In a move that is emblematic of our self-centered culture we have one of the world’s best known environmentalist groups carelessly trampling over one of our world’s most fragile monuments to take a selfie, and post it on Facebook (along with an accompanying video that was dutifully uploaded to YouTube). I am referring, of course, to the idiotic ‘protest’ (their word) by Greenpeace in Peru on December 8, a ‘protest’ that caused serious, and probably irreparable damage to area surrounding the Hummingbird, one of the best known figures among the Nazca lines.
The thing is that this whole incident has been interesting in a number of ways.
First of all we have the image of those claiming to be fighting for a better future trampling on the past for the sake of a selfie. That is bad enough, but then there are some other aspects this incident has exposed that I find equally disturbing… okay, so maybe not equally.
Among those one that is particularly telling is the kind of leeway the English speaking press is willing to give to these clowns.
Most of the headlines I have seen fall in one of two categories. On the one hand we have things like “Greenpeace in hot water after Nazca Lines escapade” (The Week), “Greenpeace Offends Peru With Nazca Stunt” (that one comes from the Huffington Post) and “Peru Is Indignant After Makes Its Mark on Ancient Site” (that one is taken from the New York Times), on the other we have headlines that totally dismiss the damage and move straight to Greenpeace’s so-called apology. In this category we have gems such as “Greenpeace apologizes for Nazca lines stunt” (Herald Sun) and “Greenpeace Apologizes for Stunt at Peru’s Sacred Nazca Lines” (NPR).
To begin with, to dismiss what Greenpeace did as an escapade or a stunt, or to imply that Peru is overreacting, especially considering the way in which its archaeological past has been plundered throughout history, is in itself offensive. Let me be clear about it: what Greenpeace did was not a stunt or an escapade, it was a crime, a serious one that, while not on the same scale as the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, is definitely along the same lines (permanent damage to a World Heritage Site).
Next we have the shift of emphasis from Greenpeace’s crime to its apology… let’s talk about that ‘apology’. In it the organization apologizes to the people of Peru for any offense it may have caused by laying what it describes as ‘a message of hope’ at the site of the historic Nazca lines, but it says nothing of the damage done to the glyphs and the surrounding area. It also claims to be willing to cooperate with the authorities, and says they are willing to face ‘fair and reasonable consequences’. That sounds promising, except for the fact that the group has refused to identify those involved, who have since managed to flee the country. So much for cooperating with the authorities (as for the fair and reasonable consequences they claim to be willing to face, that bit sounds an awful lot like they are claiming for themselves the right to determine what those are going to be, rather than let the Peruvian legal system settle that one). Oh yes, and they also agree to stop any further use of the offending images, as if those images hadn’t been splashed across the front pages of the world.
That is one of the things that bother me the most, the fact that in defacing Nazca Greenpeace has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.