25 May 2015

Worst of times, best of times

I felt almost physically ill when I heard the news last week that Palmyra in Syria had been captured by ISIS.  Palmyra, like Hatra, is part of the priceless legacy of the Classical civilization -- Palmyra is actually much older, but it had its glory days in the Roman period and its surviving ruins reflect that mix of Greco-Roman and pre-Islamic Middle Eastern influences which, I suspect, most offends the Islamist purists and monoculturists of ISIS.

Purists like ISIS don't want such memories of the true pagan past to exist.  They want the Middle East's identity to belong solely to Islam.

I've been to Palmyra, though I was only 19 at the time and had nothing like the sense of history that I have now.  Certainly back then there was no hint that Islamism would one day go so insane as to try to destroy the region's history.

Portable relics were evacuated to Damascus before Palmyra fell, but the buildings cannot be moved.  If the jihadists decide to destroy them, there will be no way to prevent it.

So why do I say "best of times" as well as "worst of times"?  Because paradoxically, just as the old world's physical remains are threatened with destruction in Syria, its spirit is coming very much alive in Ireland.

In a land where until recently a slightly-different Abrahamic monotheism imposed its own mental totalitarianism not too different from what the Islamists aspire to, that tyranny has been almost completely swept away.

The fact that this crowning victory took the form of a public vindication of gay rights is hugely, centrally significant.  As I explained here, one of the starkest differences between the Classical civilization and the Christian/Islamic societies that followed its downfall is their respective attitudes toward homosexuality.  That's why the modern West's Christian hard-liners view growing acceptance of gays as an absolutely existential threat, something they must go all-out to fight against, their "hill to die on" (and ISIS and several Islamist regimes single out gays for execution).  They view growing social acceptance of homosexuality as a decisive sign of the fundamental re-paganization of our societies -- and they are correct to do so.

Even if the thugs of ISIS blast down every last column and wall that stands in Palmyra, they can take away nothing from the greatness of the ancients (largely their own ancestors!) who built those things, beside whom they and those like them can only be the merest scuttling rodents.  No matter what ISIS destroys, in the end it will be defeated, even if that takes another year or two.  What it stands for will be defeated, even if that takes another decade or two.  It's the victory won in Ireland last week that will endure, part of an ongoing social transformation that will sweep away the hatreds and horrors -- eventually, even in Syria and countries like it.


Blogger Ahab said...

I too fear that Palmyra will be reduced to ruins at ISIS' hands. Still, the optimism of your post is comforting -- the world is changing, and reactionary fundamentalists cannot truly stop it.

25 May, 2015 08:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

This, at least, is a hopeful development.

30 May, 2015 14:34  

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