Fri | Jan 20, 2017

Gordon Robinson | In with the 'new'

Published:Sunday | January 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Happy New Year, everybody! (On Sunday, January 1) I celebrated my gazillionth birthday. It's a New Year for most; a NEW Year for me. We all understand the meaning of 'New Year'. We all sing lustily at midnight, December 31 (at least as far as we can get with the Scottish lyrics):

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne."

Auld Lang Syne ("Old times' sake") is an adaptation of a 1788 poem by Robert Burns. The poet didn't intend for his work to signal goodbye to the old year. The poem partially reproduces and partially originally writes an even older folk tune. Burns sent his work to the Scots Musical Museum with a note, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." Most of us have safely navigated the first verse. Very few can go much further. The Year's first Nothing Prize goes to the reader who can recite the song all the way through (any version; in any language). The first chorus should drop out a few but most will still be standing:

"CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my jo,

for auld lang syne,

we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,

for auld lang syne"

Now it gets dicey:

"And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup!

and surely I'll be mine!

And we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,

for auld lang syne."

First up, "be" isn't anything you'd imagine it to "be". Roughly translated:

"And surely you'll buy your pint cup!

And surely I'll buy mine!

And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,

for auld lang syne."

The poem calls for us to preserve our oldest, dearest friendships whatever it takes. It has become a New Year's Eve anthem because it fits so well with the sentiments of that night when people get together to recall the year's joys and sorrows; to retain those that will help in the year ahead and cast off those that depress and oppress.

Now the rest of the song (in authentic Scottish verse) gets difficult:

"We twa hae run about the braes,

and pou'd the gowans fine;

But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,

sin' auld lang syne."

In English:

"We two have run about the slopes,

and picked the daisies fine;

But we've wandered many a weary foot,

since auld lang syne."

Each verse is followed by a repeat of the chorus lustily (and accurately) sung by all present before mumbling along into their champagne glasses pretending to know anything more:

"We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar'd

sin' auld lang syne."

Can you translate without peeking? What's the "burn" (not "bairn")? Golf fans who've played or watched at Carnoustie know the answer. Jean Van de Velde is painfully aware (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dR1pkCGY80 for the train wreck). In English:

"We two have paddled in the stream,

from morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

since auld lang syne"

By the time the final verse comes along, we've all called for the umpteenth glass of whatever makes us bubbly and are barely following:

"And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!

and gie's a hand o' thine!

And we'll tak' a right gude-willie waught,

for auld lang syne."

Remember, the song is about old friends; good times. So you should be able to translate "fiere" right?

"And there's a hand my trusty friend!

And give me a hand o' thine!

And we'll take a right good-will draught,

for auld lang syne."

So, the song calls upon us to remember, treasure and maintain old-time friendships but to cast away the bad times and embrace the future.

 

Civil procedure rules

 

In 2003, the Government passed a new set of Rules to govern Civil Procedure in the Supreme Court, fashioned in the main after the UK's new Civil Procedure Rules that had been promulgated a few years earlier. The Rules begin with the following provision:

Rule 1.1(1) "These Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly."

When you get up from rolling on the floor laughing at the last four words, I want to call your attention to the first seven. "These Rules are a new procedural code." In 2005, I wrote an article on the subject which was published in 2006 by JAMBAR (the Bar Association's official newsletter) entitled It's NEW for Goodness' Sake in which I pointed out:

"Lawyers are wont to refer to recently passed legislation as 'new'. As a result, we know that Jamaica has recently passed a 'new' Companies Act which includes real reform in the system of registration and operation of companies within the jurisdiction. There is a much-debated 'new' Terrorism Bill before Parliament and, not so long ago, a 'new' Telecommunications Act was passed reflecting, insofar as Parliament was, at the time, capable, the radically mutated communications technology of the modern age.

 

Statutory instrument

 

"But this is the first time, in local legislative history, that Parliament has legislated, in the body of a Statutory Instrument, that it is 'new'. This elevates its newness from the sphere of speculation, rumour, raconteurism or characterization to now be a matter of Law. If, as a matter of Law, these Rules are 'new' then it must follow that all that has passed before is now rendered obsolete, by legislation, and no longer applies."

Gradually, over time, local courts cottoned onto this concept and have accepted the meaning of "new" at face value; using only sparingly, if at all, decisions on civil procedure made before the "new" Rules were passed. It's routine that these "new" Rules are interpreted in accordance with their natural meaning only without reference to how similar rules were interpreted in the past.

Ironically, we still harbor among us a group that steadfastly refuses to prioritize justice; prefers dogma to fairness; and treats clear thought as undesirable. That group rejects the ordinary and natural meaning of "new". Of course, I refer to the Christian Church who regularly reads from a scripture named 'NEW' Testament that chronicles Jesus Christ's life and teachings. That 'new' scripture ought, by every tenet of language, interpretation, experience or common sense, to be understood as rendering all that came before 'old' and, accordingly, obsolete. It's not as if that which came before tries to obfuscate or trick readers. It calls itself the 'OLD' Testament. Christ provided new teachings; new morality; new rules because it was clear to all independent observers, including God the Father, that the 'old' rules had long passed their sell-by date. Those rules had been often used to encourage man's injustice to man; abuse of women as chattels; and condemnation of different sexual orientations as 'abomination' for which men were to be put to death.

Two thousand years later, Church, rather than spreading Christ's word, still prefers to flagellate us with something that's 'OLD'; obviously obsolete; results in confusion and contradiction; engenders fear, hatred, war and other conflict; and demonizes love depending on where it's practiced or by whom. This in spite of readily available New Rules set out in the 'NEW' Testament.

So it came to pass that, on December 31, 1953, as my mother was dressing for her New Year's Eve party and tuning up the old voice to produce another verse of Auld Lang Syne, I had other ideas. I started rattling around restively and she heard a plaintive voice from within the womb: "Forget old times' sake because, starting tomorrow, you WILL be living a completely new life. In your old life, you only needed to be a woman and wife. In your new life, you'll be a mother first, second and third. All the rules will change. Throw out the old rules. Ring in the new."

Peace and Love

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.