Millennia-old monuments of global cultural heritage such as the Arch of Triumph at the site of Ancient Palmyra in Syria, signify both the great power of humanity as well as its greatest weakness. The power to bestow creations born of the minds and hands of mankind, which are able to withstand the tides of time and somehow continue to express great things. And humankind’s weakness, as ephemeral beings, in terms of time, as deified by the ancients, or history, to use a more modern term: Everything people believe to be immortal and everything they worship as almighty – beginning with their gods – is hostage to time. This was succinctly expressed by a deified Hercules, cast down by the Christians, in an epigram by Palladas of Alexandria: “Even I, a god, have learned to live with the times.”
It has been centuries since the temples of Palmyra ceased to express the divine under whatever name it may have been known, just as is the case with the Parthenon in Athens. The only being worshipped there today is man, who raises monuments of great splendor in order to defy his predetermined temporality.
In the addled minds and darkened souls of the fascists of Islamic State, the columns, arches, and ruins of ancient civilizations and religions are mere evidence of idolatry, blasphemy and anything else conjured up by their fixations. That’s what they claim at least. In reality, what they see is evidence of their incredible smallness, their barbarity, their place outside all that is civilized. And they blow them up to feel great. Even though they may never have heard of him, Herostratus the arsonist and destroyer is their only god.
The jihadists hate others, not the gods of others. Anything that doesn’t succumb to their slavery, that resists their bestial actions or that is simply different, is cut, uprooted, murdered in “summary executions” orchestrated for the voracious Internet, torn down and put to the torch. They commit crimes against humanity constantly, consciously and hedonistically.
What should humanity do in response? To start with, tend to the victims of the jihadists: the refugees. But honestly, not with a pinch of hypocrisy. Then it needs to take concerted and planned action against ISIS. Again, honestly, and not just for show. The air strikes so far basically serve the interests of the attackers more than they do to wear down the jihadists. The Turks are after the Kurds; the Russians are after the Syrian rebels and the Americans are after the pro-Assadists. And Europe? Already regretting it refugee-friendly rhetoric, it is back to building walls, tripping itself and its lauded principles up.