April 9, 2002
5:30 PM   Subscribe

In other news, Humpty Dumpty put back together again.
posted by rushmc (22 comments total)
Kind of misses the point, doesn't it? I thought the original statues' value was that they were old.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:32 PM on April 9, 2002

I dunno, crash, perhaps Buddha needs to be modernized.
A glow-in-the-dark magenta Buddha with lasers in his eyes that screams "Party!!!" every hour would be spiffy.
posted by jonmc at 5:45 PM on April 9, 2002

Party Buhhda could hang with Buddy Christ.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2002

Good for them. On an interesting side note, I remember the thread on their destruction quite well--it was the first I had ever heard of the "Taliban."
posted by gramcracker at 6:24 PM on April 9, 2002

The irony is that the original Buddha probably wouldn't give a shit about the statues and would only be concerned with helping the people who need aid.

If they do rebuild them maybe they should get Steven Segal to stand guard in case the Taliban come back after the US leaves. He'll show 'em.
posted by homunculus at 6:25 PM on April 9, 2002

jonmc -- right on!
posted by donkeyschlong at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2002

crash, their value wasn't just that of some old rock, but of a cultural artifact. There are a lot of good reasons to rebuild them: demonstrating the religious tolerance of the new government; providing recognition, and possibly work, for the native Hazara minority; eventually attracting tourists, both from the West and traditionally Buddhist regions; and as a powerful symbol of the determination to rebuild the country and erase the ugly past.

They won't be the originals, but then again Stonehenge has been rebuilt, and the Cerne Giant is a little suspect.

homunculus, you're probably right about Buddha himself, but these are hardly the only Buddha statues around. It's a cultural icon for the religion. And both building them and keeping them around will be an economic boon in the long run, so it will be a great investment.

Don't forget the donation fund to rebuild the statues (written up by Rebecca Mead), and the Chinese theme park plan to erect copies among its 3000 other Buddha statues, which allegedly should be finishing up soon.
posted by dhartung at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2002

A year after the Taliban blew up two towering ancient Buddha statues, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai promised Tuesday to rebuild them, calling their destruction "a national tragedy."

Putting the religious aspect to one side, why is this any different to so many people wanting to rebuild the World Trade Centre ?
posted by Tarrama at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2002

There may well be valid reasons for reconstructing them; they are not, however, the same reasons that applied to preserving them. You can't reclaim authenticity. What is lost is lost, and any pretense to the contrary is pathetic.
posted by rushmc at 7:26 PM on April 9, 2002

Rush, if the new ones last as long as the last ones, their authenticity is regained. The idea, the concept of the statues remains intact, even if the statues themselves did not remain intact during a short period of time. The statues may lose the authenticity of the original physical objects but will retain their place as symbols of importance to those who care.

As to loss, I agree, you can't get it back, but that doesn't mean that you can't try to get the soul of it back. I don't think there's anything pathetic about that. It's part of the human condition.

Tamara, I don't know that it is any different. I guess it depends on who you talk to. The religious aspect of the statues can't be thrown away quite as easily as you seem think. Furthermore, 15 thousand people appear to have died for their beliefs concerning those statues and a way of life that surrounds them. On a similar note, the WTC also stood for something that some believe to be just as important as religion: money and trade. Three thousand people died for that cause. The WTC was a target for precisely the same reason that the statues were: they both represented ideas that the Taliban didn't believe in, and were therefore destroyed.
posted by ashbury at 8:05 PM on April 9, 2002

tarrama, I mean. Forgive me, I'm tired.
posted by ashbury at 8:18 PM on April 9, 2002

Rush, if the new ones last as long as the last ones, their authenticity is regained.

But that's precisely the point--they won't. It is our generation that has the damning distinction of having destroyed something which lasted 1600 years, and of allowing the destruction of something which would be mourned and desired again in a single year's time. Our culture (reflected increasingly across the many different societies that currently exist) celebrates transience and impermanence, and the damage we do (or allow) before the pendulum swings back will be incalculable, whether one measures in terms of artistic and cultural legacies or biological diversity.
posted by rushmc at 8:24 PM on April 9, 2002

dhartung, I think you're absolutely right, and put that way the Buddha might have approved of their being rebuilt after all.
posted by homunculus at 9:14 PM on April 9, 2002

ashbury, I meant no disrespect to their religious beliefs. I thought perhaps I was missing some vital point as the comparison to the rebuilding seemed obvious to me.

Thank you for being mannerly, you are forgiven :-)
posted by Tarrama at 9:28 PM on April 9, 2002

I say both rushmc and the others are right. On the one hand, you can't "rebuild" the Buddahs. They're gone. Their destruction will stand as a selfish act of a self-blinded group of fanatics.

Replacing them, however, isn't just the only thing that can be done at this point, it may be the most appropriate thing to do. The fact that the originals lasted so long was a wonderful thing, but I don't think that was absolutely necessary for the propagation and continuation of what they stood for. A while back, I remember reading about the construction of a sand mandala, - the devotional construction of an inticrate and beautiful object, destined for iminent destruction - and I'm thinking that the same principle may apply here. None of our earthly constructions are meant to last forever - it just seems that some are more likely to do so than others. Also, sometimes the creation - or the recreation - of an ideal, recognizing that the act of creation is meant as a reminder of what is lost can be just as powerful and lasting as the original.

Whether or not this analysis applies to the WTC, I leave to another thread.
posted by yhbc at 9:37 PM on April 9, 2002

The statues were important for history, but in the scheme of things relief is what the people of Afghanistan need. Tzu Chi has been doing modest work, and the recreation of the statues might be important to some, but healing is in thought.

*side note* I am a member of Soka Gokai, but wholehartedly respect and admire the work of Tzu Chi, it is an amazing example of true Buddhist nature.
posted by Benway at 10:00 PM on April 9, 2002

I would prefer a new monument standing as a memorial of the destruction and a lament for human folly, celebrating the opposite spirit of what brought it down, i.e. respect for others; respect for the past; humility.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:57 PM on April 9, 2002

IMHO, the comparison to the WTC would only apply if we'd destroyed it ourselves, not only on purpose but as some sort of example.

The post, to me, brings about all the interesting question of restoration and historical reconstruction - a vipers' nest of stinging debate at the moment, most of it fascinatingly technical but still with enough room for discussing authenticity, the role of the ravages of time, the scope of human intervention, et caetera. Not to mention the perennial ontological problem of the old house whose every brick is new - is it still the same house?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:03 AM on April 10, 2002

yhbc, the mandalas are breathtaking, thanks for the link.
posted by Tarrama at 2:45 AM on April 10, 2002

Another monument destroyed by man's foolishness, reconstructed. Some of it is now, um, fake.

rushmc: You paint a rather broad brush of responsibility. I don't think postmodern issues of transience figured much into the discussions of the madrassas-schooled peasant people who ran the Taliban ministry of culture. It was just good old-fashioned iconoclasm. Did the 8th and 9th centuries "celebrate impermanence"?
posted by dhartung at 5:53 AM on April 10, 2002

And yet, dhartung, the statues survived all times, politics and madmen until now. That alone implies a qualitative difference in our time from those which preceeded it.
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2002

I agree, Miguel. Bravo for digging below the superficial.
posted by rushmc at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2002

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