Friday, June 30, 2017

Path to Ruin

On that grisly morning when the Twin Towers fell, a monument was torn down. A monument that took almost five years to build and stood for three decades was brought down by the sheer force of an appetite for destruction. This moment would leave a deep scar on not only Americans but all those who saw it "live" on television across the globe. But what no one saw coming, was it would not be the last monument to fall.

In the past I have written about the shock and deep sorrow I have felt, witnessing ancient monuments being blown to smithereens, by madness spawned by war. In war there is no pause for beauty. All that rises, is an insatiable appetite for total and complete destruction of all that the human spirit creates in the name of beauty.

So this month when I read about the destruction of the Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, that same feeling of despair returned. A mosque in all its exquisite beauty and human expression had stood for 800 years calling people to prayer and community, was now but a cloud of dust. According to reports it was leveled up by Islamic State (IS) militants as they retreated Mosul, relinquishing their grip on a city that had been reduced to rubble. Iraq's second largest city now stands in total ruin and the destruction of the mosque was the final flourish. A gash left behind on many, which would probably never heal.

The Islamic State and its members have always had a problem with any expression of beauty. The kind of Caliphate they proposed to build seemed to be based on total fear and domination, devoid of any human spirit. They often quoted the Quran to justify their means and call others to join their ranks. In their demented frenzy as they went about destroying mosques, ancient antiquities in  museums and then the famous Roman ruins in the city of Palmyra, which had stood the test of time for two thousand years, it was not clear what their true motivations were, other than that they found non-Islamic idolatry offensive. By drawing the Shia Sunni line, they justified blowing up Shia mosques. But most of all they craved for international attention by these acts, much like they did with the public beheadings they posted on youtube. To shock was their modus-operandi and for the most part they achieved their psychotic goals.

Not far from Syria in 2001, the Taliban attached dynamite to the imposing 5th century Buddha statues of Bamiyan and reduced them to rubble in a flash. Watching its destruction on video was akin to experiencing the towers fall in my backyard. No matter the deranged ideology that may have led to this unpardonable act, it seems to be a symptom of our times, at least in the war torn regions of the world.

There is nothing unusual or uncommon about monuments being destroyed in war. When the British and Americans carpet bombed Dresden, Germany in 1945, they reduced one of the most exquisite cities in the world to ruin. Known as the "Jewel Box" for its exquisite Baroque and Rococo architecture, the city had stood since the 12th century and was reduced to dust within a matter of days.

On the night of March 9th, 1945, the United States Airforce conducted what is know as "the single most destructive bombing raid in human history". Known as Operation Meetinghouse, 16 square miles of central Tokyo were charred to the ground by relentless B-29 bombing raids. The ancient exquisite city of Tokyo was reduced to ashes.

Since the ignition of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the United States, a generation has grown up only knowing war and destruction. The "war on terror" launched by President George Bush is still ongoing and its repercussions have thrown a large swath of the Middle East into chaos, leading to mass murder and a mammoth refugee crisis not seen since the last great war. Today Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan are on the verge collapse and the American involvement has not ended. Instead of taking responsibility, America is trying to extricate itself by issuing travel bans on people trying to flee the chaos and by pursuing policies that exacerbate matters rather than heal. The current belligerent administration, continues to push policies of confrontation and disengagement rather than coalition building. There is no question the world is a complicated place where global powers lock horns with economic interests and strategic alliances in mind. While we want to hold corrupt regimes accountable for war crimes and human rights violations, the onus has to be greater on super powers to walk the walk just to maintain integrity on the world stage. One thing that has been lost in the fog of war, is any semblance of virtue.

The human appetite to create beauty is limitless but it is always countered in equal measure by its appetite for destruction. What we are beginning to see now, is that the very existence of the human race is proving to be toxic. Human consumerism is devouring everything in its path and is pushing the planet at the brink. As coral reefs bleach by rising ocean temperatures and pollution and the oceans become repositories of plastic, one need not look far to see the impact the human race is having on the one place we call home. The beauty that we create from our imagination, and then destroy by our madness can be restored to a certain extent by peace, much like Dresden was. But the beauty of nature once tarnished by human negligence can never be reclaimed. The recognition of this and only this can save us from the path to ruin.

It is what it is.