Ecuador, the Dollar and the Bureaupean Community


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We will return to lucre/sucre in a moment, but obviously must first respond to any thoughtful citizen's bewildered and plaintive query, "What is a terminologist?" And why would the European Central Bank need one, and how was it able to get along without the master epigrammatist for which it is prepared to provide a "competitive salary structure"? (Competitive in what literary or verbal context? Sitcomedy writers? MTV sloganists? Namers of cheeses? Flavor theorists at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream? Writers of liner notes for rap albums?)



Anybody who has had anything to do?even as a violent critic or depressed and thwarted enthusiast of human variety?with the blunderingly insensitive socio-economic forces that animate the European Community, its currency and rules, will know that a Terminologist must be at the very heart of the evolving body of modern Europe. What I have called the Bureaupean Community cannot exist without its wordmeisters, who excel in reducing idiosyncratic delicacy and regional oddity to a special and


mystifyingly a-human vocabulary. Occasionally one hears the term "term of art," which I don't really understand. But the European Community's contribution to the human cornucopia of unnecessary subachievements is only in "terms of nonart." That I understand.


It starts with reality, not words. Once I rented a house near Avignon that had a pear orchard, which during the August rental period produced utterly glorious and kind of astonishing pears?pears unlike others. But they rotted on the trees. When I asked the owner why, he said that the rule of the European agricultural policy then in formation was that the only fruits and presumably vegetables to have a continental market were those that could be picked early enough to sit in a rail car or warehouse for 10 days or some period like that so they could be released across the many European borders without disturbing the existing markets. What Americans do by gassing fruits so they ripen slowly, the Europeans accomplished by bureaucratic rules. So beautiful pears rotted, while the ones skilled at hovering uneventfully in chilly warehouses, not vibrant orchards in Provence, became the only ones widely available.


An earnest terminologist was unquestionably drafted to draft the names and job descriptions of these haplessly depressed fruits. Teams of terminologists had to be consulted on the countless other regulations governing foods (only pasteurized cheese please), fabrics, everything, meant to cross an existing continental border. No doubt the same kind of linguistic homogenization of national realities will be subject to the tender verbal mercies of the lucky "his/her with a native-speaker command of an official Community language" as well as (let's not forget practicality altogether) "An excellent command of English..." to say nothing of "skills in terminology management with software packages such as TRADOS's MultiTerm and Translator's Workbench... Self-motivation and the ability to work as part of a team are very important." (You have until Jan. 31 to apply?contact MUGGER for details, especially if you thrive on terminology management, for example, the way Julia Roberts thrives on teeth.)


But there is an immensely serious process under way here, nothing less than the consolidation of Europe?and Ecuador's dollarization is part of the same historical force of weaker entities trying to associate with stronger. Anthropologists have a professional interest in protecting and even celebrating human variety, because it is clear that variation is the fundamental insurance policy of species as they face changing external and internal conditions. Twenty kinds of mushrooms is better for people who like mushrooms?and it's also better for mushrooms, because if one gets overfished or suffers a specialized parasite, then 19 other mushrooms will continue the march of proud mushroomdom into the future.


Same with people, it could, and probably should, be argued. There is no question the European movement has reduced national variability, if only because lowered borders have allowed products?often attractive ones?to compete with local ones and subdue their eccentricity and prosperity. Paradoxically, it is this relaxation of European borders that has made it easier for American companies such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's to enter the Community widely and attract consumers who favor their products. This was presumably not the intention of the founders of the EC, who intended that its triumph would do the opposite?allow small countries to combine to take on The Big One.


But so far, not so good, as some of us thought was bound to happen and, in fact, announced. The euro has endured a disastrous first year in which it lost about 15 percent of its value against the dollar?a huge and embarrassing slippage for a supposedly grownup currency. It remains somewhat tremulous as a reliably useful factor in international trade. And the French especially (but not only) have forcefully urged hostility to American power. Naturally, this is first at the usual and colorful cultural level?all them movies, and burgers and hit songs?but they have even contemplated an independent European military force, which is more likely to cause vexatious financial and politico-military trouble for members than soothe their national vanities.


Meanwhile, the disaster of Russia is at its porous gates, and the tragedy of the Balkans dances like a specter during its various ongoing negotiations. And meanwhile the possible future residence of the great German Europhile, former Chancellor Kohl, is the slammer, or at least the doghouse, for secretly palming political bribes. His Euro-associate, France's wily Mitterrand, is already dead. Without its two main champions, the possibly constructive political energies of the European project have had to move uneasily to Shakespeare's insular England for some rhythm and redemption. Yes, the very same English whose revered Sunday Joint Of Beef was exiled from European arrondissements, even while stolid consumers of steak-and-kidney pie in Scotland and Sussex were enjoying lunch without keeling over stone dead before the evening news featuring strident detail about the latest lorry strike in Brittany.


This week's Davos meeting of the political and economic potentates of the world will focus on globalization, which will provide an opportunity for the Seattle Ten Thousand to repeat their mantras of hostility to the forces that reduce national variation and create channels of influence through which the rules of the rich and powerful can affect the lives of everyone else. So when Ecuador decides to let its monetary tail be wagged by the American dog, it has no choice but to suspend important features of its national politics and challenge local industries to adapt to the forces of America, instead of local ones. Sensible people think this is a great thing, and other sensible people think it is awful. In any event, the characteristics of the new world that is emerging like a very slow Polaroid picture are very difficult to describe. Quick, get our Terminologist.


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