Wiping out Civilization

By Roberts, Paul Craig | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 5, 2001 | Go to article overview

Wiping out Civilization


Roberts, Paul Craig, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


"A civilization builds slowly, and along comes some brute to stamp it out," writes David Pryce-Jones in the May 28 issue of National Review. Sometimes the brutes think they are building a new civilization, as did Mao Tse-tung when he destroyed the ancient walls of China's Forbidden City and innumerable pagodas and monuments along the Yangtze.

In our lifetime the brutes are almost too numerous to catalog. The Khmer Rouge used Angkor Wat for a military base. Romanian communist Nicolae Ceausescu destroyed the historic quarters of Bucharest. In the former Yugoslavia, Croats destroyed the 16th century bridge at Mostar. Serbs destroyed the Begova Mosque. Vukovar, an unspoiled Hapsburg town was reduced to a ruin.

Palestinians burned the seventh-century Jericho synagogue. Hafez Assad of Syria destroyed the Sunni city of Hama. Saddam Hussein destroyed the Kuwaiti National Museum, perhaps the world's finest Islamic collection. Beirut and its historic center are gone. Christian Coptic churches and villages have been cleansed from the Egyptian landscape. The Taliban blew to pieces gigantic Buddhist statues 15 centuries old. Hindu extremists in India destroyed the Ayodhya Mosque built in the 16th century.

The communists and World War II reduced Russia to "a desert strewn with wreckages." The war also obliterated the great historic cities of Warsaw, Danzig, Dresden, Hamburg and Koenigsberg and countless palaces, country houses, ancient bridges, scientific and artistic collections and national libraries. As David Pryce-Jones puts it, bang goes the past of country after country.

When the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues, the atrocity was front-page news. It is surprising that "cultural criminal" has not been established as a counterpart to "war criminal" and cultural destroyers brought to trial. Wiping out a people's past is the same as rubbing out a people.

But on second thought it is not surprising that "cultural criminal" remains an undesignated offense. For all the physical damage Mr. Pryce-Jones marshals, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the cultural damage done by our universities. If the World Court sent out a call for cultural criminals, huge chunks of the academic faculties and administrators in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and European countries would have to be indicted.

The two functions of education are literacy and enculturation. People live in a culture the way they live in their bodies. Take away their culture, and they die as a people. …

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