This morning’s effusion is in honour of my hero, Marshal Foch, whom gentle reader may recognize in his famous telegram to Marshal Joffre, during the First Battle of the Marne:
“My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.”
His commendably cheerful view of warfare is otherwise encapsulated in his collection of aphorisms, Precepts and Judgements, brightly translated by Hilaire Belloc (1920). I recommend it to all genuine (i.e. “traditional”) Catholics, and other sincere Christians, not only for its spiritual content — which is indirect — but as an expression of “attitude,” and for some hints on tactics and strategy, easily applicable to what we face now.
Against what, one may ask, should one direct one’s fire?
“Against the obstacles which may delay the march of one’s infantry.”
We start by taking out the enemy’s biggest guns. That is not where we finish. This is the opposite to the counsel now received from our more prominent fairies. They propose to work around the guns in plain sight, and look away from those partially hidden. While I agree that we should minimize casualties, especially on our own side, victory does not come without risk, and risk takes casualties. It is the Catholic tradition to take them cheerfully.
At the present day, our centre is giving way, and our right is retreating.
This is marvellous, as Marshal Foch would observe. It means we can attack in any direction.
According to information put before me this morning, only three countries have yet to embrace the metric system: Burma, Liberia, and the United States. However, the information presented (by a metric enthusiast) was out of date. Burma began metrificating in 2013, and Liberia secretly metrificated without anyone noticing. Truth to tell, the sick USA bureaucracy has been trying to metrificate for a long time, their problem being that the people won’t have it. And sometimes, in the USA, that counts.
It might also be observed, that every country in the world now has a decimal currency. This became a political necessity from the moment the world went off the gold standard, for paper money is, shall we say, more flexible. A decimal system helps to conceal the pain of inflation, as a paper currency gradually relaxes to the value of the paper it is printed on (and then to the electrons in which it is digitized). Of course, we aren’t thinking about this with interest rates approaching or passing into negative levels. But we will resume thinking about it when they climb to only a few percent.
People notice when something once available for a farthing goes over a penny, then over tuppence, thruppence, a sixpence, a shilling, a florin, a crown, a pound. These are benchmarks, but decimalize that currency, and it is all smooth sailing to Hell. The Chinese imperial bureaucracy discovered this when they invented paper money in the T’ang Dynasty. They were pioneers of decimalization. So much for the argument that it is “modern.”
For there is no such thing as a “modern” sin. You can’t invent one, however hard you try. It has all been tried before.
Note, that had God wanted us to metrificate, He would have given us ten fingers. Instead He gave us eight, plus thumbs: the same principle as an abacus. (Requires no electricity and is faster than entering the numbers on a keyboard.)
The metric system is sinful in the same way as any decimation, but right across the board. It removes all the benchmarks. Common speech recalls them in antiquated terms: we still do not say, “give him 2.54 centimetres and he will take 1.609 kilometres,” although my subeditors would sometimes make such changes to my copy, in the bad old days, out of their zeal to dehumanize. (Later, they couldn’t care.)
To my mind, it was interesting that long-established and much adored English measures could be easily translated into any other language, ancient or modern; and vice versa. This is because, before metrification, the “concept” of the inch or dactyl; of the palm, foot, cubit, yard, fathom; of the ounce and pound — were truly universal. God made us with feet and arms, hands, fingers, and heads — not only in England. And measures of area and volume developed just where these units intersected — a “pound,” for instance, being the cube of a hand’s breadth, in the weight of water. (And condensed into a stone, “just right,” for, say, tossing at a commie.)
Local discrepancies there were, all over the world, even from one town to another, and yet an English foot was in approximate range of a Paris foot, of an ancient Roman or Greek foot, of an Egyptian or Babylonian foot, of a Chinese or Japanese foot, et cetera. To the human mind, uncontaminated by the lust for false precision or spurious accuracy, it was all roughly the same.
Yet the fact of variety so scandalized the progressive, bloodthirsty savages of the French Revolution, that they leapt upon the latest decimal system which the Enlightenment pointy-heads had devised. To a figure like the number-crunching Condorcet, or his economist friend Turgot, it was as obvious that a soi-disant “rational” system of weights and measures should be imposed, as that soi-disant “equality” be visited upon every living human. (“Procrustean” is our word for this.) To their credit, John Adams spoke eloquently on what was wrong with Condorcet and Turgot; and Thomas Jefferson was father of the noble American resistance to metrification.
Clearly, an immediate obstacle to the advance of our infantry is the metric system. It is a big gun, and we must take it out. My scheme was inspired in Nippon, where workmen casually interpret the metre as three feet, and now measure tatami thus, “three feet by six.” Also in northern Europe, where they still call half a kilogramme a pfund. And by the jewellers of Amsterdam and Geneva who count five carats to the gramme. These are all good starting points for de-metrificatory subversion.
But what we need to subvert the metric system more profoundly is a scheme that can be readily adopted anywhere, which uses the universally-established metric system itself to calibrate precisely comparable physical magnitudes, to which all the classical measurement systems can then be adjusted.
The trick, paradoxically enough, is to make it easy to transfer any measurement to metric, thus stealthily meeting bureaucratic packaging requirements; but awkward to transfer back. I grant that this is counter-intuitive, but swear that it will work. The reason is that once people are able to think again in human terms, most will do so. The few who don’t will be left puzzling when they try to communicate their ridiculous trails of decimals back to the neat, hard fractions — the halvings and thirdings — which humans have always used to estimate scale and visualize transactions.
Mathematical nature is with us, here. As computer freaks know, 1000 looks clean, but is an impractical number. A more convenient “k” is instead 1024, quickly obtained by doublings. A million should be 1024 squared, and so forth. Let our trading libra, or mina, or pound, or pfund, or tael, be 512 grammes precisely. Let it consist of sixteen ounces, each of 32 grammes precisely. Let each gramme be divided into 5 stealthy carats, and thus precisely 15 grains (the carat, or “carob bean,” being equal to 3 “barleycorn” grains by ancient custom).
From our new standard “barleycorn” grain (or the alternative “wheatgrain” of 20 to a gramme, or “ratti-seed” of 8 to a gramme for India, et cetera) we may reconstruct all the classical systems, each easily converted into metric units, and thus co-existent with each other. The pennyweight of 24 grains, for instance, becomes 1.6 grammes precisely; the old drachm or drachma or franc or thruppence of 72 grains becomes 4.8 precisely; the shilling or sol will be 19.2; the crown of five shillings, 96; the “troy pound” of four crowns, 384 grammes — which is to say, exactly 12 of our newly-calibrated ounces. The mark, or half a commodity-trading pound, becomes precisely 256 grammes, or 8 of our old-and-new ounces. Et cetera.
(We may also use a 20-ounce pound or pint for specialized purposes. Pints of ale come to mind.)
Crucial proportions are thus restored, not only for measurement in silver and gold, but according with custom in all other commodities. I would not insist on the Western heritage, outside the West. On call, I am ready with a restored and improved system for pies, annas, rupees, and mohurs, that will integrate nicely with our Charlemagnian system of denarii, solidi, librae (thus renewing what the British East India Company did so patiently in 1833). Too, I have prepared a system for dollars, pesos, or thalers, which restores proper halves, quarters, pieces-of-eight, and then twelfths of those pieces, yielding 96 large coppers or “granos” to replace these irritating “cents” — each equal once again to the ha’penny or obol, and thus worth 1 grain of gold, or 12 of silver by mediaeval convention. (But I won’t fall for bimetallism; no, not me.)
Suddenly we have words for everything, and may find them in the common speech and literature of every language, and convert one unit to another by simple and comprehensible fractions. And, we may once again use our precious-metal coins for weights on our exquisite balances again (that need only gravity), with comparisons dis-abstracted.
I do hope gentle reader is paying attention.
A foot has 12 inches (finger-joints), to be Roman about it; or 16 dactyls (finger-breadths), to be Greek or Asiatic. Let us restore this so that a dactyl is 2 centimetres precisely, an inch thus 8/3rds, and a foot right on 32 centimetres — which happens to be within a few hairs of the old Paris foot, which was a standard across Europe until the metrificators wrecked it.
Now, let us take 5760 of these feet to make a mile, and we are very close to the nautical mile, still used in navigation, for it corresponds to the surviving ancient division of our home planet, by increments of 360 Babylonian degrees, of 60 miles each, then 60ths of those; as too, the 24 hours, then 60th minutes, then 60th seconds, at which that world turns (a mile takes the sun four seconds). For hexagesimals are so beautiful, and so apt, to the wheels-in-wheels turning, nonny, nonny. … O, how the wheel becomes it!
Everything now falls into place, large and small. And better, that old-and-new mile may now be divided for the nice determination of sequential lengths, and areas, into eight easily-divisible 720-foot furlongs; or into 96 of 60-foot chains; or 60 of 96-foot chains; or 960 fathoms, or 1920 yards, or 3840 cubits, as you please — all ticked by the sun (at least along the equator).
Repeat after me: “three inches equals four dactyls equals eight centimetres,” strictly. With this aphorism in mind, gentle reader may quickly summon a pint of water (or ale!) before his thirsty imagination. For this is the cube root of our pound of water, a fairly common substance on the surface of this planet (measured distilled at sea level), roughly equal in weight to so many other liquids. That cube is, as the arithmetical reader must immediately see, precisely 512 cubic centimetres (or 64 cubic dactyls, or 27 cubic inches). And there you have also your 512 grammes.
As Pope Gregory XIII took the initiative in fixing our solar calendar, let Pope Francis or his successor take it in fixing our weights and measures — so to bring them, too, back to observed realities. This is a fine Catholic tradition, of service not only to Catholics but all men, and for a modest fee, and suitable lodgings in Rome, I will be happy to advise.