I cried when I saw pictures of the blown up Buddhas of Bamiyan; I cried again when I saw what IS did to Palmyra and this week, my heart broke all over again when I saw Notre-Dame on fire. Like most of the world, I sat in abject horror looking at photo after photo, trying to get more information about what could be saved.
When beautiful things are ravaged and destroyed, it is not just a country or a people who lose but it is all of us. Without a history, we are reduced to having no voice. A past is what gives us an identity and well, stability.
Ironically, while many Maltese people were publicly decrying what happened in Paris, spreading conspiracies like wildfire and getting angry about people pledging money to help fix it, the same courtesy and outrage don’t seem to apply to our own pretty amazing selection of archaeological gems. Ġgantijia, for example, is the oldest free-standing temple in the world. Not just in Europe or the Med but literally in the world; it’s even older than Stonehenge. When I recently said this to a group of pretty well-educated Maltese people, they looked at me like I had just proclaimed that a can of tuna was the second coming of Christ.
This ignorance of what we are able to offer the world in terms of heritage-rich sites is one of the main reasons why the Ta’ Ħaġrat scandal is barely raising an eyebrow, let alone prompting to call for blood. For any of you living under a concrete slab, Ta’ Ħaġrat temples are a Unesco World Heritage site. This basically means that the entire world is able to recognise its cultural importance.
Except for us. For truly can you imagine anyone else in the civilised world performing illegal works a mere 60m away from such a site, as well as asking that an illegal parking area used to serve a nearby car repair shop be regularised to house seven car spaces?
Day after day we are reminded how little our national heritage matters to most of the population
I hope these people aren’t paying copious amounts to visit the Louvre, or the Luf, as one hapless person called it this week.
Day after day we are reminded how little our national heritage matters to most of the population. With every beautiful old house that is ground to dust to make more way for insatiable, ugly concrete monsters, we are told that this is what progress looks like. What colossal inferiority complex must be in us that we want to destroy everything which gives us our identity with such passionate fervour?
Who will we be when the last ancient catacomb is tiled over and the last megalith has been made into a bench?
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