Friday 27 September 2013

"Noel Coward" and the Scumbags

Right back at the beginning of my writing on artefact hunting and collecting, one of the biggest barriers to getting any kind of message across was the resistance of my readers to seeing the picture as a whole. We had a group of metal detectorists, allied with their archaeologist supporters, who refused point blank to see what they were doing in the wider context of collecting of antiquities in and from other countries. "Absolutely not", they'd protest and then get sullen and quiet when you asked why not. Then we had all those collectors pretending to be collector-scholars on the other side. They "had absolutely nothing", they said, "to do with" the hoi polloi arrowhead collectors, pot-diggers and (heaven forbid) metal detectorists [if I could be bothered to look, there is a really insulting post on Unidroit-L by coin dealer Dave Welsh on this lowest of the low from which eroodite collectas like wot-he-wants-to-be absolutely separated themselves]. Again if you asked them what, in substantive terms, was the difference, they'd all go sullen and quiet. Both sides were mortally offended that somebody should draw a comparison between the two. The Brits were also angry that I was pointing out parallels between what they said and did and what American collectors said and did across the Great Cultural Divide.

The reason for this is obvious. In these circles, the notion of personal responsibility is almost always pushed to the back of the mind; the problem is always "somebody else". It's "the nighthawks (we don't like them)", it's "the Radical Archaeologists (being unreasonable - they've not only got an agenda, but character faults too)", it's "the brown folk (doing the looting)", "corrupt gubn'mints (allowing it to be smuggled)", "cultural property nationalists" - or whatever. The excuses are multiple and all equally comfortably putting the whole blame somewhere else entirely than on the shoulders of the people engaged in artefact collecting. The fact that a stereotypical Other is doing damage is clear, the intimation that the person addressed has any part in this is dismissed as insulting.  That's why metal detectorists did not like being likened to ACCG coineys, and why the latter (though ostensibly fighting for "collectors' rights") considered it in some way demeaning to be associated with detectorists and the collectors who get the stuff our of the "dirt".

Five years on, and look how the tables have turned! As we saw, archaeologists are now running a mile from an invitation to explain their position on artefact hunting (Mr Hedge where are you? Don't worry, the PAS can't face it either). More importantly, both sides now are admitting they are "in this together". Tekkies are happy that "Dave and Peter" (on first name terms now) are giving me "crap", while "Dave, Wayne and Peter" are happy now to jump into bed with the Thugwits. As a wise commentator on this blog noted here just now, by these liaisons, collectors are:
making the situation clear for all to see. You can't present yourself as Noel Coward if your best mates are - well, different.
.. and it seems both sides over the past few weeks have dropped the pretence and showing their real faces at last. Steve Taylor is an ACCG hero (I believe they are going to give him one of their tinny awards like Roger Bland got next time he's in the States) Dave Welsh is the toast of the Bognor Grabbers Metal Detecting Club every first Friday of the month in the Pig and Whistle. One big happy family, united by a shared inability to address the issues.

Vignette: Noel Coward (Wikipedia)

UPDATE 26.09.13:
Striveful Hopbun Fleetfoot asked me to post this:
"This reminds me of a poem  recited to me by my Great Aunt in the sixties (she must have been born in the American civil war - how about that!)". It's an anti-alcohol poem from 1933, and here it is rendered as a wonderful Frank Crumit song, and the animation's pretty good too:

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