OUR COLUMNIST SCULPTURESTEPH DELVES INTO WHY THE MEMORY OF EVENTS SHOULD BE INCLUDED INTO THE CONCEPTO OF WORLD HERITATE:
‘Yes there is no such thing as collective memory, we can’t pass on our memories of events we experienced to the next generation, others may be able to get the message (as example WWI and WWII) that it was terrible-but without having experienced what that terrible really feels like, I doubt anyone who didn’t experience those events will be able to really understand it.
That in itself is probably a survival mechanism. In another example, women supposedly have no memory of pain- as opposed to men- and it makes sense in regards to childbirth, if the memory would be there we probably would be extinct by now as I doubt many women would go through giving birth for a second time if they would have a true memory of the pain…especially if taking into account that pain is also a mechanism to enforce the learning of what is not so good for us (experience through pain).
Since there is no biological, chemical or instinctive mechanism to convey memory from one person to another person, the best tool we have is communication (story telling, writing books, letters, draw/ paint, make music/ sound, perform, make art to express these intangible concepts and make them visible or real to the person we want to communicate with, by using them to evoke an emotion that can be experienced) or go and experience it ourselves.
However since we define ourselves as homo sapiens sapiens (Latin: sapiens meaning ‘wise man’ and we think we are so wise we have to state it twice), or animals that are different to all the others due to our ability to be conscious of ourselves and the intangible world (thinking) and consciously intervening in nature to shape or control it, we also have to accept that we are conscious of the responsibility that comes with it- the consequences, as we are all interlinked with one another and the World around us.
And we do this and always have done through morals or ethics. Now, we also understand that ethics or morals require others to understand and more importantly observe or at least see the same benefit in striving towards them if they to have a collective meaning and ‘work properly’. For this to happen we need to constantly debate these and their applicability in practice with others so we are able to come to communal definitions of what they mean and not just opinions that make us judge others on our subjective interpretation.
My point was less about the Buddha sculptures as a case study for the ins and outs or for and against specific conservation treatments- than seeing the destruction of these monuments as an attack against humanity, our ethics, and the severity of the implication of such a conscious message.
The management of the site by UNESCO did oversee, so to speak, the natural ageing through weathering by the elements, erosion of the rock, etc…as this is very much appreciated as letting the evolution and changes occur organically. If they were damaged through bullet holes or loss of some of their carvings through the Taliban’s act, that indeed could be left on the object as evidence for that event (this has been done with the ‘Reichstag’ building in Berlin, Germany, where bullet holes from the Russian army (1945) are left on one side of the renovated building as a conscious reminder of the context of the building and its history).
Change happens, if it is through nature, events or conscious human intervention, it is always the process of conservation of energy, for energy to be continuously converted into acting out on mass, altering and shaping it, so it continuously evolves- as it can neither be created (+) or destroyed (-), so there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ just ‘different’. These changes however will mean ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to affected masses (objects and people), the actual energy however is always neutral.
These sculptures had an intrinsic energy; the energy that formed the rock and landscape, the energy invested by the people who carved them and the energy of inspiration, appreciation, beauty, etc… they exerted on many who visited them. Again how one individual may perceive the energy of the construction (it may have caused severe pain and suffering to an involved individual) or the styles, shape, size, presence will vary from one person to the next (and the Taliban people made their view clear).
Defining monuments, landscapes, buildings, sculptures, sites as World Heritage is the attempt to mark and highlight the importance of these to the history and identity of our World community. The very fact that this isn’t enforced through violence, force or active policing is to safeguard these monuments from political, economical, environmental, religious manipulation or corruption, so they remain free or open to everyone from the past through the present and into the future as long as there is the universal respect for them.
All the intrinsic energy has been converted into an energy of destruction, giving the ‘converters’ a sense of power and righteousness in their convictions, that probably makes it a positive to them and obviously a negative to the rest of us.
If it is so easy to make such a negative statement, by purposeful destruction of what is treasured by a community (the World Community), I’m convinced it is also possible to respond to this in a positive statement, and turning the void as a monument to bullying into a site of tolerance.
Vandalism and disregard for others freedom, opinion and values may be one aspect of evolution homo sapiens sapiens should not accept as fate, but as motivation to shape its continuous conversion of its potential energy into a monument that manifests actions of our communal ethical aims as a source for creation, inspiration, communication and evolution.
That does not necessarily mean to reconstruct the sculptures- but to communicate what they stood and were appreciated for; our ability of thinking and expressing ourselves consciously- our shared human identity.’