Sunday, 7 December 2008

"Ethics (being purely subjective) have nothing to do with the situation"

On his blog, Wayne Sayles presents his views on Ethics, Law and Globalization. He writes “One view in archaeology today is that private citizens of any given country have an ethical responsibility to preserve the cultural heritage of all countries.” I would question whether this is a view just “in archaeology” or whether conservation-conscious people in general do not see the conservation of all finite and fragile resources as the ethical responsibility of us all. Like the products of the taking or slaughter of endangered species, the non-sustainable felling of tropical hardwoods, the pollution of the environment with chemical effluents and other waste, greenhouse gas emissions and so on. Sayles tries simplistically to present his "war" as one between collectors (in the white hats) and "archaeologists (the guys in the black hats), when it is the minority of self-centred collectors who want to gobble up selected bits obtained destructively from the global archaeological resource for their own entertainment and profit who are pitted against the whole resource conservation ideology to which increasing numbers of people continue to accept. That is the primary ethical concern, that which affects us all in our interaction with our environment, that collectors are expected to heed. That they persist in their self-delusive argumentation and posing in order to avoid that inconvenient truth, only reflects badly on them.

I find it pretty odd that thirty eight years on, the actual purpose of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property is so persistently misconstrued (or misrepresented) in pro-collecting circles.
Photo: Conservationists remind us we have only one earth to bequeath to our grandchildren, but despite that some still want to use up as much its resources as they can get their hands on now.

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