Both, I think.
In celebration of their bicentennial year, we have the New Jacobins of the EC - the boys from Brussels - on a joyous victory rampage of kicking to bits what is left of Imperial/rational measure and generally showing the Brits Who's Boss Around Here.
They have learned that it is not necessary - indeed, is counterproductive - to subjugate people by the messy business of cutting off heads; all that is needed is to subvert and then destroy their culture.
Initially, of course, it can be desirable to strike a quick, decisive blow which will inflict strategic damage before the victims have time to realize what is happening. With Pizarro and his Spaniards in Peru it was the deceitful capture and subsequent execution of Atahualpa, their king (whom they had supposed to be invulnerable),which demoralized the Inca and led to their enslavement.
For the British, the killing of £sd was the essential breaching of defences: the disarming of Britannia had to precede the cultural rape now nearing completion; (it is insolently symbolized in the coinage: compare an old penny - Britannia sits, dignified and upright, holding her trident erect - with the decimal 50p piece, where the trident is laid back compliantly, the shield is pushed aside and the lady, now clad in diaphanous garments, displays herself looking more like a complaisant odalisque than a guardian).
We have our own Jacobins (people we might once have called quislings) who, avid for Napoleonic Europe, have infiltrated Government and Civil Service alike and have, since the late 1950s, lost no opportunity to denigrate and ridicule everything British. Institutions and customs were castigated, Imperial overseas responsibilities shed, (Imperial uniforms were sold in London as fancy dress for the permissive society mayflies of the pop world) and the people generally 'softened up' in readiness for the loss of their heritage.
The success of these saboteurs, however, was and is dependent upon the Jackasses: those people of flawed education, limited perception and a slavish obedience to fashion who were and still are in positions of influence.
Many MPs, teachers, managers, trade-unionists, etc., actually came to believe Europe to be Better In Every Way and so joined enthusiastically in the great surrender which began with that decisive blow in February 1971 and is now almost finished.
Virtually every intelligent human activity is permeated by measurement. What we see now - and what will continue unless a very unlikely reaction sets in - is a mopping-up operation as Brussels issues directive after directive, with no resistance from a nation whose freedom has been signed away.
All remaining pockets of rational measure are to be inoculated with the culture-killing metric virus until only miles on our roads and pints in our pubs remain to suggest that this was once Great Britain - and how long will they last as we allow ourselves to become, like Rossum's Universal Robots or, perhaps, like the Eloi in Wells' "Time Machine": a domesticated herd of near-identical and programmed consumer units, devoid of initiative and numbed from development by the anaesthetic decimal?
SIR - [The magazine] Nature suffers from tunnel vision in smugly condemning Americans for preferring the British system of weights and measures (Nature 344, 575; 1990). This attitude fails to appreciate that units of measurement are not merely calculating devices, but integral components of a nation's cultural matrix.
As such they are the numerical equivalents of the languages, traditions and customs that identify and enrich us both collectively and as individuals.
The ineluctable march of the metric system represents the victory of cold calculation over the ebullience of the human spirit. Once its triumph is complete, the world's cultural gene pool will have become further depleted and humanity reduced one more step towards the mentality of the average robot.
C. H. Evans, Blackheath Grove, London SE3 ODH, UK; (Nature vol.345
The pint and the mile should be abolished when Britain goes metric says a leading consumer body.
Serving beer by the pint while other drinks are bottled in metric units will only confuse customers, according to the National Federatlon of Consumer Groups.
Common Market chiefs have promised a permanent exemption of the pint for serving draught beer and an indefinite extension for the mile when Britain is brought into line with the rest of Europe.
The federation wants 1999 set as the deadline for abolition of the mile
Europe = metric = decimal. We have had a general election in which the choice lay among pro-Europe Conservatives, even-more-pro-Europe Labour and fanatically-pro-Europe Liberal Democrats. Some of us may feel disenfranchized. Should we go on? Should we continue the pursuit of dozenal arithmetic and rational measure in the face of implacable hostility? I think so; but we need encouragement: articles, letters (both to the Journal and to the Press, etc.) and ideas. Let us hear from you!
On a recent Scale of Charges for private use of official telephones, Hampshire County Council gives the radius outside which charges increase abruptly to 'long distance', or 'trunk' rates as 56·4 km.
Now, that's got a ring to it, has it not? How much more impressive it is to say: "Fifty-six-point-four kilometres" than to mumble on about old-fashioned stuff like "thirty-five miles". Makes one really believe in progress, doesn't it?
To combat the rising incidence of serious road accidents involving young, inexperienced drivers, the Automobile Association has proposed that an automatic period of disqualification should follow accumulation of six penalty-points during the first year after passing the test. The limit would be raised to nine points during the second year and to the usual twelve points thereafter.
A clear example of sensible, duodecimal thinking? Certainly, the intermediate nine-points limit would be impossible with decimals: there is no such thing as half a penalty-point.
Back in pre-decimal times, British people carried their weights and measures in their pockets and purses. Three pennies (3d.) weighed one ounce, as did five halfpennies or ten farthings. Four shillings' worth of pennies made 1 lb.
The halfpenny was exactly one inch in diameter and the penny, one-and-one-fifth inch; thus, twelve halfpennies side-by-side measured one foot, as did ten pennies. The sixpence was exactly three-quarters of an inch across, so two sixpences gave 1 ½ inches and sixteen of them made one foot.
Thus, one could make quick checks of weight and length with one's small change. No doubt we should all be grateful that decimalization has rescued us from such dangerous, old-fashioned nonsense.