Our community is discarding the useful weights and measures learnt by centuries of experience by replacing Imperial with Metric measure. The following article is from Keefe university, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England. It is about the proposed metrication of the United Kingdom but it clearly reveals the defeat of commonsense that metrication entails.
SURELY the most irritating excuse produced for the European Commission's banning of British Imperial weights and measures is the claim that feet and inches, gallons and pints, pounds and ounces do not belong in the "modern world". This claim has never cut much ice. The USA put Neil Armstrong on the moon using Imperial measurements and continues to use feet and inches in designing space satellites. The most modern desk-top publishing computer programmes use fractions of an inch to measure letter sizes, and electronic weighing scales in supermarkets display pound and ounces on digitalised readouts. What is not so well known is that it is in fact the metric system, which is outmoded and flawed, seriously hampering efficient practices of measuring, division and tallying.
The problem with metric is that every unit is based on the number ten. In weight, for example, there are 10 mg in 1 cg, 10 cg in 1 dg, 10 dg in 1 g, 10g in 1 Dg, 10Dg in 1hg, 10 hg in 1 kg, 10 kg in 1 Mg, and so on. Although metric's decimal structure is much acclaimed by supporters of conversion, the rigidity of constant multiplications of ten frequently means that metric measures overshoot desirable or useful proportions. Take the experience of the metric system in the building industry as an example. Metric fails to produce any intermediate unit between the decimetre (4 inches) and the metre (40 inches) and so deprives builders of the Imperial foot, used throughout history and suitable for a wide range of building needs such as planning grids. As a result, the building trade sector, both in Britain and in Europe, has created the "metric foot" of 30 centimetres together with larger units of 120 or 90 centimetres (metric yards) into which metric feet may divide. Metric in the building industry survives because the metre can be discarded in favour of measures that reproduce the very Imperial units metric was intended to replace.
Cans of soft drink provide another example of metric inefficiency. Drink cans cannot be produced in metric units because there are no metric measures available that reflect normal drinking quantities. The litre is much too big and the centilitre is much too small. Instead, the canning industry has had to divide the litre by about a third and produce a non-standard metric measure of "330 millilitres" in order to produce a suitable quantity. The figure of 330 millilitres does not constitute an exact third of a litre because no metric measure can be divided by three without producing an infinitely recurring decimal(3.333333 etc). Thus, three cans of Coke make 0.99 litres, not one litre. Rather than streamlining our system of measurement, metrication disrupts it.
Metric's inappropriate divisions are compounded by the fact that metric is based on abstract scientific principles which are aloof from everyday uses. The metre is defined as
"The length equal to 1,650,763.3 wavelengths in vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the levels 2p to base 10 and Sd to base 5 of the krypton 86 atom."
As fascinating as such equations are to atomic scientists, metric measures do not bear any relevance to the vast diversity of human activities such as commerce, construction, surveying, cooking and weighing new-born babies. Whereas the British system has evolved around the essentials of what people carry, drink or work with (producing the pound, pint and foot), the metric system is a combination of unergonomic units based on a number that can seldom be cleanly divided and from which important proportions cannot be expressed as single units. Metric is workable only by abandoning its standard measures, the metre, kilo and litre, and replacing them with units of different sizes based on human needs and totally unrelated to "wavelengths in a vacuum". And because of metric's decimal structure, desirable quantities can only be represented by larger numbers of numerous digits: the logical unit of one pound of tinned food therefore becomes the metric standard of 420 grams; one gallon of engine oil becomes five litres of oil; a straightforward foot of fabric becomes twenty-five centimetres of fabric; two inch wide masking tape becomes fifty millimetres; a pint of milk becomes five hundred millilitre units; and roof-boxes, baths and tables previously measured as five or six feet explode into hundreds of centimetres or thousands of millimetres.
Such conversions do not make numbers more logical or streamlined, just bigger. There is no magic process by which measuring the world in metric improves it. Selling petrol by litres instead of gallons does not improve efficiency or solve world pollution. Enforcing metric measures in the building industry does not make houses faster to build or ensure superior quality. Nor is there any evidence that converting clothing sizes from inches to centimetres will make clothes easier to fit.
Any glance at history will confirm the use of metric does not ensure success. Whereas Britain's industrial growth during the 1800s was at a time of Imperial measurements, Britain's decline from the 1960s was during the very first move towards metric. Going decimal in 1971 did not prevent the period of inflation that followed, nor has the metrication of school education improved the level of learning. During the Second World War, countries that used Imperial measures were victors while losers used metric. If metricators only studied the metric countries they are so keen to copy, they would find that most have adapted the metric system to reproduce Imperial measures that existed prior to their own metrication. Examples include the French "livre"and the German "Pfund" (500 grams, about one pound in weight), and the Swedish inch (25 millimetres). Numerous European industries have not yet converted to metric: the German gun industry, the Dutch plumbing trade and the Swedish timber industry all use Imperial measures. Belgium, home of the European Union, uses acres, not metric hectares. And it should not be forgotten that the most powerful economy in the world uses Imperial measures: the United States of America.
The lack of closely-argued research by the British Government to demonstrate the supposed "benefits" of metrication is even more astonishing considering that the costs of transferring to metric amounts to a staggering 12 billion. Having lost the technical argument, metricators resort to the claim that Imperial measures are "complicated and difficult to understand". This is rather like suggesting people are unable to grasp the concept of a right angle because right angles consist of ninety degrees rather than 100. It is a simple fact that we all live in an "irrational" 365 or 366 day year in which the measurements of hours, days and months involves units as diverse as 60, 24, 7,14, 28, 30, 31, 12 and 52. Although there is not a single ten involved in measuring the passage of time, this writer has yet to meet anyone who cannot tell the time because of the "confusing" division of hours into 60 rather than 100 minutes, or who is unable to remember the day because there are seven days in a week instead of a logical "ten".
The entire metric attack on Britain flies in the face of European Union President Jacques Santer's assurance in May 1995 that European Union did not threaten the UK's national identity or cultural traditions. The reality is that the European Union is intent on abolishing almost every British measure by means of European Union directives 89/617 and 80/181 which have compelled the metric conversion of a vast range of packaged foods, liquids, carpets and commercial documents affecting industry, local authorities and public sector administration. Small concessions such as the printing of Imperial measures in small print along metric on food packaging are likely to be withdrawn in 1999, and the few areas to escape this year's imposition, in particular the weighing of loose fruit in pounds and ounces, will be banned on January 1st 2000.
But surely, argue the supporters of European Union, Britain is now a part of Europe and should accept European ways. Here in lies the Great Euro-Lie. If the European Union regarded Britain as much a part of Europe as France and Germany, then it necessarily follows that pints are just as European as litres, and miles as European as kilometres. The European Union's hostility to the European way of life which has developed in Britain reveals that its definition of "Europe" is a strictly selective one. It defines what is European and what is not — and its campaign against European culture in Britain reveals that British people have no place in Europe other than as 57 million featureless numbers to add to the growing Euro-bureaucratic machine. An English village sweet shop can no longer sell four ounces of butterscotch but has to say "113 grams" and 9 by 4 inch envelopes will be re-labelled "229 x 102 millimetres" in a clumsy attempt to show how accurate metric can be. The British people, who have been quite happy with pints and pounds, will be forced instead to learn words like "decagram" and "hectalitre". But nowhere are the effects of metrication more ludicrous than in our courts. Any witness who refers to a six-inch knife will be told by the judge to say a "152 millimetre" knife and instructed to speak only in terms of centimetres and metres. Thus, even to speak in non-metric language will be banned by the European Union in some circumstances.
The sheer unpopularity of European Union directives 89/617 and 80/181 may be gauged by the Government's threat of £5,000 fines and six month prison sentences for those who use Imperial measures. Due to the Government's attempt to sneak the changes in unnoticed by the public at large, confusion and contradiction has surrounded just who and what is affected by the directives. Doorstep milk pints may stay (for the time being) but milk cartons have to go metric. Shandy in pints is banned but pints of beer may remain. Pizza restaurants may continue to refer to seven inch pizzas rather than "177 millimetre" pizzas, but it remains unclear whether bicycle shop assistants risk prosecution if they say that a cycle has an 18-inch wheel instead of a European Union approved "457 mm" wheel. And will the police be guilty of a criminal offence should they refer to a suspect's height in some official document as "six feet"? The classification "criminal" is a serious one and should be reserved for people who rob, assault and kill. That people like grocers and tailors can go to prison for failing to observe surreal metric-diktat is an indication of the mad Euro-whirlpool into which we are all being sucked.
Metrication is not the only form of uniformity being imposed by the European Union. Brussels has already phased in European Union passports and is now pushing the idea of a Euro-driving licence (complete with mugshots). This is likely to be followed by some sort of Euro-identity card. Perhaps Brussels might like to also consider scrapping British Bank Holidays and replacing them with Euro Holidays? Or introducing a Euro-wide telephone box design, or a single Euro-uniform for postmen, or the abolition of the British legal system? Or triangular tea-bags?
It defies belief that when there are so many real problems confronting Europe such as the war in Bosnia, Brussels finds time to fiddle about with such issues as whether manufacturers from outside Cornwall and Yorkshire should be permitted to call their products Cornish pasties and Yorkshire puddings. The European Union is presently considering a proposal by the European Parliament to set up a "European Observation Station" to monitor flying saucers. No less than 20,000 directives interfering in every conceivable subject from carrots and cucumbers to carpets and coffins have flooded out of Brussels. One of the European Union's most recent directives has been its historic decision to forbid the use of a harmless colouring dye in frozen mushy peas. As a result, frozen mushy peas will be sold yellow in colour from June 1996.
"I don't know what we're going to do," says John Clark, sales director of frozen mushy pea producer, Lockwoods of Ambergate, which employs 24 people. "We have been producing mushy peas for thirty years . . . We feel this is a case of the big boys in Brussels pushing around small British firms. "
Lockwoods of Ambergate will stop production in December 1995.
Other firms to feel the pressure of Euro-remoulding include rural garages which make small sales of petrol and have found it difficult meeting the cost of spending thousands of pounds on metric pumps. According to garage owner Frank Robertson from Cloughton, North Yorkshire,
"It's uneconomic to lashout on new pumps serving litres."
Mr Robertson's Orchard Garage opened in 1929 and has now closed as a result of metrication. According to a motor trade estimate, four thousand rural garages have closed. All thanks to the streamlined beauty of "European Union".
Europe has a long history of producing regimes and ideologies committed to the concept of the European superstate: Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia. Now we have the Brussels Bureaucracy, intent on invading every nook and cranny of our national life and imposing conformity and obedience on 365 million people. But there remains — just — a glimmer of hope. Although the European Union can force unpopular directives by means of legal and bureaucratic coercion, it has failed to realise that forcing people to measure their height in centimetres does not make people like centimetres. Forcing people to use kilometres instead of miles will not make them like kilometres. And forcing British people to carry European identity cards will not make people feel European.
Rather than forging a new European identity, the European Union's constant pushing is more likely to increase resistance, and it is in this that the seed of the European Union's future destruction will lie. "Metric Day" has cut Imperial measures down in swathes and has been a devastating defeat for commonsense. Yet anti-metric sentiment can be heard in pubs, offices and supermarkets across the country. Here and there individuals are turning to face the metric onslaught. Property consultant Mike Natrass of Birmingham's Natrass Giles, recently turned down a merger proposal when he learnt that the other company was going metric. He said,
"We are British and don't want to see things that are British being lost."
Another businessman, Bruce Robertson, owner of the Trago Mills Store Group in Devon and Cornwall, has made public his intention to risk fines in order to resist metrication. And spearheading the fight is the British Weights and Measures Association established by Vivian Linacre. Mr Linacre has vowed to stop metric absorption at all costs and is to challenge compulsory metrication in the European Court of Justice. Britain has four years before the current wave of metrication is completed. This period must be used to bring urgent pressure on our Government to halt the process it has so negligently permitted by giving the people of Britain a clear assurance that the mile and the pub pint will remain. The Government must decriminalise Imperial measures, resist the European Union's banning order on pounds and ounces on January 1st 2000, and, most important of all, restore the teaching of Imperial measures in education. Such a stand will at last tell the bureaucrats of Brussels that Britain is not about to be stamped, streamlined and standardised according to specifications decided by officials the British people did not elect. Otherwise, for every inch we give the European Union, they will take a mile, or, as the European Union would prefer to say,
"Give us 25.4 millimetres and we will take 1.609 kilometres. "
|« NEXT »||« Impact of Decline »||« Our Decline »||« Home »|