Peace in our time - Blue Shield says no more shooting at statues
History is something you make, not something you keep. This is a useful axiom to bear in mind when all about you are tut-tutting at the Taleban's demolition of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. They should be reminded that history boils over with examples of the destruction of religious symbols, from the atheistic excesses of China's cultural revolution, through the vandalism of the Bolsheviks in Russia, to the smashing of medieval stained glass by the iconoclasts in our own English Civil War. But, as in so many other ways, we operate a double standard here, professing to see no connection between historical examples and such miscellaneous merriments of modern times as the carpet bombing of the great cities of Europe and Japan during World War II, the bombing of Iraq and the attempted demolition of Serbia by NATO aircraft from an airbase near you.
Where the religious crusade of the Taleban is concerned we put a different spin upon it. In our secular, inclusivist, monetary society we respond, not spiritually but with eyes firmly focused on the marketing possibilities.
Thus within 48 hours of the cannonade in the Bamiyan Valley - which ended, it is said, because the Taleban's expenditure of armour-piercing ammunition on the great stone Buddhas was so ineffective they decided to use dynamite instead - came the announcement that an Anglo/Irish 'Task Force' called Blue Shield had been formed to protect all cultural treasures from extremists, wars and natural disasters. According to press reports, Blue Shield has already set to work lobbying governments and funding bodies and sending experts to emergencies all over the world to persuade institutions and authorities to invest in their treasures and promote access to them instead.
This is a new approach to the old type of 'peace process' that has been so conspicuously unsuccessful in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the Basque region of Spain and a dozen other world flashpoints. From now on, sanctions, promises and talks having failed, the next step will be tourism.
The proposition being put to the Taleban no doubt being: stop smashing up the Buddhist statues and start setting up a proper tourist industry instead.
You will not have to wait long. Bus loads of Western experts and tourists will happily descend upon the ruined museum buildings of Kabul and Kandahar in search of souvenirs. They will even more enthusiastically voyage in dust-choked off-road vehicles to the site of the formerly standing Buddhas, there to feel with their own hands the craters made by rocket launchers, tank guns and artillery. This is, after all, a real atrocity - one that puts in the shade the destruction of Oxford Goods Station to make way for a business school.
Years ago I visited Taiwan, a trip that was not only enjoyable but also educational because from it I learned that Taiwan is not a country at all, at least not in the sense of being recognised by other countries. Instead it is what is called an economic entity, albeit one with larger per capita currency reserves than any so-called 'country' in the world.
This was about the time that the Taleban Militia first swam into our ken by sweeping the Soviet-backed regime out of Afghanistan against all predictions.
Being an enthusiast for globalisation I put these two discoveries together and came up with a world-beating non-country called 'Talebaiwan', an entity combining the military prowess of the Taleban with the economic genius of Taiwan to produce the world's first offshore superstate.
Of course, this was long before the Taleban blotted their copy book by, as The Times understatedly put it, 'massacring a culture' and 'wiping out the world's heritage'.
No share in an offshore superstate for you now my lads, I'm afraid.