Thursday, 11 June 2009


Anthony Daniels, prompted by a book of photographs (ironically titled 'Kombinat: Industrial Ruins of the Golden Era'), meditates on the awful landscapes of post-industrial Romania:

'...the vast industrial complexes built under Ceauscescu in Romania...have, as the title suggests, fallen into ruins; they fell into ruins the moment captive markets for whatever they produced were freed to buy anything else. Untold acres of land are now deserts of crumbling ferro-concrete towers, surrounded by polluted land of evil coloration, with pools of water that could almost serve as national repositories for toxic chemicals. Steel rods emerge from much of the concrete, twisted like the antennae of insects in their death agony...

Fields of rubble; forests of abandoned chimneys; enormous skeletons of concrete girders; vast vertical plains of corrugated iron and smashed windows; processions of square concrete columns leading nowhere except to churned-up wasteland; rusting iron staircases rising or falling to or from a void; immense trellises of ironwork, supporting nothing; crumbling concrete tanks, silos, and water towers. It is as if a gray-brown organism that solidified into immovable detritus had invaded the earth and spread malignantly, eating up the landscape for miles around...

No humans are to be seen; one has the impression that, at last, an environment has been created in which even rats cannot live. All that survives in the wasteland is a spiky, dry vegetation that takes on the same coloration as the ruins and that is able to grow where there is much cadmium, arsenic, lead, manganese, and other metals in the soil.'

He sees the industrial ruins as a grave and horrible memorial to the false faith of communism and the urge to re-make the world inherent in the modernism of Corbusier and his like. But we shouldn't sorrowfully but smugly shake our heads, thanking God that it didn't happen here. The blindly modernising radical impulse may not have the same scope for destructiveness in our country; but it can still create a mess and we need to beadily look out for it.

I was prompted to remember David Miliband's ridiculously juvenile interview on the Today programme this week: full of progressive nonsense about making 'the unconventional, conventional' and pointing to last Autumn's bank rescues as an example of brave 'radicalism'. To adapt Tacitus: 'they made a wasteland and called it radical'.

And they're not finished. I'm not sure whether it's laughable or chilling but he declared Labour's mission as 'half complete in respect of political reform, it’s half complete in respect of economic reform, it's half complete in respect of social reform'. I'm just surprised he didn't throw the environment in: it provides huge scope for overly-confident and disastrous application of know-better-than-thou policy.

I fear for the health of our politics and democracy if they sincerely believe they have a last shot at radically recasting our constitution. As a previous post indicates I'm all in favour of reform but I just don't trust this lot of Year Zero-ers to do it well. You can guarantee that plenty of babies will be defenstrated and some particularly dirty bathwater introduced for us to wallow in.

It's the childishly destructive lack of humility and respect with regard to what we've inherited that is so egregious. This book of photographs should be presented to all the Millibanding meddlers as a sort of memento mori, for them to reflect on the limits of reason, the imperfectability of the world, and how radical intentions go awry.

As Daniels says in his conclusion:

'Man is free, no doubt, but to what extent does the past weigh on him? There is no doubt that what we see in these photographs is highly oppressive. We cannot just say, “Well, we’ll start out again, as from new, as if nothing had happened,” because the attempt to start out anew is what produced the catastrophe in the first place.'


Gadjo Dilo said...

Hmmm, I find the prose a little over-egged. Colo(u)ration is not of itself 'evil', for a start. True, one can see run-down Communist-era factories here in Romania. One can also see plenty of normal people getting on with their lives and ignoring them (the great Romanian virtue, it seems). I'm sure one could compile a great picture book from these images, as one could of smug overfed bankers at play on their country estates; I'll send you a copy of the former if you'll send me a copy of the latter :-)

worm said...

hi Gaw, this is an interesting piece, and I did write a big reply, but it got so big I decided to post it as a piece on my blog instead!