Destruction of Culture

Read yesterday morning about the burning of thousand year old books in Timbuktu by fanatic Islamists. When I heard about the Mali rebellion I immediately thought about the libraries of Timbuktu, and remembered what the Taliban did to the giant carved Buddhas, so this is no surprise, but for some perverse reason I get more upset about it than about the people they kill. Extremist mullahs are truly evil, they lie to people who can’t read. About the destruction of art and culture, Proust, who felt these things deeply, had a contrarian view. Bombing of old French churches during WWI is described in the novel, but in the end, however much he loves his culture, Marcel concludes that people are more important. I would gloss that as meaning that the capacity to create is what matters, not the object, however beautiful. There will always be more art, and more of everything else. That is if the cultural fascists don’t prevail. Meanwhile, in our own context, it is precisely that capacity that is threatened, even as we save all the things.

Abdel Kader Haidara , one of Timbuktu’s leading manuscripts experts and son of a deceased renown local scholar, Mama Haïdara. In front of Haïdara in a glass case is a Koran, with, on the lower part of the image, a note indicating that several kings of Morocco owned it.

Abdel Kader Haidara, one of Timbuktu’s leading manuscript experts and son of renowned local scholar Mama Haïdara. In the glass case is a Koran owned by several kings of Morocco.

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