Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Embers of History – Taki’s Magazine – Taki’s Magazine

Posted by M. C. on April 25, 2019

In an era when our most influential voices attempt to unite our increasingly diverse and therefore divisive ethnicities around demonizing the forefathers of Europeans, the overwhelming beauty of the cathedrals of the high Middle Ages is, as they say, problematic.

by Steve Sailer

Last week’s fire in the world’s most famous Gothic cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, reminds us of the increasingly awkward political issue posed by the immense achievements of the European past.

In the current year, liberal individualism is falling out of fashion. As our culture becomes more demographically diverse, our assumptions revert back to more atavistic ways of thought. The rising ethnicities who look to comic-book author Ta-Nehisi Coates as their leading intellectual assume that one’s worth is not dependent upon Jeffersonian abstractions about individual dignity, but upon the renown of one’s ancestors. Thus, in today’s Coatesian Age, it looms larger than it did a generation or two ago whether one’s forebears built Notre-Dame or a hut…

As Paul Johnson wrote in his 2003 book Art: A New History:

The medieval cathedrals of Europe—there are over a hundred of them—are the greatest accomplishments of humanity in the whole theater of art.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Coates has made himself a fortune promoting an antiquarian theory about how whites made themselves rich by the “plunder” of blacks.

Yet the vast wealth devoted to the construction and ornamentation of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe can hardly be attributed to slavery or colonialist exploitation, since they were begun long before the age of exploration. Notre-Dame, for example, was largely constructed between 1163 and 1345.

While occasionally the faithful would volunteer to haul building materials for free, we now know much about the finances of the cathedrals. In summary, they paid out huge sums in market-rate wages to roving artists and to local craftsmen and laborers.

Nor can the technological advances of the Gothic cathedral be said to have been “stolen” from non-Europeans…

Various pundits and architects such as Norman Foster are now calling for Notre-Dame to be rebuilt in some steel-and-glass modernist style, like a vast Apple store, that they assert would be more fitting for our age of diversity. For example, Erika Harlitz-Kern wrote in the Daily Beast:

Give Notre Dame a Modern Roof the Alt-Right Will Hate

Medieval Europe was a crossroads of global influence, not a mythical all-white past. The new Notre Dame should reflect that.

Ironically, they don’t realize that contemporary starchitects with their egomaniacal hatred of tradition represent white maleness at its most Promethean and annoying. As my old friend John McCarthy, a founder of artificial intelligence, observed, “When architects get prizes, the people suffer.”

In contrast, the world loves Notre-Dame (which averaged 13 million visitors per year) for many of the reasons that would be familiar to Victor Hugo, author of the 1831 best-seller The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which inspired its restoration after its desecration during the French Revolution, such as its romantic antiquity and its paradoxical combination of intellectual rigor of design with eccentric richness of ornamentation (especially its wonderful gargoyles).

In contrast to today’s designers, the obscure architects of Notre-Dame were representative of a humbler age…

Back in 1991, when Morgan Freeman was cast alongside Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, it was still felt necessary to dream up a backstory about how the two heroes had met in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade. By last year’s Mary, Queen of Scots, however, no justification was seen as necessary for explaining the casting of random blacks and Chinese as aristocrats in 16th-century Britain. (Amusingly, Hugo made the heroine of his Hunchback of Notre-Dame somewhat less improbably a beautiful Gypsy girl.)

But this racial fairy tale about a diverse medieval Europe basically isn’t true. The evidence is mounting against it as grave-robbing geneticists scan DNA from old corpses.

Alternatively, the reigning dogma might assert that since the cathedral wasn’t built by diverse peoples, Notre-Dame therefore can’t be beautiful.

The problem with this approach, though, is: Just look at it.

Be seeing you


Citizen: “What are you protesting against” Johnny: “What have you got?” The Wild One



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