Dining on Sacred Cow
As far as I knew for the longest time, politics was my first adult love, dominating lunch table conversations and bar mitzvah decorations, spurning my advances with the cold reality of the faraway voting age.
Since my last column on the Crimean crisis, the plot has thickened considerably: from where National Geographic stands, the dangling Black Sea peninsula has joined the likes of Taiwan, Kashmir and Cyprus as an ‘Area of Special Status’. In terms of consequence to Eurasian politics and the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, Crimea has far outstripped Abkhazia or Transdniestria—marking the most glaring political geographic revision the Commonwealth of Independent States has seen since the end of the Cold War.
For us Gen Y-ers, children of America’s “unipolar moment,” it is nearly impossible to relate to the Cold War zeitgeist of desk drills, space races, and Daisy Girls. Except for some brief, frenzied moments in 2001-2, the jihadists lurking between the cracks of 21st century state authority have never seemed to threaten our collective existence; from where we stand today, the threat of Chinese ascendancy is distant and mostly economic.
For about a decade, I’ve been an avid reader of the latest work on human population genetics. Following a rush of oddball (and sometimes downright irresponsible) amateurs and a few informed commentators, I’ve woven in a background in ancient history and comparative linguistics to compensate for my elementary-at-best knowledge of molecular genetics. Last year, I bucked the norms of my Arabic composition class on literature and politics, writing on the origins of the Semitic language family and the demographic nature of the Islamic conquests from a genetic perspective. Until quite recently, this was an exercise on the margins: in most cases, genetic researchers kept their speculation to the unfathomably distant past, and traditional historians steered clear altogether.