In an October 17 article titled `30,000 tonnes of scrap metal up for Grabs,’ the Kaieteur News reports that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment are coordinating plans to remove “unused machinery, steel frames from building plants, rails and tracks and cars, locomotives and earth moving equipment” from Matthews Ridge, Region One. This action reportedly will facilitate mining operations by Reunion Manganese Inc. in that area.
It is my hope that the term “scrap metal”, in this context, is purely an editorial coinage of the Kaieteur News, and not an actual citation by the government bodies involved in this project. Should the former be true, then it can be forgiven as the mere opinion of independent, perhaps misguided editorializing. However, government functionaries using this term to describe this project will raise concerns of philistinism.
I find it interesting that based upon this report no mention is made of preserving these mechanical miscellanea as historical relics. Perhaps as cultural artifacts which can be restored and preserved in a Matthews Ridge Museum for all Guyanese to study. How can students not appreciate their history more if they were offered tangible evidence of it, instead of foreign inscriptions from photocopied textbooks?
Instead of seeking the highest scrap metal bids, as the article reports, the government can possibly encourage Reunion Manganese Inc. to adopt this culturally-progressive project. Not only will the Canadian company promote its status through corporate responsibility, but the government will demonstrate to its citizenry that development is not only indexed by dollar signs. That a truly developing and enlightened society is one which encourages preservation of cultural and historical symbols and values as much as it does Marriotts and exclusive, gated communities.
When our historical treasures such as colonial locomotives are debased and labeled “scrap metal” by local dailies, we have entered a tailspin of normalizing a discourse of cultural loss. More precariously, when our leaders and state agencies market our historical heirlooms, they not only valorize cultural decay, but remind us that in our current atmosphere market logic trumps human value. Money comes before people. Self- interest before public welfare.
Cynicism will not infect me as much as to portend the sale of the 1763 Monument as “scrap metal”, but as febrile as we currently are with wealth-accumulation, who knows?