Like I mentioned in a previous blog, setting targets for learning is vital for jumping into any new topic. Learning objectives set a benchmark—did you learn about X thing? What did you want to learn that you haven’t yet? What did you learn that you weren’t expecting?

It also gives direction. Frankly, I’m like a border collie—my boss will attest that I need a goal or a project or I go a little stir-crazy. Do I like picking up books and learning new things without planning for it? Absolutely. Will I be satisfied if I just read random books with no theme or target? Yeesh, not at all.

So here are the 7 things I want to learn about before 2018 ends.

#1: Non-Western Christian Theology

Frankly, what anyone thinks of when they hear “Christian church” is largely based on a Western understanding of the Gospel. We put a great deal of American assumptions on an ancient Middle Eastern text, which would be ludicrous if we were talking about anything else.

Reading Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes piqued my interest in what non-Western theologians saw in the Bible. What did they read that I couldn’t see? What did the context of certain stories or ideas mean to its original readers and composers?

This year I’ve embarked on a project to develop a “decolonized faith,” a faith divorced from the Western colonialist and capitalist trappings that underlie our U.S. way of thinking. I’ll write more on that topic later, but for now, this is the area of study that will get me started.

#2: Genghis Khan

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m fascinated by Genghis Khan. However, as much as the man himself is interesting, I’m more drawn to the historical period before European dominance. In the 12th century, European dominance of the globe was a laughable idea: the Islamic Empire and the Mongol Empire were the greatest powers the world had ever seen.

European countries were barely coming out of their shells while the great cities of the Mediterranean and Eastern Asia were developing new frontiers in math, medicine, philosophy, technology, and trade routes. It was Genghis’ decisions (and those of his children and grandchildren) that decided Europe’s destiny.

Today, we make European dominance on the world stage an inevitability—as though history couldn’t have gone any differently. The history of medieval Asia begs to differ.

#3: Inequality & Technology

I’ve gotten some great books on how algorithmic, data-driven thinking is creating a more unjust and unequal world. I know so little about the topic that it’s basically all I can say about it right now. However, I am in general fascinated by the way our civilization has continued to value technological progress over ethical progress—even though the lack of one is making the other a curse.

#4: Inequality & Real Estate Law

Housing is one of the issues I plan on addressing in my independent policy studies. One of the most vital topics to study is how exactly real estate laws have set the table for unequal housing opportunity, ghettos, and gentrification.

#5: The History of Authoritarian Resistance

Has any group of people, marginalized and beaten by a dictator or oligarchy, ever successful thrown off their chains? How? What were the tactics they used, and why did/didn’t they work?

The next couple topics are almost subtopics of this question.

#6: The Civil Rights Movement

My specific questions are:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • Did it go far enough?
  • What does such a movement look like today?

#7: The Anti-Apartheid Movement

Here is one example of how opposition to an unjust, decades-old regime succeeded. Or did it? That’s one of my questions. Apartheid certaintly ended, but did Mandela and his party successfully create a society where the people of South Africa were equal partners in the nation’s growth? Did their efforts to create a new kind of South Africa (for all Africans) succeed?

Anyway, these are the things I want to learn about in the next few months. I’d love to hear what’s been itching your curiosity—let me know in the comments!

7 Things I Want to Learn About in 2018