Communication is exchanging ideas and news using symbols. Symbols can take any form. The key is that both sides understand the symbols and can create meaning with their use. Symbols can be written letters or images. Few at the start of 2015 would ever consider an abandoned town in Syria to become a symbol for the civilizational battle going on today.
Palmyra, via war, destruction, and art has become a symbol for those who understand the fight.
In the spring of 2015, ISIS engaged in an offensive that resulted in the successful capture of Palmyra and the surrounding area, giving the group control over most of eastern Syria. The usual propaganda — beheading and burning death videos — were released with studio quality background music. One change that was added was ISIS’ demolition of antiquities and Roman-era buildings. The dynamiting of a UNESCO world heritage site was the latest in a tradition of Muslims destroying other cultures’ wonders, as previously the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan.
What made the destruction especially hard for a lover of history and European culture was the symbolism. Tied with the 2015 immigrant invasion of Europe, this was the physical manifestation of the erasure of Western civilization. Christians are steadily being eradicated in the Middle East, and so go the buildings constructed by them. Watching as Western leaders yawned and ho-humed the event created the same anger or sadness as watching the same leaders lie about the need for welcoming migrants and covering up their crimes.
The other pain was knowing how aid from the State Department and CIA ended up enabling ISIS and fellow jihadis, who only want to see the West become a Caliphate. While no direct military aid was sent to ISIS, ammunition is parachuted in zones that may fall under their control. Even if weapons are not delivered, how much better does a jihadi eat if all the US sends is MREs and other goodies? The Third Worldism adopted by Western communists and used as a weapon against the native populations can mean that what matters to the natives is just as ripe for destruction as the native populations.
To play to the deep history, it was a painful reminder that those lands had been considered rich lands of the Roman and Byzantine empires and were lost. The area was the earliest for Christianity, and it had some of the oldest churches. Those lands have long since been ceded to the Muslims. What is now Syria was also some of the most treasured assignments for 19th and early 20th century Christian missionaries. The West once fostered a deep love of its history, and not just of its tribal and racial history, but its religious beginnings.
After ISIS used explosives and the amphitheater for beheadings, Palmyra did not cease to be a symbol. A new offensive by the Syrian government with the aid of Russian air power recaptured the city and surrounding area.
In an answer to the displays of captured soldiers and blown up relics, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra performed Western classics to mark the triumph. Civilization will not go out quietly, and it not shall be meek. Barbarism destroys, while civilization creates.
While masterminded by the Kremlin for propaganda purposes, the event also shows Putin’s touch for citing the historical record. In mid-2015, Putin noted Vladimir’s baptism as a connection to the Greeks. He noted the special connection between the Eastern Orthodox worlds, even though the event took place centuries ago. It would be akin to President Obama speaking at a D-Day citing the Normans crossing the channel to battle at Hastings as the spark for the America’s existence. Americans do not hear that, though, as taking pride in one’s past is not encouraged.
There have been Western responses to the barbarians and terror and even in musical form. The standard response by the West is to gather around and sing “Imagine” by John Lennon. The tune, which Nigel Farage compares to a funeral dirge, is the proper communist response. Forget about any tribal or group loyalty and give in to the grey melt of modernity. Imagine it. Like many educated Westerners, this response is straight from their suicidal death cult that pays no attention to any other tribe.
This is what makes the orchestra playing at Palmyra even more special. It is a celebration of the height of musical achievement, of Western musical achievement, and it is not a funeral dirge. The music is the soaring sound of a civilization. There may be fewer who truly appreciate it in this day and age, but it is a horn, it is a marker, and it is a win.