Van der Soandso's .00 scale model of Hilversum carved from Edam was challengingly iconoclastic and would have remained so if Whatshername's daringly iconoclastic Rodentwork exhibited next door had not devoured it in a frenzy of almost literal iconoclasm … Of course an iconoclastic curator will tell you that such a serendipitous incident proves merely that destruction is, in its very special way, a form of creation. The most effective iconoclasts are fire, flood, wind, rain, volcano, earthquake. Such elemental forces are not, however, quite what I have in mind.
Smugglers were (and are) criminals. Pirates were criminals suffering from scurvy. Highwaymen were criminals who enjoyed unusual relationships with horses. Our collective memory is brief. Or maybe there is enthusiasm for posthumous pardon and tardy rehabilitation. The government possesses a craven eagerness to "apologise" for the supposed sins of its predecessors, pointlessly applying today's mores to yesterday in an access of feelgood outreach.
A different sort of ahistorical insolence is manifest in mine host's and mine brewery's celebrations of criminals in names such as The Smuggler's Arms, The Jolly Roger, The Black Bess. A century hence, today's misunderstood altruists will be commemorated by premises called The Yardie's Drive-By, The Chislehurst, The Masters In Sociology. The licensed trade and governments are necessarily anxious to please. The scholars and pseudo-scholars of the curatocracy are not so bound. Perhaps it's time for them to find a term for neophiliac gimmick merchant which, unlike iconoclast, does not honour destruction.
A century hence pubs will have names like The Yardie’s Drive-By or The Masters in Sociology
Iconoclast found its non-literal way into English at the time of the Oxford Movement, that's to say at the start of what would become this country 's most protracted bout of iconolatry since the Middle Ages. Needless to say, the word and its derivatives were not used to indicate approval. Devotees of graven images, of any images, take an understandably dim view of those who destroy such images in the name of faith. The destroyers go further and persecute the perceived idolators. The Eastern Orthodox Church was riven by the question of icons. Soldiers of the New Model Army bequeathed this country a legacy of smashed statuary and a cultural distaste for the gaudy. Islam's bloody, ignominious record is well-known.
I went one recent Herefordshire afternoon to St Mary and St David, Kilpeck and All Saints, Brockhampton. They may be separated by three-quarters of a millennium, but they have much in common: rural remoteness, architectural splendour out of all proportion to their size, a certain quirkiness, red sandstone, ostentatious alarm systems and CCTV. These last protect against iconoclasm.
Faith is codified superstition; belief is mere delusion. The question is: is the destruction of statuary and carving more justified when it is done in accordance with a risible myth–system rather than for wanton pleasure? Is there a moral equivalence between spiritually driven belligerence and criminal desecration? Do gangs of crack-head truants smashing what they don't realise is their patrimony deserve to be spoken of in the same breath as the Taliban's operatives?