and certainly by Westerner policies in general, the people, countries and cultures of the lands south and east of Europe are still viewed as something that needs to be tinkered with and changed to fit the Westerner’s (the Orientalist’s?) agenda. So, I ask, have we really moved that far from our ancestral past practices of “Orientalizing the Orient”?

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