Friday, 5 August 2016

Arthurian Knights Redivivus

Zealots of a New Religion

Archaeologists tell us that civilisations build on top of each other.  Thus, archaeological investigations are usually called "digs" because layer upon layer of settlement and successive civilisations have to be uncovered.  Naturally, this can become a complex (and at times, expensive) business.  

The point is that civilisations come and go.  New civilisations rise up atop the old.  The old get torn down, reduced to rubble, thereby enabling a rebuild or redevelopment to begin.  But not any more.  At least not in the minds of those who call themselves heritage campaigners.  These dedicated followers of fashion would oppose the tearing down of any building to make way for new development or new land use because, by definition, the old represents our heritage, and our heritage must be preserved.

We are bemused.  But the fanatical zeal of the folks involved is proof that in the minds of many of the heritage campaigners is a cause which runs deep in the soul.  Like Arthur's knights they seem to be searching for a Holy Grail.  The buildings and sites they want preserved have assumed a mystical, if not religious significance.

Let's be clear.  We Christians love the past.  Our (and your) God commands us to remember the events of salvation history with holy reverence and awe.  From that great fulcrum stems the Christian love of the past, of heritage, of being able to trace descent, of knowing whence we have come.  As we trace our past, we maintain the knowledge of our spiritual heritage, and our place and part in salvation history.  We learn who we are, and why we have been created.

Christians, of all people, are interested in heritage--and not just our own, but of the entire human race.  But we do not find ourselves wanting to join the heritage campaigners.
 It's enough to know, to see records, to watch DVD's showing historical roots.  We do not need to see the actual building, or the actual village.  Thus, we have always enjoyed visiting the replication of a nineteenth century Victorian street in the Auckland Museum because it demonstrates and shows our past.  This is why we are enthusiastic about the work of Weta Workshop, Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson in recreating aspects of the bunkers and front lines of World War I.

Of course there are exceptions that prove the rule, as it were.  The majesty of the Pyramids, together with their engineering sophistication, call out for preservation.  But the 1950's house in suburban Auckland neither demands nor requires preservation as part of our heritage.  It "deserves" to be pulled down and another built in its place (air tight, double glazed, air conditioned, dry, and filled with mod cons).  Layer upon layer has always been the story book of civilisations.  This, however, is opposed strenuously by many heritage campaigners.  Literally preserving the past has indeed become a religious quest, a manifestation of idolatry, and not a particularly sophisticated expression of idolatry at that.

But, it's not just in Auckland the buzzing flies blow.  It is also found in Wellington.

Small Groups Holding Wellington Back

I can't believe that once again I'm seeing a classic case of the minority holding Wellington back.  We are used to the anti-progress brigade trying to stop projects like the runway extension, and the Basin flyover and development on the waterfront, but news of the latest opposition takes the cake.
A group is trying to stop the demolition of a derelict apartment building on The Terrace, which has sat vacant for the last four years and was about to be torn down.  The Gordon Wilson building for several decades housed hundreds of people, but it has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years and in 2012 was condemned.  Victoria University bought it and was considering putting a new modern building there, or using it as a walkway between the city and the campus.

Now, that whole idea is on hold because a group called the Architectural Centre is appealing the building being demolished, because they say it’s a heritage building.  It’s covered in graffiti, the windows are broken, no one in their right mind would want to live there.  Quite frankly it's a dump and an eyesore.  And yet because of the rules in place, this group of halfwits can appeal to the Environment Court to have the building remain there and it may take up to a year to resolve. . . .

The building is anything but a heritage building, yet this is able to happen.  It's not great democracy, but if this is going to keep happening there's a good argument to say in some cases we need to make a rule that some decisions cannot be appealed.  Because at the moment we're being held to ransom by people who are holding us all back.
The search for the Holy Grail was an ancient idolatry.  It has modern manifestations.  Heritage campaigners, for one, demonstrate a similar mania.  Arthur and his knights would doubtless have recognised their secular heirs.

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