Where’s the difference?

It’s reported (e.g. here) that the Queen’s grandson wants all the royal family’s ivory destroyed.

I am reminded of the Taliban destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas.  The act looks much the same: destroying priceless works of art.  The motivation looks much the same too: the works are founded on something seen as absolutely unacceptable.  Is there a difference?

I heard someone debating this on the radio today.  A lady supporting the Prince’s line put the Endarkenment argument: by owning the ivory, the royal family is complicit in the slaughter of elephants to collect it.  Just as consumers of sex and violence are complicit, and we must be protected from such depravity as Shakespeare …

Hmmm.  Yes, it’s a good link.  A close analogy between policing the ‘net, destroying the ivory, and destroying the Buddhas.

Posted on February 17, 2014, in art, free speech, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve always thought it a bit off, that destroying antique ivory was considered necessary to signify how much we don’t believe in elephant hunting nowadays. I can’t help but wonder exactly how slippery that slope is. Do we have to destroy everything made of whalebone, too? How about big-game hunting trophies, bearskin rugs? What about tropical hardwood furniture? Photos of hunters standing over a dead rhino or buffalo?

    On the other hand, an interesting thought experiment is: how would you feel if the artifacts in question were made of human bone or skin? Is there a qualitative difference?

    I think, if I were advising the prince, I’d suggest donating all the royal family’s antique ivory to the British Museum and let “the nation” argue about the ethics of continuing to own it. Because clearly, he’s in a no-win position right now.

  2. Curiously, in a library in Exeter there is a 19th century copy of Milton’s Poetical Works bound using human skin taken from an executed murderer. If the ownership of historical ivory artefacts raises ethical questions, then what about this?

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