Sunday, February 23, 2014

Don’t Scorn the Colander

You can’t always get what you want…
But if you try sometime, you just might find
That you get what you need.
                                The Rolling Stones

One of the most striking images I’ve seen from the barricades in Kiev was of a beefy middle-aged protester wearing a colander on his head.  Not much protection from an AK47 round, I thought, but it might deflect a mis-thrown rock or even a grenade.

I was reminded of the colander-armored man yesterday when I fell into Facebook conversations with two archaeologists employed by Indian tribes.  Both were distressed and depressed by the fact that Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act doesn’t afford absolute protection to historic places.  One of them was sadly misinformed about what Section 106 DOES afford – misled by the deeply irresponsible and flatly wrong book Practicing Archaeology by Neuman and Sanford – but both seemed to feel that since the law didn’t give them the absolute authority to stop projects that they or their tribes thought too damaging, there was simply no reason to invoke it or insist on compliance with its regulations.

So throw away your colander, rebel.  Go to the barricades buck-ass naked.  That makes a lot of sense.

There are good public-policy reasons that Section 106 doesn’t prohibit the destruction of historic places, but even if you think it should, it’s flat-out stupid to ignore it, or buy into lazy, mindless, self-interested interpretations like those in Practicing Archaeology, just because it doesn’t give you everything you want.

Section 106 prescribes a process of consultation, which at its best becomes one of negotiation, which ought to lead to responsible compromise solutions to development/preservation conflicts.  Participate in it knowledgeably and you just might find that you get – if not all you want, at least what you need.  Throw away your colander and you’re likely to get beaned by a flying brick before anyone even has the chance to shoot you.

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