Update: The Medieval WTO

A nearly immediate update–I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming.

It looks like living down the medieval crack is something Mr. Lamy has had to do for a long time. Originally, in Seattle, after what he has called many times since “a long night,” he blamed the failure of talks in Cancun on the WTO’s “medieval decision making structure,” then reiterated later, on Sept 15, 2003, to be exact:

“Despite the commitment of many able people, the WTO remains a medieval organisation. I said this in Seattle, got a lot of flak, and I have to repeat it here. The procedures and rules of this organisation have not supported the weight of the task. There is no way to structure and steer discussions amongst 146 members in a manner conducive to consensus. The decision-making needs to be revamped.”

And in a later speech, he had this to say, quoting someone who (apparently) came to his defense:

I am often asked if I regret my rather strong words about the WTO as a medieval institution in Seattle. To this, I can only note that I was rapidly trumped by Mike Moore, who – reacting to my remark – said that the WTO was not medieval, but Jurassic. I don’t know who exercised leadership in the Jurassic era, but I do know that the Tyrannasaurus Rex certainly had at very least the power of initiative, and so I can understand Mike hankering back to this era.

So, I’m really a johnny come lately to the whole jumping on Pascal for his word choice bandwagon. Yet unlike most people, who think he was being unfair to the WTO, I think he’s being unfair to the medieval era. But when I try to figure out what word he meant to use, or what word he ought to have used, the word that leaps immediately to mind is “byzantine,” because he isn’t meaning to say that the WTO is brutal or unenlightened or superstitions, rather that it is unnecessarily complex.

I guess this means that the guy who runs “Got Byzantine” is going to be mad at me for unfairly labeling the Byzantine Empire or the city of Byzantium as “secret, difficult to understand, and extremely intricate and complex; torturous” (which is how allwords.com defines “byzantine“). For that matter, the guy at “Got Johnny Come Lately” and his friend at “Got Bandwagons” are probably furious, too. And the United Barbershop Quartet League of Acron, Ohio, is definitely on my case for trying to shift the negative meanings from the word “medieval” back to the word “barbarous.” And I keep getting hate mail from a suspiciously dressed cartoon elephant monarch.

Anyway, Pascal probably meant to say “archaic and ineffective,” but he just used the shorthand “medieval,” which each day comes more and more to mean “bad in some unspecified but definitely not modern way.” However, every time he explains himself, he alters what he meant by medieval, which is not that surprising given that he’s a career politician.

His crack about the T. Rex renders everything meaningless, though, because he seems to be saying, “The Jurassic period was primitive and unorganized, but at least the T.Rex could do what he wanted to.” If the star of Jurassic Park I is a good metaphorical stand-in for the sort of leader that Pascal would like to be, then surely there are lots of medieval people who also took initiative that he could emulate: Henry II, Frederick Barbarossa, Innocent III, Mel Gibson… the list goes on and on. Now pardon me while I deal with the blogger from “Got Jurrassic” who’s holding on line one.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Wehrman

    The Jurassic period was so disorganized, in fact, that in its millions of years it did not contain even a single Tyrannosaurus, which later evolved during the following period, the Cretaceous.

    Maybe that dude meant the T-Rex’s three-fingered forebear, the Allosaurus. It’s true, though, that the Allosaurus had little grasp of world monetary policy and was no consensus builder.

    Why am I commenting on a blog entry that’s more than 18 months old?

  • Brendan

    It’s more than 25 months old now.

  • Catanea

    I didn’t know there was a rule about when one could comment. I actually laughed aloud at King Babar’s guest appearance. I’ve only just found this blog, so I’m reading through it. Is this unacceptable?

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