Ecuador, the Dollar and the Bureaupean Community

Written by Lionel Tiger on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

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?)

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

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.

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.