Like an Extra Virgin blog post

In this article what I thought was interesting was how they started with Greek mythology to have a base understanding of how sentimental olive oil actually is to the culture. Then how they tied the Mediterranean not with a body of water but with a plant and who utilizes this plant in their everyday lives is considered Mediterranean. As a child I could remember watching and talking with my mother in the kitchen as she made the family dinner tell me and my sister that olive oil was always a better alternative to butter and margarine and is good for the heart. What was surprising to me was how versatile and how beneficial the olive oil actually is ranging from health medicines to beauty products. The tradition of the olive oil has lived on through the ages with its multiuse and how it can be used as even a lubricant for machines although the way of procuring the olive oil from the plant has been mechanized the product has been changed almost none even to this day. I think that the American diet has a lot to learn from the use of olive oil and a healthier fat base in our foods to help curve some of our social issues with diet.

Olive oil – more than meets the eye!

Getting to read more about all that’s involved in the production of olive oil – Athena’s gift to us – was fascinating! Even more so, from a more medicinal approach, was the intricate details of molecular composition in relation to the search for optimal health. Thus, the exuberance of this sought-after culinary “relic” not only relies on the gustatory realm of admiration, but also  in its medico-scientific benefits.

Such benefits are heard from since ancient times (Hippocrates) and have left their mark in the modern collective mind as a staple for good health and fresh-looking skin. Understood as part of the elite  olive oil, the “extra-virgin” (first/second cold pressing) type contains the anti-inflammatiorial chemical oleocanthal. Moreover, claims for the benefits of olive oil to heart health have contributed to the frantic love sparked between what is generally known as “Mediterranean diet” and non-Mediterranean cultures, such as ours.



Like an Extra Virgin

This article was very interesting, although I felt that Meneley’s points were at times unclear.  Specifically, I was confused by her comparison of muslims to olive oil, but I am interested in discussing this point further in class.  Aside from my confusion, the rest of the article was intriguing (on a side note, Meneley’s descriptions of olive oil also made me hungry).  I have never thought about olive oil, or any other food for that matter, as deeply as Meneley has here.  For example, I thought olive oils role in industrialism was interesting, considering it was used for greasing machines.  Additionally, I found her discussion on the purity of olive oil most interesting.  It got me thinking about the authenticity of food and what that really means.  It seems, at least in the case of olive oil, that the more culturally represented (or authentic) a food is, the better.  That is to say that people find authentic food to taste best, and be the best for you.  It is a very interesting topic and I’m already wanting to take it to many different avenues.  For example, what does a particular food say about a particular culture? Americans seem to enjoy authentic food (given the slow and local food movements that are growing in popularity), and yet we seem to change other cultures food to our standards.  For example, there is undoubtedly a difference between american-chinese food and authentic-chinese food, or american-mexican food and authentic mexican food.  The point I’m trying to get at is that the way people choose to eat their food can directly say something about their culture as well.  I believe this is the general point that Meneley was trying to make, aside from her more specific ones.

The Mediterranean’s Use of Olive Oil

Throughout this article, I saw many references to how olive oil was used and made in antiquity to how it is used and made today.  So I wanted to focus my discussion on this idea with this blog post.  One of the major developments of the Mediterranean antiquity was the olive tree.  As described by Meneley, Poseidon and Athena were vying for the role as patron god/goddess of Athens.  Poseidon thought that he would win because of the sea and what he could bring to the Mediterranean (specifically fishing).  Athena gave the Athenians a grove of olive trees, which eventually was made into a sacred grove that was used to worship the goddess.  Because of the important usage of the olive tree and the realization of the Athenians about the importance of the olive tree, Athena won as the patron goddess of Athens.

For the following centuries, the olive tree gave the Athenians, as well as the Romans, plenty of inventions and uses.  The olive tree gave olives, which in turn gave them olive oil.  The bark from the tree was used for building ships and tools.  And many groves were used in ceremonies to honor Athena.  A major use of olive oil was as a prize during games.  During the Panathenaia, the Athenian games, they strictly worshipped Athena and what she gave to the Athenians, the olive tree.  By showing their gratitude, the winners of each of the contests would receive amphora/amphorae of olive oil.  This showed how much the Athenians used olive oil and the importance of it in their lives.

Going outside of the Ionian peninsula, the Romans used olive oil just as much as the Greeks.  Just as Athena was identified with the production of the olive tree in Athens, Minerva (the Roman equivalent to Athena) was identified with the production of the olive tree in Rome.  The Romans held olive oil in high regard for their civilization.  One specific reference that showed its importance is the hill of amphorae, Monte Testaccio.  This hill is made up of approximately 53 million broken amphorae, which mostly stored olive oil.  With this high number, it shows the importance of olive oil during the Roman Empire.

Fast forwarding to more modern times, olive oil is still identified as a source from antiquity.  It may have many modern uses, i.e. cooking, as a source of light, and as a lubricant in mechanics, it is still identified with its ancient sources.  While times have obviously changed since the invention of olive oil, the mode of making it is still somewhat similar.  The use of stone wheels to crush the olives is still used, however, it is no longer powered by slaves, horses, or water, but by electricity.  The lack of change in this technique shows the direct ties to the Athenians and Romans because of the unwillingness to change to a quicker and more proficient way of extracting the oil.  Olive oil is also still considered a staple to many parts of the Mediterranean, including its originating areas (Athens and Rome).  This is identified in the fact that its import and exports in Rome increased with the realization from other areas of the world to its importance.

It is not a question as to why olive oil has been used for millennia.  Its importance throughout antiquity and modern times is exhibited by its wide spread usage throughout the world.  Not only was Athens the origin of the invention of olive oil, but it has prospered in the area since approximately the 7th century BCE.  It is, however, questionable why the Greek economy suffers so much if olive oil was originated in Greece and they would be the best source of pure olive oil.  They could use this as a source of economic gain, but instead remember its usage throughout antiquity as a prize to be cherished because of the great goddess of wisdom, Athena.

Work to Eat and Steal to Save

I had no idea how complicated the Greek crisis was. I have always found economics confusing, but these articles brought forth so many factors that were brewing for a long time and eventually led to the disruption of the Greek economy.

I found that in the readings, there were a few common problems that contributed to the crisis; historically, there has always been an abnormally large unemployment rate in Greece, tax evasion has basically been legalized, and the corruptness of a haphazardly organized government led to communication breakdown and mistrust in the government and legal systems of Greece.

Greece has apparently always had a large unemployment class, for various reasons, “The ratio of wage earners to the total working population was 35% in 1950 and reached 50% in 1980, when in other western countries the ratio was 80-90% or even higher.”

Furthermore, tax evasion seems to be widely accepted in Greece, which seems pretty odd to me in regards to trying to run a successful government, but hey I’m not an economist. The majority of Greece’s economy is comprised of small businesses, and a huge portion of these small business owners have special tax statuses, for some reason, these professions are “considered untaxable.” These professions include doctors, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, taxi drivers, retailers, tax collectors, residents of remote islands. Tax evasion has obviously been a long-running issue that has been practiced by all sorts of citizens, including civil servants and members of government, and because of this diverse population of tax evaders, the issue has been swept under the rug for a long time.

Along with tax evasion is a general lack of documentation, for example, the funds in public schools (Eat That! Strathis Stasinos).

These articles represented the complexity of the Greek Crisis, which has actually been a long running issue, and illustrates how difficult it will be to turn the situation around, and how many processes and procedures need to change in order for that to happen.

Greek Crisis

Before reading the article “Trickle-down Debt” I did not know the extent to which the Greek Financial Crisis was related not only to public debt but also to private debt. The story that has mostly been told in the popular media mostly focuses on the debt owed by the Greek government due to the extent of Greece’s welfare system and their lack of strict taxes. After reading “Trickle-down Debt” it seems clear that their are also serious problems with personal debt too and it is interesting how this debt further relates back to government debt due to the fact that a third of debtors hoping to restructure their debt, are public workers.

The crash bares resemblance to other financial crashes, such as the Great Depression and the current Chinese stock crisis, in that over optimism led to over spending, which then led to the crash once the optimism dissipated. It is interesting that the Greek situation seems to be primarily concerned with public and private credit borrowing rather than over investment in stocks.

I enjoyed the articles that provided more cultural and historical background because they bring to light not only past economic and social problems, but also help explain some of the current political, legal, and social sentiment. In “Eat That!”, the author writes about how the home became the “most reliable form of capital accumulation” in the post-WW2 period due to instabilities in industrial and stock investment. This is reflected in the credit restructuring legislation mentioned in “Trickle-down Debt”, where debtors homes are protected from seizure from creditors. This is an interesting intersection of economic, social, and legal values.

Economics of Greece

The economic crisis in Greece isn’t exactly a secret.  For someone who doesn’t frequently divulge in the economics of countries in Europe, I noticed that the problems presented in the “Eat That!” article are fairly common. Obviously, if the problems were simple there wouldn’t be a crisis for many years. The fact that it’s common knowledge that tax evasion is a “national sport” seems odd to me. I realize that taxes are a pain and that paying them is even worse, but for the most part taxes do help the economy in one way or another. The concept of hundreds of thousands of Greeks basically being tax exempt just seems like a waste. Not wanting to implement or enforce taxes also seems like a waste. I’m not saying tax them till they have nothing left, but basic taxes to simply boost the economy enough to sustain itself doesn’t seem like the worst concept. The other problem that seems to be occurring is people not paying back loans; which you’ll find almost anywhere. The extent of people not paying, is to the point where banks have retrained their employees to collect money, instead of allow people to borrow more money. Also, with each new leader of the country the people have very little trust and are apprehensive, and deservedly so, with the dictator history.  The common theme though, is that the Greeks always defaulted to physical properties as wealth and not money.

Suleima – a Syrian/Lebanese production


Syria/Lebanon, 2014, Colour and B&W, 15 min

Suleima sticks to her convictions. She is a woman in her late forties who joined the Syrian revolution from its beginning. She chooses to separate from her husband, who is also in the opposition, but who disapproves of her activism, and is rejected by her son and daughter when asking for divorce. Both vulnerable and strong Suleima remains true to her stands and carry on with what she sees as acts of solidarity towards her fellow citizens. Twice during sit-ins in Damascus she is detained while trying to rescue protestors from the hands of the security forces and their henchmen. “I’d rather die than see them arresting someone without trying to help” says Suleima.

Revolution in Egypt

I was surprised that in none of the articles I read, was social media mentioned. Social media played a huge role in the social uprisings in Egypt. Multiple times, the internet has been ‘shut down’ in Egypt by the government, however, an anonymous  group advocating for social reform based out of Sweden (?) helped bring the internet back up on several occasions to share news with all of Egypt. This group also explained how to be smart social media and internet users, the Egyptian government is notorious for setting people up on sites like Facebook, mainly Egyptians that spoke out against the government on these social media platforms. This anonymous group helped organized the Tahrir protest by getting the internet back up and using social media like Twitter. Without social media and this social reform group, the Tahrir protest may not have been so ‘successful’ and I am surprised it was never acknowledged in any of the readings.

Something that I found interesting was in the article, “Building the New Egypt: Islamic Televangelists, Revolutionary Ethics and ‘Productive’ Citizenship” by Yasmin Moll. She explained the idea of “superficial religiosity” as being an outward show of religion purely to have the image of being devout, even though ones conduct does not align with these religious beliefs or practices. I thought this observation was important because it shows just how strict the government must be in Egypt and how closely tied religion is to the regime. Moll explains the ‘ethics’ behind religion as being more important than the practice itself. And I thought this was important, just because one prays five times a day does not mean that they can be selfish all they want. I also thought this was an interesting representation of Islam itself since the religion is often viewed as having very strict practices that one must follow in order to be a ‘good muslim.’

Another criticism of the articles that I read, given I did not read all of the posts at the bottom of the page, would be the representation of the protest itself. I thought that the protest in Tahrir was portrayed as being very successful, and I think many people would like to believe that is was, however it wasn’t. Yes, because of the protest the head of government stepped down, but only to be replaced by another extremist. Since Tahrir, there have still been protests that have been met with brutal government rebuttal, such as the 74 Egyptians that were killed in the football stadium. The Egyptian government is still seen as the most strict government when it comes to online and social media practices, they are still fish baiting innocent people online and subsequently going after them. The anonymous social reform group has actually removed most of their people out of Egypt after the Tahrir protest because it just became too dangerous. The one exception to this criticism would be A “Time out of Time”: Tahrir, the Political and the Imaginary in the context of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt by Hanan Sabea. He (she?) lists a number of horrible events that have occurred in the wake of Tahrir, “A year has passed since January 25th and with it more dramatic events of loss, death, violence, exhaustion, incomprehension.”

From Jason

Building the New Egypt

When I was in High school I remember seeing this revolution on the news and thinking how strong these people must be to stand for what their freedom and seeing these images through the television. As I read these articles I see how much of the exposure this got through the form of media and how powerful it can be. This article brings to light how strong media can be when combined with a religious view especially and when it is showed to the population. This article brings to light the want for a cultural change on the Muslim faith and becoming better people in the process. Through these televangelists I saw how strong the youth were enthralled with the revolution as this article speaks about having the next generation change themselves and the environment around them.

Watching Cairo From Beirut

Anthropologist Joanna Randa Nucho was shares an interesting point of perspective also being in a country so close but yet seemed so far distanced from all the chaos. The people she talked to showed that there was hesitation in the country of Lebanon because of the fighting that happened a few decades ago. She also talked about some peoples opinion in Lebanon was that this could only bring suffering and difficulty to the common people. This Anthropologist’s views on the events happening in Cairo showed through her fascination with the research done through the media.

Far Outside Cairo: A Graffiti Campaign to Denounce the SCAF 

Anti-SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) graffiti show how young protesters show their own form of voice with the use of political graffiti. My first reaction to these was the influence from the popular street artist Banksy and how it showed political problems and satire against inhuman treatment. I think this is a very effective way of spreading an idea due to the large number of people in cities and the location of the art, as well as the stand out appearance of the graffiti.

Jadaliyya: A New Form of Producing and Presenting Knowledge in/of the Middle East

Bassam Haddad talks about how the news media format of Jadaliyya came to be made and that there needed to be a middle ground between academic journals and individual blogs about the events happening in the revolution. This new medium would be progressive in fashion as to show a western way of freedom to information without segregation or discrimination. They wanted a format that fitted everyone’s needs and not to have sections of it split up but to have it all at once on the main page, but eventually decided to have country pages to separate the writings from country to county. This new form of media spread throughout and filled a gap and vacuum much needed in the world.