Checking in on Twitter…That photo of the Greenpeacers standing around with their stupid yellow message is at the top of my page, and I stared at it some more, with a new or refreshed feeling of…something…

…something, it occurs to me, very close to a sense of profanation. Of something “sacred” being violated and profaned by a hostile external doesn’t-belong element. Everything in me screams GET OFF as I look at it. GET AWAY FROM THERE.

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It’s more aesthetic than sacerdotal, though. The hummingbird is so arresting and stark and beautiful – that cheap yellow clutter is just an outrage next to it.

But it’s not purely or solely aesthetic. There’s added weight because of whatever (unknown) meaning the lines had to the people who made them and shared in them. There’s added weight because of what things of that kind generally do mean to the people who made them and shared in them. Or maybe it’s not exactly that (since the meaning found in contemporary religious artifacts around me doesn’t tend to inspire me with anything)…maybe it’s more like that plus distance plus not knowing. I suppose if I knew the lines stood for some kind of dreary accounting system with the gods, much of this awe would dissipate. But I don’t know that, so the awe remains.

Anyway. I just think there’s something odd, and not in a good way, about people who can be happy making something so ugly right next to something so beautiful – who can be happy making a beautiful thing ugly by carefully placing their garbage in its embrace.


  1. Matt Penfold says

    I think it is at least in part because whatever the reason the lines were created it was clearly something important to those creating them. They took a lot of work .

    I think that is maybe why you, and I, do not find modern religious artifacts to hold any value. They are often so so tacky and cheap.

  2. luzclara says

    Visually it’s just a horror. And even if the lines were the work of Martians ordering a pizza delivery, it’s a space that has been designated as a no trespassing site. For me, the arrogance of Greenpeace is the worst insult.

  3. Lia says

    I have the same reaction to seeing that as the photo of the Monet some asshole put his fist through. People who do things like this take something from all of us as humans.

  4. sigurd jorsalfar says

    And Greenpeace could have just done it all with a computer if they’d put some thought into it.

  5. Al Dente says

    What the juxtaposition of the Greenpeace message and the Nazca hummingbird tell me is that Greenpeace doesn’t care about the bird except as background to their message.

  6. Doubting Thomas says

    Graffiti. Sometimes it is well done and an improvement. Mostly it’s just piss marking territory. This seems like a case of the latter.

  7. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    Meh. To me the thing was hideous already and means nothing to me. Just some lines in the dirt, poorly contrived and equally poorly executed. But like I said, you’re serving your purposes well by speaking about what the powers that be want you to speak about, some numinous feeling of connection with ancestors who drew squiggles in the sand, rather than your commitment to renewable energy to combat an event we know will likely drive us to the brink of, if not totally to, extinction.

  8. says

    Oh right – because putting those yellow letters physically on the desert where the lines are will magically cause renewable energy to solve all the problems, while not putting those yellow letters there will magically cause global warming to extinct everything. Absolutely. No question about it. So you’re right, it’s totally stupid of me to think they shouldn’t have put those yellow letters physically on the desert where the lines are. Sorry, everybody who will be made extinct by my foolish objections!

  9. Al Dente says

    Sorry, everybody who will be made extinct by my foolish objections!

    See, you do have a purpose in life. :b

    Seriously, the Nazca lines are cultural symbols like the pyramids or the Lascaux cave paintings. We may know less about who made the Nazca lines than the people who made the Sphinx but that doesn’t make the lines any less important.

  10. chrislawson says

    Moralist-driven groups inevitably face internal stress lines over what degree of activism is acceptable. throwaway illustrates perfectly the problem with this — there will be a core of sympathisers who come to believe that the importance of their moral belief trumps all other moral considerations, even to the point of accusing people who criticise as being enemies of the cause even when the criticism is entirely fair. I love the way that in throwaway’s mind, Ophelia is more culpable for criticising vandalism than the vandals themselves.

  11. komarov says

    The text might as well have read ‘Enjoy Coca Cola’, which would have about the same gravitas and impact on the state of affairs. But it strikes me as odd that supposed activists like Greenpeace would care at least as much about the publicity than the message. Why else plaster their name on a heritage site right along with their ever-so-righteous cause? Well, as helpful as it is Greenpeace outed themselves as someone to be wary of long ago. Further evidence is not required.

    As for defacing cultural artifacts and sites in general, I don’t much care for it. Such things are in the eye of the beholder. Thus while I personally may not get much out of the hummingbird I’d be the last person to ruin it for everybody else. Even if it does not appeal to me it is still a testament to a culture that is both ancient and utterly unknown to me. It’s also a reminder of how long and varied human history has been.
    For similar reasons I would not start spray-painting natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon just because I could. If there is a bloody good reason to do something, fine, so be it. Otherwise I’d really prefer we preserved such sites.
    If nothing else said preservation is probably less environmentally disastrous than the alternative, which is just a tad ironic in this instance. We’ve already ruined a great many things, both natural and artificial.

  12. Turi says

    @sigurd jorsalfar: So true. I bet they could have purchased a picture and highered a good graphic designer for a fraction of the cost of the this photo op. WIth the same result.

    But no, green peace needed to damge an ancient peace of art o.o

    @throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says: When this landmark is so unimportand, then why have this photo op there in the first place?

  13. efogoto says

    The future is renewable

    The past isn’t. That’s why we have to preserve it to keep it. Rather than walking around on it, you noxious twits.

  14. says

    Did they actually tread on the lines?

    Initially I had outrage, but now Im not so sure. As for why they didnt use CG, that would be cheap and inauthentic.

    To be clear, I dont really care about greenpeace, and its ironic that I cared for a short while because they got a bit close to another thing that I also didnt care about until greenpeace got close to it.

  15. johnthedrunkard says

    When I first saw the image, I thought it was photoshopped. On reading the reports, it was unclear how much damage had been done as I had no sense of the size of the hummingbird. The image above puts people into the scale.

    I still have little sense of the damage done. Any is too much. I know there are roads that cross the lines in some places, and they have been in place long enough for quite a bit of wear and tear. Even if GP had pulled off the stunt with NO impact on the site, it would still be an act of childish, arrogant defiance.

    As demonstrated by #8, ‘single issue’ moral outrage tends to corrupt moral integrity. Environmentalists can drift into company with vegans, Xtian homophobes, and gun nuts.

  16. latsot says

    I know how you feel, Ophelia. My first instinct on seeing the picture was that those lines are *precious* as well as beautiful. Then my second instinct was to wonder *why* I feel they are precious. If we swept them all away and drew them back exactly the same, would they really *be* the same or would something have been lost? Would the extraordinary achievement of the original lines be lost?

    I’m not sure and I’m still not sure why I care. I have a sense of actual people (rather than a culture) using great effort and skill to make something to make a gesture in a beautiful way, but I don’t know how much of that feeling is coloured by my pre-conceived assumptions about the lines. What if the gesture turned out to be something horrible? Would I think the lines were somehow less precious?

    I also think that ancient cathedrals are precious largely because of the aesthetics and regardless of what they represent. But I also frown upon the destruction of less pretty temples when it’s done because they are temples. That’s just bullying.

    It’s going to take me a while to unravel all this.

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