Dropping like a lead imperialist balloon

Sacredness is in the eye of the plunderer, as British churches lose their roofs

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 9, 2008 1:30PM (EDT)

The irony and pathos gets laid on pretty thick in Monday's New York Times' story on how thieves, motivated by high prices for lead, are stripping British church roofs of the increasingly precious metal.

The irony:

One of the oddest consequences of the historically high price is that idyllic corners of Britain -- a nation that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution -- are suddenly feeling the strain of Asia's industrialization.

The pathos:

Still, she said, churches like hers would remain vulnerable, in part because respect for faith traditions is often too weak to offset the temptation of cashing in on global markets.

"We increasingly seem to live in a world where the question 'Is nothing sacred?' so easily springs to mind," she said.

But at Ultrabrown, Manish Vij sees history replaying itself, along a new vector of force.

For centuries, of course, the British gouged gems from temple to tomb, laid claim on egg-sized rubies and sapphires from Indian mines, stole priceless statues from Indian museums. They denuded the subcontinent of raw natural resources and shipped them to be finished in England. Now the cycle has reversed, and sites the British hold sacred are again being stripped by privateers for raw materials in great need overseas.... The rapacious needs of a growing industrial power once again turns others into sources of raw materials. Only they aren't colonies this time, and the exchange is in currency, not guns.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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