Sunday 9 January 2011

The Basis for a Rational Public Discussion is... Rationality

US Antiquity dealer Dave Welsh is apparently miffed that the world did not fall fawning at his feet over his suggestion that "source nations" should be given "quotas" of "redundant artefacts" to fill the market so a controlling clique of licenced dealers can sell them to a clique of licenced collectors. In a post he calls (in jest I hope) "A Rational Public Discussion" he complains:
It is, to say the least, very difficult to have a rational public discussion with anyone who is identified with the radical anticollecting or "archaeology" lobby.[...] Nowhere in the far-out views of that fringe can anything more unrealistic or extreme be found than this.
Well, I do not know if we are looking at the same text here, it seems to me that I took a very realistic hard look at Welsh's pie-in-the sky gimme-gimme "proposal". I think I raised some hard realistic questions that would have to be addressed by its proposer before he submits it to further rational public discussion (a discussion which in its present state I do not exactly see anybody else tripping over their own feet to engage in - even collectors like Candice Jarman consider it unacceptable in its present form). Welsh says:
Any archaeologist who imagines that a solution to archaeology's problems can be unilaterally dictated and enforced without the participation, cooperation and ultimately the consent of the collecting community is significantly detached from reality.
The sooner no-questions-asked collectors and dealers recognise that the ongoing destruction of the past by commercial artefact digging is not just an archaeologists' problem the better for them and everybody else. The reality is that it is not archaeologists that will get laws changed, but public opinion. Welsh goes on:
If archaeologists will engage the collecting community in a good faith discussion of how to do this, they would in my view be pleasantly surprised by the understanding and thoughtfulness of the reception they would receive.
yeah, like from Candice Jarman, and Dave Welsh? The PAS is busily engaged in doing this, and we all know just how much "understanding and thoughtfulness" they are getting from artefact hunters in England...

Dave Welsh presented - he says for discussion - an idea as a panaceum to the problem of commercial looting. If he was at all sincere in his presentation of it as such, and actually believed in it, instead of moaning that somebody engaged with his ideas and suggested that some areas needed clarification and questioning the workability of some bits of it, he could address the issues raised. Iron out the wrinkles. The trouble is that I am perfectly sure that Welsh was not a bit sincere in proposing this. It was a smokescreen tactic, and was simply seeking an opportunity to blame somebody else for the failure for discussion to advance - thus covering up for the failure of the dealers to budge from their no-questions-asked stance. This is what is demonstrated by his reaction. But he'd have written the same if his proposal was met with silence wouldn't he? What is it he wants?

Mr Welsh then adopts a threatening tone:
Those who instead insist upon a totally confrontational, one-sided, irrational, and accusatory condemnation of [no-questions-asked] private collecting as the root of all evils are instead likely to be unpleasantly surprised by the strength and effectiveness of the opposition they encounter.
Nah, I don't think we'll be at all surprised, we all know what the nasties look like. The collecting blogs, especially the coiney ones, are full of nastiness: confrontational, provocative, one-sided, antisocial and wholly irrational junk written in accusatory tone. Its the good side of responsible collectors that tends to be lost in all this opposition to the perfectly common sense approach to no-questions-asked collecting of antiquities. Perhaps however it is collectors and dealers who have been allowing the ACCG to lead them by the nose and act as the spokesmen of the whole milieu who are in for an "unpleasant surprise" in coming months. I hope so.

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