Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 12, 2024

Threats and Hazards Old and immature

An octogenarian pair has made an embarrassment of themselves by attempting to smash a copy of the Magna Carta in a purported effort to put attention on climate-change issues. ■ The document is fine and the perpetrators will likely pay some kind of penalty for their crimes. But this style of activity isn't a meaningful act of protest; it's a tantrum, just as it is when people throw food at the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". ■ Throwing and breaking things to seek attention is immature tantrum behavior, no matter how old the subjects committing the vandalism. It neither makes a meaningful symbolic claim (the Magna Carta well predates anything resembling the Industrial Revolution, for instance), nor gives any sound-minded onlooker any reasonable cause to think differently about a controversy. ■ Moreover, it is an act of profound narcissism to think that your pet issue is more important than a work widely considered a civilizational treasure. The Magna Carta dates to 1215. To attempt to damage it for the sake of a political issue -- even assuming the issue was a valid one -- is to implicitly declare that you think your troubles exceed those of anyone who has lived for the past 800 years. ■ Whether it's a tangible object (like a painting, a sculpture, or a document) or an abstraction (like an institution or a norm), there is rarely a justification for setting out to destroy it wholesale. There are indeed times when blowing up a symbol is a prudent act. But causing damage to cultural artifacts in pursuit of "making a point" or "drawing attention" is generally no more than mere petulance.

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