MaximusAugust 20, 2013
Egypt, Libya, Egypt again
History, never repeats, sang the Split Enz, except that it does repeat, all the time. Time after time after time, humankind ends up doing exactly the same things that our grandfathers did, and follow exactly in their footsteps, only to crash and burn, just like their fathers did.
The world seemed to sing out in agreement with the removal of Hosni Mubarak, and then the toppling of Gaddafi, allowing the people of Egypt and Libya to have a chance to rule themselves. Nobody likes a mad power-crazed dictator, and Gaddafi at least certainly filled that bill. But Mugabe, the maddest, most ancient, and most power crazy of all, still somehow manages to hoodwink the public back into voting him in again. And when the craze for deleting dictators spread to Syria, it all turned to custard. And now in Egypt, it’s custard all over again.
I don’t personally know anyone in those countries, although friends of friends do. I have no way of telling what in truth is really going on, and whether all those nice young men on the telly really are as nice as they seem. Certainly, I doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood being swept to power would be a good thing for the sizable numbers of Christians remaining in Egypt or Syria. Already we hear reports of churches being torched by one group of protestors, and then mosques being shot up by other groups. All the time it’s young men – too much testosterone, too hot summer, and massive unemployment never bode well for political stability.
What I care most about though, is the architecture. I held my breathe during the uprising in Libya, as it is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world, like Leptis Magna, in the desert of Libya. Tripoli itself is founded by the Romans, but has become (or, had become) a modern city, although now I think it is bombed to hell. Syria has architectural treasures as well, with Damascus being, apparently, an absolute jewel in the crown. And Egypt, of course, has priceless treasures of antiquity, the architecture of the ancients, that could all be obliterated at the pull of a trigger. We haven’t yet got the situation of Afghanistan, where the religious fanaticism of the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas, that had remained undisturbed for thousands of years, but it only takes one step, and the Nile could lose its allure.
Actually, it already has – tourism used to be Egypt’s highest earner, but with the civil war there raging on, it will take years for tourists to show their heads again, and so, right now, all those ancient treasures are worthless, at the same time as being priceless. And the international market looks on, and cares not, and plans for the day that anarchy rules, and thieves can break in and steal to order.
It’s what happened in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein, mad power crazy dictator got cornered, invaded, and ultimately killed. So called looters ran amok in the streets, broke into the Baghdad museum, and stole ancient treasure to order, spiriting it out to wealthy foreign buyers in Europe, Asia, America, while the American GI troops stood by and watched, doing nothing to secure the doors. All gone now, ransacked to order. History, destroyed.
What better place to burgle than the Egyptian Museum, full of priceless artifacts from the past? I’ve been there once before: cabinet after dusty cabinet of gold trinkets of the god-kings, the wealth of the Pharoahs, tempting on display. The architecture too, 3500 BC and yet it can be destroyed in a second by an angry mob or a non-caring mortar round. The world’s media is focused on the plight of the humans involved, the meat and bone of the young foolish men that throw themselves at the barricades. Humans are temporary – we live, we die, the world moves on. Architecture, however, can live forever.