The obverse side of a coin is the side with the principal symbol: the head of the king, for example. We call it “heads.” What could be simpler, less ambiguous? But the obverse “purpose” of complex systems, the obverse “meaning” of a poem, for example, may remain moot: and be murkily ambiguous. (Note: concepts like primary, purpose, meaning … are all human, all mental: they have no objective correspondent in the universe which can be observed through laboratory-controlled instruments: the eye, aided by a telescope, the eye aided by a microscope, the ear, aided by a stethoscope …)
All human institutions begin with clear goals: the purpose of the king is to serve the people, the purpose of a church is to convey the god’s messages to the god’s public, the purpose of the fire department is to protect property by putting out fires … All straightforward, clear cut. All heads.
But all too soon simplicity complexifies: the king’s purpose becomes to increase his power, to have his son inherit … The king’s purpose perverts, becomes a parasite on the people, a threat to the survival of the society, a terrible compromise against their integrity. Democratic governments degenerate analogously. Too soon obverse purpose, primary purpose, becomes obversemeaning2 purpose: major alternate purpose: lets call it inverse purpose! (My OS X dictionary illustrates: true solitude is the obverse of true society: as though the tails were the heads!)
All too soon seemingly everything in civilization serves only one purpose: to increase profits for the few.
But then increasing profits for the few has an alternate obverse synonym: making humans so numerous that individuals must be regimented, while lies are told about “freedom,” about “reason,” while there are jokes called “democracy,” “education” … All that translates to one thing totally unambiguous: we’re murdering the biosphere! “God” “forbid” humans escape earth to murder elsewhere.
I’ll draft this further, deeper, better, next time. And offer examples of institutions perverted from conception as well.