Vandalism is among our expressions of democracy. I am opposed to it, on behalf of the aristocratic party. It is not that the people are ugly. They haven’t all voted to be ugly yet. It is that in democratic arrangements, the worst and most unsightly features of society go on display.

This is true from the sides of buildings to the tattoos that are inscribed on human flesh.

As Christians, it is important for us to realize that one thing leads to another. The vandalism is a response to a brutally ugly urban environment. The urban vandals show a sensitivity to the most modern and gleaming “incidents” in that environment. Smooth metal is the preferred medium for their “artistic” self-expressions, and anything new and clean that is given to them (such as public housing) will soon be touched up. The modern city — the radiant city of “Le Corbu” and “Mies” — increased demand for this kind of art.

For over the centuries, vandalism had been contained. This was because the inhabitants took pride in their cities, and would not tolerate the application of filth.

The same is true of “environmentalism,” for that matter. The essentially fascist government edicts that ban, for instance, the use of nitrogen fertilizers on farms, are a development from the promotion of nitrogen fertilizers — by progressive chemical investors in the previous generation, to create “efficient” monocultural agriculture. In this sense, the destruction of the once-beautiful countryside was a two-step process, or rather, on closer view, it required many stages of “progress.”

I have argued, perhaps pointlessly, that urban ugliness was invented in Renaissance and Mannerist Italy. It was a style innovation, not yet requiring technological advance. We do not recognize this ugliness by comparison to the urban toilets in which we now swim. It was in its context a fashionable novelty, in the pursuit of personal attention.

In the preceding “Middle Ages,” urban ugliness had not been developed, although poverty was certainly common. But no one was inspired to make anything provocatively ugly. I think modernity first appears in the Italian streets, where extravagance and “conspicuous consumption” are becoming “socially acceptable.”

Similarly, in England, at the dissolution of the monasteries, the profound religious architecture is replaced by vacuous secular domesticity. People want to display how much wealth they have obtained by the plunder of the Catholic Church. We have the first explosion of ugliness from “the people,” when they are freed by politics from their ancient inhibitions.

What we see, from our modern beginnings in the New Age of the 15th and 16th centuries, to the abounding vandalism in our urban life today, is one continuous event. It is the historical triumph of the idea of progress.