Friday 1 May 2020

The Murky Legacy of Dark Heritage Dealing

Killed in Action stuff for sale
What collectors and dealers that criticise the 1970 UNESCO Convention  on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property all too frequently ignore that its whole foundation and purpose is to enhance intra-national respect for others' cultural values. Collectors, in arguments riddled with entitlement and self-centredness, claim that they are magnanimously showing interest and admiration for vanished cultures (that allegedly nobody else is much interested in) by buying looted and smuggled stuff. I commented on one Californian seller dkochi who'd been selling KIA (killed in action) dogtags found by "metal detecting cohorts" and smuggled out of Vietnam on eBay ("Metal Detecting Cohorts Stripping Vietnam War Site..."). I think we've located one of the ghoulish collectors that buys this stuff. Just now I got a comment from somebody who calls him or herself "go f**k yourself" and cannot use capital letters. It's an eyeopener:
1) go f**k yourself.... 2) i have bought several 100's of metal detected WW2 GERMAN tags coming out of the former soviet union.... many of which are KIA 3) there are many KIA artifacts on ebay on any given day..... not only dog tags 4) give them back to the US military authorities? are you stupid as you look? (YES!) 5) you know jackshit..... [...]
To be honest, I really did not think I'd have to explain to any reader of this blog what is wrong at many levels with stripping items from the corpses of battlefield victims and selling them on eBay. Or of paying out hundreds of dollars in a deliberate action to buy one. And actually, I do not think I will. I'm simply not interested in writing for the sort of person that would need something like that to be explained in simple words. This blog is about collectors, not for them. 
Note the total lack of respect, or even of humanity, embodied in that comment about WW2 German KIA tags. I think he sees them as 'soldiers' (with all that this is entangled with) rather than people. People with families. In many cases people caught up in the madness of their times and conscripted and sent to fight. Look at some of the comments of other folk that bought 'KIA;' items (dog tags 2-300 $) and imagine what these people look like:

O/S tribute to an AMERICAN HERO well done order thks -GLAD to own parts of grp !
O/S tribute to American and died f/ France (now stay'g in US) WELL done order thks
O/S tribute to American and died f/ France (now stay'g in US) WELL done order thks
An Amazing Dog Tag---WOW!---Quick Delivery---A1A All The Way!---Thank You!
Cool tag. Awesome seller highly recommend. Thank you. A++++++
Excellent example, fast delivery, awesome seller +++++
Always a pleasure, thanks again, Don!
Great of KIA dog tags, highly recommended seller, super fast shipping +++++
And of course the Two Wrongs argument. If a collector has bought "several hundred metal detected WW2 GERMAN tags many of which are KIA" that are "coming out of the former soviet union", it cannot possibly be wrong for a dealer to be openly admitting that he's smuggling them out of Southeast Asia. You can see that there are even 'artifact' collectors out there that not only are not put off by such an admission, but even support the smuggler. 

I'd also add that the Soviet Union has not existed now since 1991, that's almost three decades in which even the thickest US trumpty-numpty could learn the names of the countries. 

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