I am standing in the Neues Museum in Berlin, looking in wonder at the bust of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen. She has borne the same enigmatic look for more than 3,300 years.
It strikes me that this very Nefertiti sculpture in front of me has seen human folly in all its expressions over the aeons: the greed, the aggression, the cruelty and the violence, the self-delusion, superstition and xenophobia, the over-exploitation of the planet and the wanton killing of its non-human inhabitants.
She has witnessed the rise of a great many religions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, all being claimed by their respective followers to be the one and only true religion. She has seen the believers of different religions and sects kill each other by the millions because of their differences in beliefs.
She has seen the development of increasingly sophisticated weapons which humans used to wage war against each other: guns and cannons, flame throwers and hand grenades, mustard gas, tanks and nuclear devices. She wears the exact same expression today as she did on the two days when atomic bombs were being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
She has observed humans taking their warfare to the skies and to the oceans. She has seen the bombardment along the Western front, maiming and killing millions. She was around when the bombs were being dropped from the sky on London and on Berlin and when Dresden was bombed to a rubble.
Over the millennia she has seen genocide after genocide and the rape and murder of millions of women and children. She has witnessed the extinction of a vast number of animal species because of human greed and indifference. She has seen the temperature rising and the very life on earth being threatened by humankind’s continuing excesses, selfishness and short-sightedness.
I look at the sculpture of Nefertiti. She doesn’t blink an eye. She has seen at it all and nothing will surprise her now.
I think I can guess what she is thinking. She is regretting the fact that the apes have ever come down from the trees. Most likely she will still be around when we clever, self-destructive apes have vanished from the face of the earth.