Posted by Jay Livingston
Today is World Standards Day. “The aim of World Standards Day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.” It seems like a good idea, everyone using the same standards and measurements. It makes stuff like the Internet possible. It’s sort of like the metric system. Everything from machine parts to scientific reports made in one country can be used in any other country. Almost.
Map of countries officially not using the metric system
The map reminded me of Ann Coulter’s rant against soccer back during the World Cup. It was, I hope, her attempt to be funny à la Stephen Colbert – which made her a conservative imitating a liberal imitating a conservative. The Colbert ploy allowed her to be more outrageous than usual in her xenophobia and flaunting of American exceptionalism.
The increased popularity of soccer in the US, she said, is “a sign of the nation’s moral decay.” Among her supporting theses was this:
|Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it's European. . . .|
Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more “rational” than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That's easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?
American exceptionalism is, at least in part, the idea that the rules everyone else plays by do not and should not apply to the US. The underlying assumption is that our ways are better. It follows therefore that we should pay no attention to anything outside our shores, and the rest of the world should be like us.*
As for World Standards Day, we do celebrate it – just not today. In the US, World Standards Day will be October 23, a day when no other country will be celebrating it.
* Often mixed in with this arrogance is a resentment of foreigners who do not follow our example and do not do what we tell them to. The Coulter and Colbert oeuvre must have many examples, but the one that comes to mind readily is Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (this version is from 1972, when the song was new and Newman was young – or do I mean when the song was young and Newman was new?)
HT: Shankar Vedantam