Thomas F. King really dived into the issue of protecting our heritage in his book, but that is a very obvious observation giving such the title of his book. Interesting aspects of his book were, as others have mentioned, laws and bureaucracies. While both laws and bureaucracies bring about their own unique problems to heritage protection. Being able to examine and pick apart the issues within those two aspects of the King’s book allows the reader to come to a common conclusion in order to protect our heritage. We must not only actively participate as an individual to save our heritage, but work to get the community involved as well.
Dealing with government agencies can seem like an impossible task at times. Everyone has some story about the inability of some government agency to accomplish any task in a quick and efficient way. The ineffectiveness of certain bureaucracies and the individuals within them seems to create a stereotype that people easily accept. The stereotype being that the various bureaucracies and the laws that they use are inept to adequately handle the tasks that lay before them or to deal with the people who come to them. As Jim pointed out, King’s pessimistic attitude toward bureaucracies hides the fact that there are people within the system who want to help protect places of historical or cultural value.
Although the book King wrote has an agenda in terms of heritage sites and development, he does manage to convey to the reader the difficulties present in conservation. I think having spent a part of his life battling aspects of the system in order to protect heritage sites created a pessimistic, or defeatist, attitude within King. When you witness something destroyed and felt that the system in place proved incompetent at procuring the goal you wanted, it can become soul crushing. Knowing this perspective helps to show people the portion of the reality that exists in conservation and having this knowledge prepares one to undertake this, at times, seemingly hopeless mission.