A precedent embalms a principle

By | 4th January 2011

“A precedent embalms a principle.” Benjamin Disraeli’s quip should appeal to all free thinking people. After all, as the American philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller once said: “People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things.”

Most people have a fondness for tradition. It is what gives us a warm glow of familiarity. There are few more “traditional” times than Christmas and New Year, despite the attempts by many sections of the media and even at times the Church to persuade us to the contrary.

We like the feel of things which are familiar. This past year I have enjoyed the differing seasons from the cold of December 2009 through to a warm and sunny spring, followed by a typical English summer, quite wet but reasonably warm, and now the cold of winter again. The weather has also played its part in producing spectacular autumn foliage on the trees, a flourishing of some of our endangered species from butterflies to puffins and a bumper fruit and berry crop. I confess to a feeling of smugness when I consider this against the never ending pronouncements of the global warming doomsayers!

The elements are not always kind. The past 12 months have seen the floods in Pakistan and the earthquake in Haiti. We have seen a busy hurricane season. We have had snow and ice in this country beyond the apparently meagre capacity of the authorities at our stations and airports. Now they are back to a semblance of normality we hear about blizzards on the east cost of the US where over a foot of snow fell in New York such that skis were suddenly the best way to get about the city and planes which could now fly to our airports are grounded at JFK, Newark etc.

On Christmas Day, my wife and I went skating! We were not in an expensive US or Alpine resort but in Norfolk. Muffled up in the warmest clothes we could find and digging out an antique pair of skates we enjoyed an hour or so around sunset on a lake near home in gorgeous sunshine in a cloudless sky, followed by an amazing sunset. The temperature was about 25 Fahrenheit (in traditional money!) and we were fortified only by our own exhilaration, supported by a blazing bonfire at the edge of the lake and a bottle of sloe gin.

Tradition? Yes, sort of! We had had no turkey but had been to church. The turkey came later courtesy of kind and dear friends so there was a mixture of the old and the new that day. We were surrounded by family, but on this occasion for the first time not by our daughters who were spending Christmas with the families of their respective husbands. As Mr Fuller said, we did not accept the conventional way of doing things, although we may well go back to tradition next year.

Over the past 16 months, I have tried to inform my readers of some of the changes taking place in the world of smart e-discovery and smart insourcing. There is a clear sense of change out there in the market for such services and the traditional ways of dealing with electronic documents and disclosure are changing.

In my next post I will return again to the subject of tradition but for the time being, may I leave you with the thought that the ending of some traditions can be an uplifting experience!

I quote from a Christmas message from one of my cousins based in New South Wales, Australia.

He said: “I have spent a certain amount of time over the past few days watching your far superior boys putting our boys to the sword. It has not been much fun!”

Forgive the smugness again, but I have to disagree with him. It has been the greatest fun! The tradition of being hammered down under is one I am happy to abandon (until the next time).

Telling you about all this is frankly an indulgence. However, we have all indulged a bit over the past few weeks and it does not appear to have done us any harm.