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Mental Junk Food in a Town of Health Food

I certainly am mooch-docking in a town of health food, vegetarian, vegan, organic, high-priced, food ideologues.  I have always dismissed food purists. Granted, not all of America is as wacky about food ideology as this town. But doesn't it seem strange how little the subject of mental junk food gets talked about?

The limiting case of mental junk food is television news, especially during presidential elections.

For instance, the moment the word 'Muslim' is mentioned, the word 'terrorist' comes to mind. It was not always so.

Perhaps that is why I appreciated a book by (the late) Maria Rosa Menocal, "The Ornament of the World", about medieval Andalusia (southern Spain). It was certainly a colorful time, with clashes and coexistence between the dominant Arab Muslims, Jews, and backward Christians.  Today many people overlook how advanced and dominant Muslim culture was from 800-1200 A.D. It was through Andalusia that European Christian civilization was awakened from its mental slumber of 800 years.

Unfortunately her book contains a thinly-disguised sales pitch for 'Diversity'. No doubt she thinks like an orthodox member of the European elite in believing that somehow Europe will benefit from the mass migration of Muslims from North Africa and the Mideast. But the example of medieval Andalusia doesn't correspond well with modern Europe and its neighbors to the south. She is trying to insinuate something by a loose analogy.

In her book, the only example of Diversity paying off was the service provided by the Jews in Muslim Spain: society needs some kind of financial arrangements to prosper, but the narrow dogma of the Muslims prevented them from providing that on their own.

Andalusia was set up as the pseudo-caliphate of the far West, by the scion of the deposed caliphate back in Damascus. The usurpers moved their capital to Baghdad after their victory. As a result Cordoba in Andalusia became the far western outpost of the best of what Muslims had to offer. To me, it shows the value of competition, decentralization, and colonization by an advanced culture in a backward region, rather than 'Diversity' as it is understood as a modern bumper sticker slogan.

Even if my criticism is not correct, it is satisfying to do my best to look at the big picture, and protect the integrity of my own mind from those funnels that are jabbed into our eyeballs, through which the garbage of the media-universe flows.


John V said…
Does the book have a theory for what happened to Muslim culture? As you mentioned, it was dominant in the arts and sciences during that time period. What happened after 1200 that caused Muslim culture to get "stuck in the mud". There was breakthrough after breakthrough in arts and sciences before 1200, and it seems as if nothing or very little has come out of the Middle East (or the Muslim world) since then. Why did that culture stop innovating?
Unfortunately, she didn't discuss the demise of Muslim ascendancy.

Perhaps the loss of confidence from the Crusades?

Maybe Muslim culture became aware of the split between Reason, Science, and Religious Emotion hundreds of years before Christianity, and the Muslims decided to stick with Emotion.
I think the answer might be capsulized in the dichotomy between "science" -- meaning Aristotle to people then -- and faith. The Muslim philosophers decided that it was hopeless to try to reconcile the two. (I forget the philosophers that she mentioned in this regard.)

But when Christianity got its hands on "science" (aka, Aristotle), a couple important philosophers decided to reconcile science and faith. After all, the same god was responsible for both. Thomas Aquinas was the big name here.
Anonymous said…
I found this article very informative as regards the collapse of Muslim influence in North Africa and the Mideast. If your comment about "Religious Emotion" implies religious pedagogy replacing scientific inquiry, I believe you are correct. Unfortunately, it often does. Thanks for piquing my interest in this topic.

Glad that the post had that effect on you, Chris. The Middle Ages is an interesting period to read about. (As in, '...a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.')
Anonymous said…
Whoops! I forgot to attach the link to the article I referenced in my comment.

I read the article. Excellent. Points to lots of interesting books, too.
John V said…
Great article from New Atlantis. Get your coffee, pull up a chair and dig in.