Though this was a fine example of the reverse of Bakunin’s dictum”the constructive urge is also a destructive urge”it is by no means unique. Not long before, I had been to the Regency town of Cheltenham, where is to be seen one of the finest examples of destructive construction anywhere known to me.
Imperial Square is a large, green open space with a fine terrace of elegant early-19th-century houses on one side of it. But towering behind and above it is a single monstrous gray concrete office block, which destroys once and for all the visual harmony of what was once a most graceful townscape. This destruction could only have been deliberate.
Nor is the phenomenon British only. For example, in the Hague, criminal Dutch bureaucrats and architects have ruined the Binnenhof by the construction of two vast glass towers in the near background. Again, it is inconceivable that they did not know what they were doing: They wanted to demonstrate their power and their prowess, and no doubt the powerlessness of the population to prevent it. Of course, the refashioning of cities has always taken place, and has always involved the destruction of what, in retrospect, should not have been lost. But it has fallen to us to make what we build incompatible with anything else, and to pride ourselves on that very incompatibility.
And pride ourselves we now do. Nothing has shaken me more (and, be it remembered, I was professionally involved in talking to burglars, muggers, blackmailers, kidnappers, rapists, and murderers) than the utter indifference or even hostility to the achievements of the past and the need to preserve and pay them honor of many educated young people in Britain and France. Nor is this indifference or hostility spontaneous; rather, it has been programmed into them by indoctrination that the past is nothing but the slave trade and the oppression of women. Moreover, their visual education has been crude, as a visit to any modern toy shop or modern municipal playground will confirm. Aesthetically illiterate and ideologically convinced that the past was nothing but a moral mistake that they will correct, it is little wonder they do not care for the fabric of the past or worry much about its disappearance.
Hence I would not be surprised to discover that there were young British and French citizens among the destroyers of Palmyra.