A Travellerspoint blog


an interconnected world


Globalization has changed the nature of Western relations. I contemplated such ideas when I came across this plaque in Notre Dame. The plaque honors the British soldiers who fell in WWI, “of whom the greater part rest in France.” If you asked someone in 1815 to predict why British soldiers would lay dead from war on French territory a hundred years later, surely their primary conclusion would be that France and England were at war with each other. It would be difficult to convince a European of the early 19th century that in the early 20th century, Britain and France would take up arms in defense of each other.

Up until the 19th century, France saw itself as very different from England, and vice versa, because the average person’s world was so much smaller. As globalization occurred with the spread of the automobile and the airplane, and people’s worlds expanded, neighboring countries like France and England no longer felt so different. In comparison with China, with whom western nations now have frequent and immediate contact, France is very similar to England. In this way, globalization united civilizations. The West stopped fighting within itself, and turned towards increasingly dissimilar enemies.

Though globalization has decreased fighting within civilizations, it has not decreased the amount of violence in the world. In fact, it has possibly had the opposite effect. Since warring nations are now often on the other end of the globe, new weapons became necessary. Troops can no longer march into enemy territory and fight with guns; now enemies cannot be reached by a long walk and a gunshot. So followed the invention of massive weapons that can cause major destruction to another country, but can be fired from afar. Nuclear weapons have added unprecedented tensions to the nature of war. The widespread death of millions of civilians in a single moment has never before been possible.

Globalization, the increasing interconnectedness of the world, is not all bad. In a non-globalized world, it would probably be impossible to form a European Union, because Europeans would be too busy fighting amongst themselves. But the new lines drawn in the sand, those of civilizations instead of nations, may be even more dangerous.

Posted by Tayler 15:51 Comments (0)


presenting differences with dignity


A rectangular, massive, silver, art piece of a building in the middle of Paris is the site of “institut du monde arabe,” an entire museum devoted to documenting and celebrating the Arab culture. This may seem strange to anyone who knows of the increasing hostility towards Middle Eastern people that exists in France. The Arab Institute silently communicates a hope that someday a cultural minority will be able to exist within a larger culture with sentiments of embrace instead of exclusion.

Embrace; receive gladly; accept willingly. These words do not often describe western relations with Arab peoples. However, these are all words I would attribute to this Parisian museum. I appreciate the style of the museum. It seeks to tell a story—many stories—stories of Middle Eastern people from long ago to modern day.

The presentation of the museum allows the visitor to feel a temporary sense of involvement with the Middle Eastern culture. This promotes increased understanding and toleration of the people displayed in the museum. Instead of just displaying artifacts from Arab lands, to be examined from a distance, the museum instead seeks to display the humanity behind the Arab culture with dignity, respect, and appreciation.

I left the museum with a sense of the similarities between Middle Eastern peoples and my own people. We are not as different as we may have been taught to believe. We have different belief systems, but we all believe in something. We have different aesthetic tendencies, but we all appreciate beauty. We eat different things, but we all find a way to grow and harvest food. We have different governments, but we have all created a system to live together. Our shared humanity should draw us together with stronger bonds than our dissimilarities can break apart. Unfortunately though, this is not typically the case. Museums like the Arab Institute, which display a different culture in light of what we can learn and gain from engaging the people of that culture, encourage increased understanding, toleration, and embrace between people groups in the future.

Posted by Tayler 15:48 Comments (0)


no love; no grace


It is good to be passionate. It is good to hold tight to convictions. But it is almost always bad when one’s passion turns into extremism. I saw the remains of extremism face to face when we entered the grounds of Struthof.

Struhof was the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil. The stories held within it are terrifying. Approaching the camp, the first thing one notices is the tall fence lined with barbed wire. A sign of no escape; a sign of complete separation from the outside world. Inside, there are cabins in rows, two by two. The cabins look misleadingly typical, like they could be summer camp cabins. But walking further in, one sees multiple platforms overlooking a noose, and the summer camp image is wiped away completely.

Walking through the camp, I was blown away by the effort the Nazis put into dehumanizing the concentration camp victims. The only way to treat other people in that manner is to remove any shred of their humanity from your mind. If you did not, you would be unable to shove humans into small cages like dogs; you would be unable to perform medical experiments to test poisons and acids.

What does it mean to be human? I believe the Bible teaches that any person made in the image of God is a human from the time their body begins to function to the time all signs of life are gone. So, did the Nazis, who read from the same Bible I do, have too limited a view of who reflected God, or too narrow a view of God himself? The probably had both.

Certainly the Nazis had an incorrect view of the reflection of God in humans. They linked the image of God to compliance with the Nazi party. Problems are often created when godliness is linked with a certain political party. It distorts our image of God and creates a new standard of rightness, which was never intended to be. As a result, even the German Church largely supported the Nazi regime, because they accepted this new standard of holiness.

Nazi theology did not embrace the full person of God. They saw the side of God that desires justice and righteousness, and that hates sin, but they failed to see God’s mercy, grace, and unconditional love. Most extremist movements have a one-sided view of God, which ends in the dehumanization and torture of those who do not line up with a created distorted standard of humanness.

If forms of extremism encountered the true God, the full being of the true God, they could not stand. Extremism is void of love; God is love and we were created to love one another.

Posted by Tayler 15:44 Comments (0)


A mix of cultures


Contamination, the mixing of cultures, is extremely evident in Strasbourg, France. The small city has switched nationalities five times between French and German. After being in Heidelberg, Germany for a day, and Paris, France for a week, I can say that Strasbourg seems to be almost as much German as it is French. The big question about cultural contamination is, is it good or bad? I think it is somewhere in the middle.

It is good to be open to mixing cultures. It's good to learn from each other and gain from each other's achievements. The world and technology would have developed a lot slower if people from different cultures did not work together and build off of each other's ideas. It's also good to experience each other's practices, customs, foods, religious celebrations, and etc. These kind of things display the commonalities between each other because all cultures do these things, even if they do them in different ways. It improves our awareness that we are all humans with the same desires who deserve the same respect and rights.

But it is also good to preserve individual cultures. We would not want the world to become one homogeneous place. The world's diversity is a wonderful thing. It helps us appreciate the creativity of the human mind. We would not want to over-contaminate the world.

Strasbourg is a great place to visit. It is really neat to see German and French style, architecture, food, and so on, combined to make one new culture. But I am glad there are still places like Heidelberg and Paris where German and French culture can be seen separately and fully.

Posted by Tayler 15:28 Comments (0)

The Other


This castle in Switzerland is full of history about those who were accused as witches and sentenced to death. Not surprisingly, the majority of these victims were women. Women have been "the other" for the larger part of history (and often even now). In the centuries of the witch hunts, men had complete power. Women were "the other" and the easy target for blame when something went wrong. As I learned in the castle, you could be named a witch for just about anything. Midwives who helped with failed pregnancies were often accused of witchcraft by the baby's father.

Today, we don't call women witches. But we certainly accuse them of a lot of other things. In the West, men still hold the majority of the power. Women are still "the other" in many ways. It is a strange and sinful tendency to assume that something different is automatically worse. God created man and woman differently, but he did so for good reason. He created us differently so we could reflect himself better. Yet humanity has used those differences to leverage power against one another.

Just as males have the power in our country and continually decide how they will use it for or against women, the West has the majority of world power, and must decide how they will use it for or against other people groups. If we are not careful, we will automatically assume that our differences make us the better side, because we have the power (and I'm afraid this has already taken place).

Posted by Tayler 14:35 Comments (0)

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