Friday, September 3, 2010

The Taliban's Revolt of the Masses

"A decade ago it was a sad sight at the University of Kabul to witness a group of eminent professors at what was once one of the best centers of learning in the world being subjected to the sermons of a mediocre madrassa student who never finished the equivalent of primary school," writes Pepe Escobar — The degree zero of culture. Would such a disgusting scene have been thinkable in the days of Averroës or Ibn Khaldun?

Ortega y Gasset's "Revolt of the Masses" (1930) comes immediately to mind, which the Spaniard called "the greatest general crisis that can afflict peoples, nations and civilization," writing, "The command over the public life exercised today by the intellectually vulgar is perhaps the factor of the present situation which is most novel, least assimilable to anything in the past."

Islamic fundamentalism is a thoroughly modern and modernist phenomenon. Robert R. Reilly has written what appears to be an interesting book on the subject — The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

These articles must be taken with a huge grain of salt.

- The U of Kabul can hardly ever have been one of the ten best in the world.

- Those who insist that Afghanistan is backwards because of Islam would do well to consider how the more remote parts of West Virginia would be if they were as large as Texas, and just emerging from a Mad Max type civil war.

- Judging by the reviews of Reilly, it's clear that this is the sort of pseudo-apologetic that think tanks produce to justify their ways. The reason the Middle East is so G**-d*** backwards is a) that it's in a climate zone in which almost all countries are backwards (the same reason Greece is not as rich as Germany), and b) that its vast reserves of oil were found in its poorest parts. Before oil became an issue, the Muslim world was moving more and more towards becoming a somewhat backward version of Western Europe, a consequence of which would have been that the oil wealth would have been shared among a United Arab States, and used to develop the Arab world's human capital.

Other countries, which happened to have influential oil industries, saw to it that this didn't happen, and that the rotgut Weltanschauungen of the most remote hinterlands became the official ideology.

Reilly's tome should be enjoyed with the same robust dose of an anti-emetic without which Julius Streicher's collected works cannot be processed.

8:44 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

That "U of Kabul can hardly ever have been one of the ten best in the world" I suspected. Your other points about climate are right on as well. I don't know much about Reilly.

9:37 PM  

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