Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lazy heritage thinking and reporting

According to the London Free Press, the reconstruction of the St. Peter's Cathedral rectory building, whose demolition in December caused so much wailing and gnashing of the teeth by the heritage lobby, will be put on hold by the Catholic Diocese of London for at least three years but instead the grounds will be put to functional use as a parking lot in the meantime.

Projected building costs for what will be called the Parish Centre have soared to $4 million, too much for a diocese still raising money for a $5.2-million facelift of its basilica.
I've been trying for several years to get the reconstruction of my landlord's heritage garbage bin started, but that's not in the news. So you might wonder why this story is in the news, never minding the newsworthiness of lack thereof that the old decrepit rectory is already gone. While most productively employed Londoners pass through their daily lives with barely a thought to the rising and falling of structures unless one of them is theirs or they can derive some personal benefit from it, a special class of citizens who consider it their business to tend the conscience of everyone else follow their programming and obtain spasmodic engorgement of their moral members. Why the Free Press continually and wantonly exposes the general public to their ejaculations is the subject of another post, but I have neither compunction nor a similar purpose in exhibiting the impotence and sterility of the heritage industry's emissions.

In response to the parking lot, Genet Hodder, chairperson of Heritage London, moans,
"It's so sad we've lost a heritage building for a parking lot."
Note the bland and effete passivity of the pronouns, "it" and "we," rather like the mould must speak of the bread — "It's ours!" The lazy misuse of "we" slyly suggests an assertion of collective possession of heritage buildings that is undermined by the facts that the rectory actually belonged to the diocese and noone else and that the identification of the "we" in question is impossibly vague and arbitrary, unlike that of the actual owner of the property. It's no good uttering the standard falsehoods like "heritage belongs to all of us" or other such nonsense — I had no hand in the construction or maintenance of any of these structures, and their demolition causes me no sense of personal loss but if anything a general sense of satisfaction that their owners were permitted to find a use for their property for their own purposes.

The rude assertions that are implied by the misuse of personal pronouns were echoed by Ward 1 councillor Judy Bryant passing her hand over her fevered brow on the subject of the possible demolition of another even more decrepit and unusable old building, the Locus Mount, a few days ago:
"If we don't protect the unique features we have, like these heritage buildings, we will not be a unique city and we won't retain or attract people to live here."
We, we, we, we, we— is that all you people can think of? However, the semi-official "we" to which Ms. Bryant pays her rhetorical dues are not always on the same page — an unnamed city official was kind enough to allow that "a temporary parking lot could be permissible on the site."

Meanwhile, John Mombourquette, heritage activist and past president of the Woodfield Community Association and the London and Middlesex Historical Society, appears dismayed that his qualifications have been discounted by the Diocese and "worries about what the new building might look like."
"It has to be built, but what form it takes three or four years from now, I don't know," he said.
It's hard to imagine that even the Free Press would publish this black hole in a universe of insight or knowledge. The reporter could have interviewed all 300,000+ citizens of London and came up with the same observation of ignorance. I suppose what makes Mr. Mombourquette newsworthy is neither that he knows anything or can posit anything worthwhile, it's that he cares. It's all about the feeling, but not just any feeling can make it into the Free Press — one must feel wearing the badge of editorial board-approved aggregates of capricious-thinking.

Mr. Mombourquette does follow up his bewilderment with a bromide for the obfuscation of Londoners:
"It's just history repeating itself."
Well, that's a relief — if history repeats itself, then heritage can take care of itself.

2 comments:

Pietr said...

Very nice post Mapmaster.
It reminded me of when I used to enjoy myself.
All I have to do now is disgorge this heap of old leaves, rotten vegetables and shit that comes to cover me every day,and I will stand once more ready to shake somebody's hand.
Altogether now:"I wanna be in America,I wanna be in America"

MapMaster said...

Thank you, sorehead. One day you'll get a leave from the front, I'm sure.