With the introduction of place-value notation some 400 years ago, our predecessors soon realised that a primitive finger-counting scale of ten, inherited from way back before its mathematical incompetence could have been recognised, did not permit the new and more versatile method of calculation to achieve its full potenial, particularly as everything in the objective world, and all our interactions with it and one another, proceed by twos, threes and fours.
Our instinctive judgements on anything measurable - time, distance, weight, volume or value are formulated by the unit fractions of these primary numbers - halves, thirds and quarters. Together they also form important features of mathematical structures. Fives and fifths, the only whole parts of ten, are rarely considered and seem mainly involved in irrational functions. It is reasonable therefore to suggest that the most appropriate numbering scale for all purposes is the one containing the above numbers as integral factors, i.e. twelve. The important fractions appear in base twelve concisely as single figures: 0·6, 0·4 and 0·3.
The need for divisibility extends beyond the arithmetical. Since early times, Man has been able to divide up his weights and measures into the simple proportions mentioned, with units selected that were best suited to his physical needs and perceptions. The use of a dozen scale for both social and technical work, which have differing requirements and are separated by incompatible patterns of thought, will provide a means of unifying the two.
The principles that an effective system of measures should make available to the user are: Named, manageable and ergonomic sizes which can readily be divided into helpful proportions, and rated by one or two figures. The metric system negates all of these, and its blanket imposition over our affairs has been solely for political and commercial reasons, with a 'spin' that it is scientific, only true in part. A selling point is simplicity, but this is more apparent than real. Perhaps part of the 'dumbing down' process so much in evidence nowadays.
Napoleon, unjustly blamed for the introduction of the Metric System, thought it was too simple and became highly critical of it. He wrote in his memoirs that "they" suppressed all common fractions: "Nothing is more contrary to the organisation of the mind, of the memory, and of the imagination." We could not put it more succinctly today!
In its latest form metric is no longer decimal but millimal, obliging us to juggle with three-figure quantities of diminutive units for everyday requirements. The divisibility problem of a ten scale has thus been evaded, and, in effect, it is a return to elementary counting. If this is progress, the question as always is: "Cui Bono"? Most so-called reforms are no more than a transfer of difficulties to areas less able to defend themselves. When having to deal with the world around us by means of nondescript lifeless, non-human measures, which bear no relationship to anything but one another, and are subservient to an abstract numerology, we will be further alienated from that world than we already are and at risk of being reduced to nonentities ourselves.
The Metric System is an unfortunate combination of unergonomic measures locked into a rigid structure whereby form becomes dominant over fact and does not allow any departure from itself for practicalities. As a triumph of counters over doers, it is well suited to the interests mentioned in the fourth paragraph for their control and admin. purposes. Disraeli should have said: "Lies, damned lies" and decimalised statistics; C. P. Snow's two cultures, broadly intellectual and scientific, are becoming forced together from the wrong direction and for the wrong reason.
Commentators on the 20th Century scene have noted unwelcome trends to disparage our past, and attempts to detach us from it. Similarly the French revolutionaries intention was "pour changer toute cela", complete with ten hour day and ten day week. "Man without a memory" would be the ideal controllable citizen who lived in a perpetual present, and for whom only the latest diktat or advert had any meaning. Metrication is the appropriate tool for this situation, by having no history of its own (apart from a fossilised numeration) and no future without legal protection and imposition.
A recent survey found that some 70% of us are at least disenchanted with metrication, and many are very angry at the loss of their 'tools of trade'. Most are not sure why. The DSGB patiently explains that our traditional measures are not so unscientific as we are being led to believe. With their binary and ternary structures, they are potentially more scientific than the artificial bureaucratic arrangement now being foisted upon us. Our invaluable birthright is being handed over for nothing more than a litre of pottage.
Nobody has any right to destroy something we have not yet learned to use properly. Common measures should be retained for general use. As common laws do in other fields, they provide. a safeguard against restrictions to our liberties of both thought and action by technical trickery. All will not be lost, however. Attempts to metricate America have met with very strong opposition as each State listens to the voice of its citizens and protects them against interference from the 'Feds'. We are confident that: Measurement of the people, By the people, For the people, will not vanish from the Earth.