Saturday, October 27, 2007

The New Monks Of Europe

One of the best books I have ever read is The Discarded Image by CS Lewis. Scurrying around the house I have been unable to locate my copy but I remember enough about his picture of the later Medieval educated man and how it felt for him to be alive .

When such a man walked out into the night he did not think the stars were nearby.He knew they were unimaginably distant , but they were a finite distance away, and further more they were 'up'. Newtonian Gravity was not available and he thought of up and down going on forever ,a sensation that speaks to your bones. He also envisioned the cosmos as full of light and music. Space was was concieved as a huge Cathedral in which he, man, stood unmoving at the centre . This picture delighted the scholars seeming to place everything in its place and tie in every scrap of knowledge they had. There is none of the existential panic that so typifies the modern mind when it looks out at the stars . Everything was in its allotted place.

This idea of the Cosmos was only part of an all encompassing model which is the eponymous discarded image . Lewis argues that Mediaeval man at his most typical was not a romantic and the Knightly genre was unusual . In serious moments he was a list make, codifier and reconciler.

He had a great job on his hands . The people of that period did not think of themselves as progressing they were conscious of the greater achievements of the Classical era and thought of themselves as comfortably half way done the stairs in a position of equilibrium . They looked back to the golden achievements of the past rather than revering everything modern and progressive.

The Classical period they worshipped was unfortunately one they understood very little. They had no idea then that the dustbin of miscellaneous texts bequeathed from antiquity were of entirely different types and periods . Urban Comedies religious texts Christian and pagan , separated by a thousand years, were treated as equallY ‘true’ . Not unnaturally monstrous contradictions arose, that the Mediaeval mind set about reconciling with assiduous glee together with Germanic folk wisdom . This multi generational task was not unlike the building of Cathedrals .The model encompassed science medicine religion and every aspect of their world. It is itself the great achievement of that period and each Monk liked to add his own flourish to its perfection . Think of the elaborate lettering or the accumulation of detail, in the Gothic style .

The problem with it all was that it was not true . As an artistic exercise it was mesmerising but it did not work . Most of the progress of Victorian medicine was not so much progress as realising the remnants of the model were utterly wrong , with their humours and demons.To the Monk knowledge cam from ‘Auctoritee’ not empirical experiment which would have affronted his religion and his temprement

Shoot forward in time to the present and I have been wondering why it is that such a plainly doomed endeavour as trying to homogenise Europe into a single state acquires such pseudo religious adherence . Are we , experiencing the re-assertion of the Monkish codifying tendency that was so predominant for so long .?

Think of the way a piece of legislation is born . An especially controversial one ( See Christopher Booker The Castle of Lies ) was the near destruction of our lettuce growing industry in the 90s due to the proliferation of viral nitrate regulation . It started with a carcinogen scare on Germany and the attempt to legislate for levels in their own country . This immediately came under the auspices of the EC Commissions standing committee on food as a potential restriction of trade. The proposed restrictions would make growing under glass impossible and so Southern Europe was delighted and supported the regulation which would finish the UK`s £65 million industry centred in Lancashire . Other Northern European countries did not understand the implications and promised support .Commission regulation the input of politicians was not essential . There was no evidence to support the cancer scare and the UK`s product was universally consumed domestically . Nonetheless the UK government were obliged to enforce a law that wiped out our industry . In fact at that time a five year breather was agreed and I am not up to date with the denouement.

My point here is that the supposed attempt to level trade between vastly differing and highly controlling states is inevitably going to spawn an fractal level, of codifying and and complicating . To the Monkish mind the very complexity of it is beautiful.

Like the Medieval system however it does not work and will be exposed by empirical experience . Unlike that discarded image, it bequeaths nothing but ugly inscrutable Articles and memoranda as well as a ravenous Mantioch that sucks the life force of nations into itself and feeds on their still twitching limbs


Old BE said...

What is it 9% of our companies trade within the EU by 100% have to comply with the rules?

Newmania said...

I`ve read that as well Ed..dunno

Arthurian Legend said...

Yes; that strikes me as right. 80% of British trade is internal; 11% with non-EU countries, 9% with EU countries. All products made in Britain (whether or not for export to the EU) have to be made in conformace with EU product and labour regulations.

N - the maw of Mantioch has been devouring me for the past two months as I spent 200 hours (mostly outside work) preparing an hour's lecture to be given to fellow lawyers on recent decisions of the European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance.

I can hear you snoring lightly already.

Actually, I managed to make the talk quite funny and it was well received, but I was interested to note an observation by one of the Lord Justices of Appeal in the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Jacob LJ, to the effect that between 1945-1995 there had only been about 10 trade mark cases go before the House of Lords. There are that number going before the ECJ in trade mark law every 6 months. The amount of lawyers' time and money spent on the system is incredible....

Best wishes for the move this week. Very sad to see you go. Always welcome back for Sunday lunch when you feel like it.

Newmania said...

So kind of you AL ...I plan to keep in touch ...Really impressed with what you have been up to . I will be working in Croydon and in the City from time to time.

You do have a good lugubrious wit I would have like to have heard that , did you have a transcript ?

Anonymous said...

Ed said...

What is it 9% of our companies trade within the EU by 100% have to comply with the rules? (ED)

And of those 9% of companies, 90% either do not get paid by their EU clients,or get paid so late or so erratically they these UK companies wish they had never begun trading with Europe.

Start trading with an EU company - often as the result of the takeover of a UK company you've traded with for years - and, once the contract is bedded in, one of the first things you'll be told is:

"Terms of business and payment in the EU operate within different conventions to those prevaling in UK"

Whereas you had contracted for weekly or monthly payment of invoices, the contract is changed to payment at 60 or 90 days from month end. So it may be 5-6 months down the line before a UK company twigs that this was a stalling tactic, payment is either not going to be made at all or only part made.

Debt chasing and/ or suing and EU company for non payment is such a nightmare, costly business that SME owners I know of simply write off the bad debt and resolve not to trade outside UK again.

Auntie Flo'

Yes, I'm speaking from my own experience and that of colleagues who own SMEs.

Nick Drew said...

Mr Mania, your medievalist analogy is excellent and highly illuminating

we need to start an anti-clerical revival, a dissolution of these pernicious monasteries

who will rid us ... ?

this should be a popular cause

Anonymous said...

When learning history at prep school (sort of to A-level standard but it WAS 1962!) we learned that Napoleon "codified the Laws". we were sort of given to understand, although it was not explicityly stated as far as I remember, that "The Laws" were in a mess before that. As Napoleon is the LUCA (= Last Universal Common Ancestor, a Matt Ridley term from genetics) of "liberal"-socialism, nazism, communism and the EU, then perhaps "codification" is soemthing that dictocrats and Aristotelian monks really really want to do and think is right.

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