Our founding fathers were Penny Wise. They created the world's first decimal currency.

Sadly, we remain Pound Foolish. The rest of the world uses simple metric systems of measurement, while we Americans continue to struggle with yards, pounds, and tablespoons.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish. Time to wise up, America!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why?

   “Hazel, come wash your hands!”
   “Why?”
As her mother answered, 2 ½ year old Hazel’s grandmother turned to me and confided, “She just entered the WHY? stage last week.”
The WHY? stage! I love that phase, when toddlers provoke adult conversation. Their vocabularies grow exponentially. They listen for phrases to mimic. They demand instruction in their native tongue.
We humans outgrow this stage.  Early in life, we learn to take pride in knowing routines and traditions. Wave bye-bye. Say grace. Answer the phone. Our way of life provides comfort, and even helps to define us as members of distinct cultures. Accepting society’s norms makes everyday life livable.
But adherence to the status quo can also stymie growth. Think of all of the innovations that have changed modern life, and of all of the stick-in-the-mud nay-sayers who have tried to maintain the-way-we've-always-done-it.
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" --H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." --Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." --Western Union internal memo, 1876. 
Cultures must evolve, borrowing ideas from others, embracing inventions, and winnowing the chaff of the past to ensure a better future. I love sundials, letterpress printing, and homespun wool. But I use digital clocks and computers, and I wear polartec fleece.  Mature adults learn to adapt and change.
America once was like a toddler, pushing the staid cultures of the world by asking why their traditions should stand. Why a monarch? Why not use a sensible currency, dollars and cents? Why should government be tied to religion? We seem to have outgrown that phase, but are now trapped in tradition.
As a nation, there are many changes that we could make to signal our adulthood. Stop spending money we don't have. Do unto others, as we wish them to do unto us. Set priorities: nurture the young,  heal the sick, and honor the elderly.
I propose one bold but simple first step: Proclaim to ourselves and to the world that we can change:
Adopt the Metric System!
Throw off the chaff of inches and gallons and degrees Fahrenheit, and implement the system of measurement that is used throughout the world.
“Why?” you might ask.
I hardly know where to begin. So many stories to tell. Tales from history, of politics, of stodginess. This bold step offers a bounty of benefits.  In 2012 I plan to explore them all.

2 comments:

  1. you had me at "Hazel". You make a very convincing point so far... looking forward to reading the rest!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why? I can't wait to find out.

    ReplyDelete