Saturday, August 25, 2007

Should the Bamiyan Statues Be Rebuilt?

That question is explored in this article on the BBC's website.

In the months before 9/11, the Taliban brought world attention to their extremist brand of Islam when they threatened to destroy the statues of Buddha that were carved into a mountainside in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The threats caused an international outcry and a call by many to save a historical and cultural treasure. It also thrust into the limelight the bigoted and intolerant form of Islam practiced by the Taliban, which denounced the statues as being "un-Islamic".

But despite the pleas from around the world to save the statues, the Taliban went ahead on March 21, 2001, and destroyed them. Interestingly, according to this entry in Wikipedia, Taliban leader Mullah Omar initially wanted to protect the statues, but he claimed that when foreigners came to him and offered to repair the statues, he was offended because there were people starving in Afghanistan and that money should instead be spent on them rather than preserving pagan statues.

I shared the disappointment of many at the time when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas. It was an act of cultural vandalism against works of art that were relics of an earlier time in Afghanistan's history before the advent of Islam. Just imagine if Islamic hardliners tried to destroy the Sphinx in Egypt or if anti-Christian fanatics dynamited the Christ of the Andes statue on the border between Argentina and Chile. However, I remember some voices at the time pointing out that the international attention over the Bamiyan Statues overshadowed the appalling treatment of women under Taliban rule and that this was where the real outrage should be focused.

As for the question of whether the statues should be rebuilt, I personally would say no. For one thing, the rebuilt statues would not be the statues that were previously there, just replicas. They would not be authentic. Secondly, it would fly in the face of everything that Buddhism purports to be about. The central message of Buddhism is that it is our attachment to the things of this world that cause us to be unhappy. The Buddha himself would likely say that the statues were material objects, and now that they are gone we should just let them go. Lastly, the empty recesses themselves can serve as a monument, a monument to intolerance and cultural vandalism.

16 comments:

Larro said...

This is a nice piece, thanks. I too think that the statues are better off dust. It would be a waste of money that could be better off spent elsewhere.

gordo said...

I'm with you. The real significance of the statues was in their historical significance.

bedrocktruth said...

Well I agree with that in the main.

However I've seen some great re-creations of sites and events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and ancient caves with original caveman drawings done because the originals couldn't withstand the gasses produced by thousands of visitors.

In this case the Afghanis would probably rake in lots of bucks from atheists there to smirk and say "Hey,look at the funny graven images"

tina said...

Yeah, I'm kind of on the fence with this one. It just wouldn't be the same as the original.

Stardust said...

On one hand there is no replacing the real thing, however, I don't think there is anything wrong with recreating these statues. While indeed they wouldn't be the same as the originals, re-creations can provide a visual of what the originals looked like. Many re-creations of ancient artifacts are displayed in museums and other places all around the world. It's still just as interesting to see. And at least the visual memory of the original would be preserved.

Tommy said...

I could see recreating them as they originally were when they were constructed centuries ago but on a smaller scale and putting them in a museum just to give people and idea of how they once looked.

As for where the statues once stood, I still like the idea of leaving the recesses empty as a remembrance of what happens when fanatics destroy a country's cultural heritage.

bedrocktruth said...

"what happens when fanatics destroy a country's cultural heritage."

Yes but we already have some wonderful examples right here in this country, witness the actions of the atheist/secularists in their pull downs of crosses in lonely desert parks, from public parks and other public arenas, removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings, creches from court house lawns and pagan "Festivass" symbols replacing Christmas trees--as a few small examples and not to mention their disgraceful actions in revising the history of this country in the form of their "enlightened" misinterepretation of the First Amendment...

Tommy said...

I knew you were going to chime in with that Bedrock.

I don't support pulling down lonely crosses in the desert or other such places where they have traditionally been. That would be inconsistent of me. I agree with you that the religious beliefs of our forebears in America is a part of our national culture, just as our nation itself is an offspring of a northwestern Christian culture. One need only compare the colonial United States to the Catholica and absolutist stamp that Spain put on her colonies in Latin America.

However, I also don't support people like former justice Roy Moore who cross the line by trying to provoke a fight and then tries to rally the fundies by crying "Look how dem godless seclarists is tryin to persecute us good Christyun folks!"

Our constitution has no basis in the 10 Commandments, which by the way, if you read the Bible literally, were meant only for the Hebrews.

bedrocktruth said...

Was it Roy Moore who provoked that fight, Tommy, or the A/S forces that removed it after some few decades where it was perfectly all right to have it during the first 200 years of our history?

No the Constitution doesn't have a basis in The Bible, but some fundamental concepts for a moral society do. The Constitution does, however, protect the right of Americans to display those 10 Commandments whether the A/S forces believe it or agree with it not.

Liberals are always talking about George Bush "trashing" the Constitution when they are, in fact, the ones responsible for "turning it into so much toilet paper" as the nitwits like to put it.

Tommy said...

If Moore was so concerned about trying to promote morality, all he had to do was hang a big sign on the wall of his courtroom that read:

DON'T COMMIT MURDER!

DON'T STEAL!

DON'T TELL A LIE!

Sends a good message without showing partiality towards a religion.

bedrocktruth said...

It woudn't have quite the clout that the word from God has though, now would it?

One day you folks will come to grips with the fact that when you purged our religious heritage from the schools and public arena-in the name of "cultural diversity", "political correctness", "freedom FROM religion" or whatever the latest A/S buzzword, platitude or bromide may be for stripping millions of Americans of their freedom of religion and freedom of speech rights,you opened the Pandora's box of "Whatever's right for YOU hon!!" moral relativism and the rest of the A/S beliefs and lexicon that has led us right into the moral/cultural swap this country has become in the last 40 years.

Thanks so bloody much...

Tommy said...

What's this "you" shit Bedrock!?!

I didn't purge anything from America bud, but you keep on tarring with your broad brush. I wasn't even born until 1969, and yet I'm responsible for everything that has gone wrong in this country since the 1960's because I am an atheist. Yeah, that sounds fair. Neither has my blog been a forum for the things you are always bitching that the ACLU and the Michael Newdows of America are doing.

And knock it off with this cultural swamp bullshit.

Crime and out of wedlock births have been declining in this country since the 1990's. Yeah, popular culture is probably more coarse and vulgar in some ways, but you won't see me defending that. But there are different kinds of vulgar in our history Bedrock. Paris Hilton sex tapes are vulgar, and so were the racist depictions of African-Americans for much of the first half of the 20th century in film, the minstrel shows and all that other stuff.

Funny how I don't need to believe in God to keep me from murdering, stealing, and raping. Several years ago when I went to a supermarket to pick up somethings, I noticed a lady's wallet in a shopping cart in the parking lot. Because it had her drivers license in it, I was able to see from it where she lived and drove to her house to return it to her. When I told my wife afterwards, who by the way believes in God, she expressed irritation that I went out of my way to help a stranger. Maybe for my wife, who is Filipino, it is a cultural thing not to help strangers, but for me it comes automatically to do such a thing.

As I wrote in response to you on Gordo's blog, it does not matter to me a whit if a person is religious or atheist, only that they be good. The problem with a lot of religious people (not all of them!) is that they think they have a monopoly on it. And when they do fuck up, oh well, they still forgiven because they accept Jeezus!

What I am getting from you is that because Christianity is such an important part of our culture that it should be taboo to even question the claims of Christianity and the Bible. If so, then I submit you are unreasonable. I am all for taking the good parts of the Bible, but at the same time, a slavish devotion to its literal word imprisons the mind and distorts our view of reality.

It is really sad that in what should the most advanced and best educated nation on earth, there is still a huge chunk of people who believe that the Earth is only about 6000 years old, that earthquakes and hurricanes are not natural phenomena but God's anger over our tolerance for homosexuality.

You senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint, has stated that he wants single pregnant women and gays from teaching in public schools. Are you okay with that Bedrock?

Tommy said...

Last part incomplete. DeMint says he wants them banned from teaching in public schools.

bedrocktruth said...

You shouldn't take my comments personally Tommy, I'm well aware of your moral values. I used the term "you folks" as a generic term for atheist/secularists in general.

When you come right down to it I have no problem at all with atheists such as yourself except, perhaps, that they feel they have to tear down the Christian religion and build support groups to justify their atheism/secularism I suppose.

All that said I've never seen you in the militant Michael Newdow light and I don't think most of your posters here are either.

In any case the crime rate is down from the 90's because the "let it all hang out" baby boomers of the 60's have matured(I posted a chart on this) and Christians were one of the primary forces opposing slavery both in Civil War times and in the 50's. You might remember the white pastors who were speaking out and marching with the leader of Ebeneezer Baptist Church?

Tommy said...

Bedrock, I reacted as if it was personal because your last paragraph clearly implied you were lumping me in with the people you blame for leading America into a cultural swamp. Thank you for your clarification.

I believe in freedom, pluralism and tolerance. I understand that in the present context, that means I live in a country that is predominantly Christian, which is why I don't get all in a tizzy about having "In God We Trust" on our currency and stuff like that. But at the same time, if a pharmacist wants the legal right to refuse to dispense birth control pills because it goes against the Bible, then he should find another fucking career, preferably as a preacher.

I very much want to promote morality and decency in our country and the world. And if religion does that for people, then that is just fine and dandy with me. But it is not the only way. To use an analogy, all over the world, different people built boats to ply the oceans. The Polynesians built vessels that traversed the better part of the South Pacific. The Arabs built vessels that sailed throughout the Indian Ocean. The Europeans built ocean-going vessels. They each had different designs and materials, but they all achieved the goal of getting people across the ocean. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Secular Humanism each contain values that when promoted have a positive impact on society. Adherents of all can make positive contributions for the good of all.

Here's my theory about what went wrong in the late 60's. You had a lot of idealistic young people who were outraged by what they saw as injustices, such as racism and poverty. They were angry about being drafted to serve in Vietnam and felt lied to about why we were there and what we were doing there.

But these people made the mistake of extrapolating from these things that "Everything they told me when I was growing up was wrong" and they rebelled against all the rules they were told such as not to drink alcohol, do drugs and have recreational sex.

Yes, the baby boomers did grow up, well most of them did, and some learned the hard way that there was a reason why certain things were taboo. They listened to shit heads like Abbie Hoffman who told them not to trust anyone over 30, and then one day they woke up and realized they were 30.

I like to think that one reason I turned out much better than my two older brothers is because when I was a kid and saw how they were always getting in trouble all the time, it was impressed on me at an early age not to be like them. And thinking about that on the train ride home today has given me inspiration for a new post to be forthcoming.

bedrocktruth said...

"They listened to shit heads like Abbie Hoffman who told them not to trust anyone over 30, and then one day they woke up and realized they were 30."

Great comment.....