Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bad Hair Day

The Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has announced that judges will no longer wear those wigs we all know them for in non-criminal trials. Admittedly they look ridiculous, but it is a shame.

Edmund Burke said that “ a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” By this he meant, in part, that tradition binds us to the past, and thus allows to serve as the bond between the past and the future. Wigs are a symbol of what Britain is, and where it came from – that there is a foundation on which is built Cool Britannia, the rise of the City as the world’s financial center, the characterization of London as the most diverse city in the world, and all the other contemporary things that make the British crow. Those who enter a court there, just as those who see our judges in robes, know that justice has been built by toil and blood, and could easily fade away without continuous reinforcement.

The very novelty of Britain’s new ethnoreligious diversity makes all the more urgent the reinforcement of her civic traditions – the monarchy, wigs on judges, cricket whites, whatever it may be – for the benefit of those perhaps otherwise not inclined to value them much. This serves to remind her newest citizens that the place they came to is distinct from the place they left, which more than ever needs to be reinforced so as to encourage people to accommodate themselves to the former. Young Brits, too, need to know that there was something around, believe it or not, before their generation came calling. This is what traditions are for. In the grand scheme of things it is probably not all that much, but Britain will miss them when they are gone, whether it knows why or not.


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