Author Topic: An unsettling thought  (Read 637 times)

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Offline Overlord

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An unsettling thought
« on: July 07, 2017, 05:47:52 PM »
I do not regard myself as a superstitious person. However, as a collector of ancient and medieval coins, I sometimes find myself contemplating some potentially unsettling questions, purely for the sake of argument: What if one or more coins in my collection had a bloody past or were the object of inhuman misery inflicted on people? Even if there were no universal law tracking all the "bad karma" associated with the coin that, operating on the principle of ignorantia juris non excusat, jinxed all its potential owners, possession of such a coin seems to pose a sort of moral dilemma. If I were to somehow know its past and subsequently decide not acquire it, regarding it as a symbol of violence and injustice, and as a mark of respect for people whose suffering it represents, does lack of knowledge of its past completely absolve me of that burden? Or does it somehow make me guilty of deriving pleasure out of the object, oblivious to the human suffering it represents.

Do you ever have similar thoughts or purely look at your ancient/medieval coins from the point of view of their composition, beauty, technique of manufacture, history, etc.?

Offline FosseWay

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 06:28:08 PM »
Food for thought, certainly...

Imagine holding in your hand one of the original 30 pieces of silver that Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus, for example.

Slightly more prosaically, I have a 1940 UK shilling that is in unworn condition yet very blackened, and appears to have been in a fire. I acquired it at the same time as I studied WW2 history at school and ever since have wondered whether it was found after an air raid and what happened to its original owner.

On a more positive note, there is a long-standing tradition of putting silver threepence coins (or other ornaments) in Christmas puddings. If you receive the coin in your portion of pudding you will have good luck in the coming year. (Where there are several ornaments, the good luck may be more specific - e.g. coin = wealth, bell = wedding etc.) I have a threepence from the 1890s with clear toothmarks in it; one of them obscures the last digit of the date, though it's a Jubilee head so there aren't that many possible choices. It always makes me think of a Dickensian Victorian Christmas scene.

Offline Prosit

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 06:35:51 PM »
IMO
The concept of evil is a construct of the human mind (a concept) and does not attach to objects.

Dale

Offline <k>

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 07:11:44 PM »
Imagine holding in your hand one of the original 30 pieces of silver that Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus, for example.

It's doubtful that that ever happened: Judas Iscariot.

On a more positive note, there is a long-standing tradition of putting silver threepence coins (or other ornaments) in Christmas puddings. If you receive the coin in your portion of pudding you will have good luck in the coming year.

I did have a chuckle when quaziright recently wrote of winning (yes, truly winning - not buying on ebay) a coin from Somaliland that depicts the Titanic. Could it be an omen, I wondered? Or maybe it just means he'll end up living in Somaliland, of all places.  :D

Offline <k>

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 07:14:45 PM »
IMO
The concept of evil is a construct of the human mind (a concept) and does not attach to objects.

Dale

I agree. Yet the UK authorities routinely demolish the houses of convicted serial killers, presumably because the concept is still potent for some people.

Offline <k>

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 07:24:33 PM »
Or does it somehow make me guilty of deriving pleasure out of the object, oblivious to the human suffering it represents.

It's up to you whether you ever derive pleasure from it, and / or feel shame afterwards. The fact is that you are not the one who caused the suffering. Those who suffered did not know you, therefore it was impossible for them to care about what you thought.

Turned the other way around, it could represent dangerous thinking. There has been a rise in cases of anti-semitism in the UK in recent years. The thinking of some left-wing-oriented people who indulge in it goes like this: Israel persecutes Palestinians, Jewish people support the Israeli government, therefore they deserve to be despised. Of course, not all Israeli politicians persecute Palestinians, and not all British Jewish people even feel loyalty to Israel or the Israeli government, never mind those Israeli politicians who might be in favour of persecuting Palestinians. Just as I, as a Briton, am not responsible for any of the vile acts committed by certain Britons during the period of the British Empire, and no more deserve to be attacked than Jewish people do. So blame only attaches to perpetrators, not coin collectors or historians, whatever their feelings may be.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 07:26:07 PM »
I have yet to hear from a collector of concentration camp money who was jinxed by his collection.

I once had a token from a Hungarian prison camp in my collection. That collection was stolen. Mmmm. The thieves were caught. Mmmm. Maybe there's something to that piece after all ;)

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 07:29:18 PM »
As a young man, I did once wonder, not entirely seriously, whether one of the Nazi coins I owned might ever have passed through the hands of one of the top Nazis. However, some people do long to collect objects that have been owned by famous or infamous personalities. Perhaps it's just surprising that no coin has ever yet been advertised on ebay as, "This 50 Reichspfennig coin was once used by Hitler to buy a bar of chocolate for Himmler's young daughter."  :-X

Offline FosseWay

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 07:36:45 PM »
I too do not attach to coins (or other inanimate objects) any kind of emotion that I feel towards their issuer or people who may have used them. The possibility that a coin of mine may have been at a specific point in history or handled by someone (in)famous is intriguing and allows the thoughts to ramble, no more than that.

Where I am squeamish, if that's the right word, is in the field of medals. I don't collect them myself, so I have the luxury of not needing to question my judgement, but when I see medals awarded for bravery for sale on eBay it makes me sad. Sure, they may belong to someone whose long-dead relative won them in the First World War and who no longer sees any significance in them - it's their right to dispose of their property as they wish, of course. But there is always a nagging doubt in my mind when I see these sales that the medal holder him/herself has been forced to sell their medals because their government, having demanded and received a huge sacrifice then has turned its back on them. Obviously WW1 veterans are all dead, but with more recent medals I always wonder, especially ones from countries where serious poverty is a bigger problem than it is in most of the west. I'm thinking for example of the medal awarded to the liquidators of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and Red Army veterans who received medals in WW2.

Offline Prosit

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 08:03:11 PM »
Concepts certainly can be powerful...perhaps the most powerful thing in the world.
And just because it is a concept does not mean it isn't real to the believer nor that it should be ignored.
Everyone must judge for themselves.

Demolishing a convicted serial killer house certainly sends a strong message and well worth the effort.

Dale

I agree. Yet the UK authorities routinely demolish the houses of convicted serial killers, presumably because the concept is still potent for some people.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2017, 08:43:57 PM »
I agree. Yet the UK authorities routinely demolish the houses of convicted serial killers, presumably because the concept is still potent for some people.

Not just the UK. Isn't the Austrian government planning to demolish Hitler's birthplace?

Offline <k>

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Re: An unsettling thought
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2017, 08:50:15 PM »
Not just the UK. Isn't the Austrian government planning to demolish Hitler's birthplace?

Planning to, but it's still in abeyance, I understand.