28. December 2011 · Comments Off on Killing History · Categories: Fun With Islam, History, Technology, World

It sounds like a perfectly impractical and even risible notion – to remove the Pyramids of Giza from the view of the righteous by covering them with wax. Good heavens, what would happen on the first hot day of summer, assuming such a thing could even be accomplished? A vast puddle of melted wax, I am certain. Stick a wick the size of a Titan rocket made out of cotton string in the middle, empty in a couple of truckloads of essential perfume oils and you’d have a scented candle the size of Texas, the eighth wonder of the ancient world and something that could probably fumigate most of the Middle East.

I could go on being humorous about this all, but as a person who loves history, and visited the various relics left to us of ancient Greece and Rome with breathless awe, I have a point and I ought to get back to it. I would have liked to have seen Egypt’s older-than-ancient ruins. I would have liked to have seen the pyramids, the temple ruins and the tombs, the museums of antiquities, and the archeological sites – assuming that I could see them without being trampled by Dr. Zawhi Hawass running to get in front of another camera. I would also have liked to have seen what remains of Nineveh, and Babylon, and Petra – the rose-red city older than time – and Jerusalem, too. I might yet see Jerusalem; it depends on whether the novel-writing gig pays off in a big way, eventually. Nineveh and Babylon could work out, as well. Depends upon the Iraqis getting it all in gear and organizing their country and tourism opportunities. (Wouldn’t those old palaces of Saddam Hussein make dandy tourist hotels? Lay on a modicum of comfort, and run bus tours out to the ruins and museums! Ka-ching!) It might take a while; just like it took South Korea to move from a war zone to the First World.

And I’d like to see the Buddhas of Bamiyan, too … except that … oops! The Taliban blew them all to flinders and shards, a couple of years ago. They were unacceptable, since they predated Islam, and that simply cannot be allowed. The evidence of all prior history must go down the memory hole. So has been the experience of archeologists and antiquarians hoping to preserve those relics of early Islam in the city of Mecca, and pre-Islamic cultures in the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia generally. If Islamic hardline fundamentalists aren’t enthusiastically smashing Buddhist statues for being false gods, they are smashing Islamic relics for being idolatrous and deep-sixing remnants of pre-Islamic cultures for just being remnants of pre-Islamic cultures. Destroy the remnants is a crude way to go about destroying a history; there are things that small remnants can tell us about a people, a civilization and a past. These sites and monuments and dusty collections in museums all have stories to tell; most of them interesting, dramatic. Even if not, at least they are a connection to the past, and a way to make our understanding of it clear, or to even reassess what we thought we had known. Deliberately destroying history – even threatening to destroy it – is a way of putting us all in a kind of cultural sensory-deprivation tank. We have to have that historical awareness, of history and memory and all. Obliterating the Pyramids – that will be a crime against history.

So, what’s to become of thousands of years’ worth of Egyptian sites and relics – which are valued by anyone with an interest in the historical record of how our various Western civilizations developed? Who has an interest, and who takes care of such things, if the primary custodians suddenly take it into their head to trash them, melt them down, smash and destroy them? Who do the treasures of the past belong to, if not all of us? If worst comes to worst and the local custodians decide that the Pyramids are unseemly, and the treasures of the Pharaohs are an abomination … and they have the will and the means of destroying them … what do we do then?


(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

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