It’s nothing new for my opinion to be in the minority — a minority of one, for the most part, ha ha ha. For example, I can’t understand why they don’t just lower the hoops in basketball and use average-height players, instead of scouring the planet for those 7-foot-tall giants.
Now imagine this: An old building in the city collapses to the ground. It spills out over the street, blocking traffic and burying some cars in the wreckage. That whole part of town is a dysfunctional disaster area, but no one is allowed to clean it up. Anyone who tries is paraded around the town to be booed, and have rotten tomatoes thrown at him by the jeering masses.
Quick & Dirty Summary
- Historical values are twisted by mainstream propaganda.
- Tricks and hype are used to sell “tourist attractions” on the cheap.
- Deliberate deception clouds history and lets clever scoundrels profit from what should be a shared historical legacy.
- A novel proposal to rejuvenate historical sites.
Instead the city designates a big “museum” around the rubble, and charges admission to see the site.
“Archaeologists” from around the world rush in with those tiny paintbrushes and tweezers and start extensive but useless “research,” demarcating small, taped off, “dig” areas about a meter square to pass the lazy days, excavating the site one grain at a time, with much fanfare.
That’s what our attitude to antiquities and historic places makes me think of.
“The Alhambra,” an historic site in Spain, slated for status as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, or some such “award,” is a fine old site, an Islamic fortress of gardens and old palaces. A lot of it is falling apart, but the surviving parts are quite nice, indeed. In one of the areas, you can see some of the carpentry work they did many hundreds of years ago.
You can find artisans in a craft shop on the main road through the site, working on inlaid, intricately detailed woodwork for sale. It is just like that on display in the museum. Except for the fact that, objectively, their work is better, even accounting for age. It’s not a case of, “They don’t make ’em like that any more.”
Which is to say, that just because they’re antiquities doesn’t make them “special,” per se. Interesting enough, but not exactly at the level where they should be worshiped.
Yet that’s the thrust of it, if they’re the right things, of course. But if you say, “Hey, worship this!” you’ll hear, “Oh, that’s not old enough,” or, “Oh, I wasn’t told to worship that.”
On the other hand, some cool places are arbitrarily disrespected. The “sell treatment,” or hype; that is, promotion/advertising, is the biggest factor in what establishes attention.
Protected behind thick glass, humidity and temperature controlled — a few shards of broken pottery from bygone times. Not so fabulous. Are the pieces of some old clay bowl really so… intriguing? Is it a secret that a pottery bowl made today is just as good as something from 2400 years ago? In fact, better. Plus, you can eat from the new one, it not being fractured into a million pieces. In fact, normally, an old broken plate or bowl is thrown in the trash.
“The long ago,” is a bizarre fixation…
But we tolerate “museums” showing some old bits of crockery as though they were some revelation? Oooh, heated clay — we sure don’t know how to do that nowadays! We pay a considerable fee for this, as well. A considerable fee to see people’s old garbage.
There are two takeaways from this:
1. There’s nothing special about something just because it’s from “the long ago.”
2. Maybe we need to be more demanding about the way historical sites are presented.
Note that, often, those old things are crumbling because of poor construction. Or because they weren’t anything too compelling in their own day, or they probably wouldn’t have become ruins. Why, then, flock to these places?
There’s no “magic of the past,” mystically drifting to us over the ether of time. People of the past were pretty much just like today.
“The long ago,” is a bizarre fixation, because on the one hand, there are the constant references to the idea of how primitive the past was; on the other, the apparent reverence for “antiquities.”
Not to say we shouldn’t patronize old attractions, at least, the good ones. But in the meantime, things that are truly relevant and intriguing, like the “Baghdad Battery,” an artifact from a time before people supposedly knew anything about electricity, seem to get short shrift. No explanation or resolution of the contradiction is made, either. The thing’s a battery, probably utilized for electroplating jewelry. But the “experts” first said it was a flowerpot or something, and now still stand on the tale that people knew nothing of electricity in the distant past!
And another thing: All those old museum paintings that are supposed to be “great works of art” are often pretty crummy. What a slog to go through a large building full of them. Still good for a “snapshot” of the day, though, particularly in landscapes and scenes of towns and events. But, often those “great works” demonstrate poor comprehension of anatomy, physics of light, etc. Not to mention the fading — have you ever noticed how blackened many of those historic art paintings are? Not the fault of the artist, of course, but it’s like people’s brains are snapped to the “off” position when it comes to things like this.
What’s sad is that there is lack of recognition that there are going to be good and great artists now, in modern times. How about a little more exposure of their work? Most museums of “Modern Art” have a bunch of nonsense on display, like Andy Warhol’s “Pee on a Copper Sheet.” Yes, a large sheet of copper that “He” and some drunken buddies peed on (to ill effect). Hilariously, that is labeled with a little plaque like the rest of the displays, explaining the materials: “Urine on copper.” Well, thanks for the scoop, curator! The funny thing is, Warhol was a pretty good artist, so they could and should have used the space to display some of his real art, rather than this, obviously a goof.
Recreating the Past
Back to the discussion of historic sites, though, the thought occurs that all these popular old ruined structures should have people living there, while the structures are restored or rebuilt, as a routine part of the daily lives of the inhabitants. Most importantly, this should be done adapting the customs and tools of the day. Why? Because if we’re truly interested in the past, having people actually recreate it will reveal its secrets, of course.
Two sites that would especially benefit from this treatment are the Inca ruins, “Machu Picchu,” in Peru, and the Mayan pyramids/ruins in Guatemala, two more disappointments, considering the hype. How much more interesting these places would be, were there actually people living there, in an active demonstration of the practices of the old times. (Probably the mass sacrifices of the Incas would have to be dispensed with, though, ha ha ha.)
We’re forever told to be worshipful of the Colosseum in Rome, too. It is not some “great work” — not this day. No, it’s an embarrassment! Hundreds of years ago, it was damaged in a quake, and then the Italians re-purposed it as a horse barn, using it that way for centuries! But now the staff there is all strutting about the place, with that phony worshipful attitude, and metal detectors — yes! — freakin’ metal detectors and cops milling about trying to stare you down when you go in, as if you’re going to start scrabbling about, trying to scratch the structure down with your fingernails or something, like some kind of crazy super-villain off his meds. Any excuse for another pompous display of “Authoritah.”
The Colosseum is sad: defaced, abused and falling to pieces while all the strutting and posturing goes on. You’d think they’d built it themselves! Rome is somewhat disappointing of a “great historic city.” Not to discredit the good stuff, and there’s a lot of that, but the let-downs are bad enough to leave a sour taste.
There are a few archaeological efforts going on down in the pit of the Colosseum — those phony “digs,” using tiny spoons and toothpicks to make a big show that they’re doing something. All the while, the vaunted thing is basically a ruin, pock-holed with hundreds of unsightly pits seemingly arbitrarily drilled into the walls. Now it could be an impressive site, if it were restored and used to hold concerts, and whatever you use a large stadium for, except probably monster pulls. Actually using it for what it was intended for. Now that is a great way to get a feel for the past! The “consensus” seems to be that these historic sites — and most nations are guilty of this neglect — should be just left festering ruins.
One day, all these once-great old buildings will be gone, so we should enjoy them to the utmost now. Re-cladding the Colosseum in its original white travertine or maybe brown polished granite would be a great start, and would cover up those ugly drill-holes, apparently there to provide supports for scaffolding, and because, later, scavengers dug out the lead-containing fasteners that held the surfacing stone in place.
It’s my understanding that the great pyramids were once finished in polished stone as well, and were robbed of it. Why isn’t the vandalism repaired?
There are many craftsmen and others who could use the jobs, and people paying their money for these “attractions” should be treated right, not “treated” to piles of glorified rubble. Again: If we really want an appreciation of the past…
Maybe there’s a concern. Perhaps those who have the say in these things don’t want people knowing more about the past, or appreciating it. If people were put to the task, living and working in these sites, and we automatically learned more about historic times, there might be a danger that it would be harder to make up convenient lies about the past.
The World of Wonder
But all this plays on something I label in the new book as the “World of Wonder” fallacy. There is a legitimate sense of wonder in mankind, something we seem to possess intrinsically, and it seems to encourage exploration and self-improvement. Unfortunately, the “World of Wonder” also makes us see things that aren’t there. Thus we credit “old things” a little too much, because we are told to, endowing them with some mystical energy or aura of intrigue and mystery, that doesn’t actually exist.
And this trick of exploiting our “World of Wonder” is used in other ways. Look at the big draw of goofy concepts like “other-world aliens,” “wormholes” and “black holes” in space, time travel, and such.
Not goofy because there’s, say, no chance of “alien beings,” but because there is no solid evidence, making the whole thing moot. The really strange part of all this is the government pushing ideas of “aliens.” And it does, but subtly, as when US President Reagan talked of how all the earth would be united if aliens were to land one day. Keep in mind that there is no way in the pits of hell that government would willingly acknowledge real aliens, if it could help it, and if the aliens existed and were to come to Earth. Because no less-advanced civilization has ever survived the encroachment of a more advanced one. That would spell doom for earthly governments. Who really thinks a politician would look fondly on such an occurrence?
No, all these fanciful notions are just more nonsense to distract the population, and to hide real truths, like the ironic fact that there probably have been advanced civilizations on Earth in the past, but just built by we boring old natives of the planet. But that means antiquities should be somewhat wondrous. Yet we are shown vetted items that are bland and non-controversial, while “the really good stuff” is kept hidden away in secret archives. We deserve better — how about a revised, honest approach to history and artifacts?