Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mindless rape of art and culture

Iraq heads for civil war

The above leads to an in-depth article in today's Independent on the looming civil war following yesterday's attack on the Shia shrine in Iraq. Some are blaming the US for covert engineering, others blame Sunni insurgents who have infiltrated the police force and others still are blaming Islamist outsiders trying to ferment sectarian violence. The only sure thing is the greater tragedy to heritage.

Personally, I harbour a secret desire to see all organised religion relegated to history. There is no place for it in the modern world. Faith is something for the individual to find - subscription to a doctrine devised by others (often those long dead and of archaic times) is the same symptomatic denial of freedom practised by those who would blindly fall into the prison of the totalitarian state. The latter is the unthinking, uncaring attitude of the pack animal - not the intelligent human species.

When Blair joined Bush to invade Iraq the first thing to be spun was the "collateral damage" - finding the right presentation to excuse the slaughter of thousands of innocents. Of less concern was the destruction of art, culture and heritage forever lost to future generations. Works of art, outstanding architecture and all manner of public treasures were lost, damaged, looted or otherwise corrupted. The Saddam icons may have perished, but so too did a wealth of cultural history unrelated to his regime.

The shrine destroyed yesterday is a true crime for reasons wholly unrelated to religion and sectarian conflict. Although born of the desire for what I consider unwelcome collective faith, it was also a work of art and a cultural symbol. It's destruction denies future generations (in what one hopes may be a more rational time) from experiencing a heritage of creativity. Even archeologists will have trouble picking up the pieces. A hint of what is lost can be found at this slideshow from the New York Times. Iraq has always been home to some of the earliest historical examples of civilisation and the rape of that land in a deparate attempt to grab the world's dwindling oil resources is almost a rape of culture itself. A lasting tragedy.


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