Monday, February 7, 2011

Cultural Philistines

When I heard that during the protests in Egypt that looters had broken into some antiquities museums and destroyed or stole some ancient artifacts, I was reminded of the destruction of some ancient statues in Afghanistan. Early in the decade, the Taliban decided to destroy the Buddhas of Bamyan, a place around 150 miles from Kabul.

These statues were built in the 6th century AD in an era when the Silk Road was an important conduit between the East and West. Afghanistan lied right on this route and saw many peoples and cultures. One of those influences was Buddhism. These statues were built about the time Ancient Rome fell or during the height of Mayan Empire.

It should surprise no one that the Mullahs deemed these statues to be idols, and their continued presence would violate the Koran as idolatry. I couldn't believe such rabidly religious fantiscism would give guardians of a national treasure with such historical importance narrow minded, myopic tunnel vision. They failed to see the artistic value and historical signifigance of these statues. No one was asking the citizens to bow down and worship the statues.

And so here we are with the Egyptian crisis. One could say I'm crass to insinuate that these isolated events could lead to such boorish acts as the Afghan story above, but if we value 1500 year old statue so much, what price can be placed on one of the cradles of civilization? Some may say my priorities are misguided. The Egyptian conflict is a humantitarian disaster. Things and objects should take a backseat to a nation in disarray.

I heard somewhere that the Romans stole from the Greeks, and the Greeks stole from the Egyptians. I hope the looting in the museums were isolated. Hell, almost half the words on this page are probably derived all the way back to Latin. These museum piece's are Egypt's history, but it affects all of us.

I also hope it's not a harbinger of things to come concerning a nation's value on history, culture, knowledge and science.

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