Old Shoes for New Growth

@ K. 1999
Institutions: Old Shoes for New Growth

The US Constitution was framed by thinkers at least some of whom had accurate representation of the public will in mind. A union seemed desirable. The states already existed: unified they’d make a nation: self-protection in a world made dangerous by powerful nations. A democracy. We’d been taught to admire the Greeks since the Renaissance and the Athenians had a democracy. They also had Socrates. Maybe some of it would rub off. The trouble was, Athenian democracy was conducted among a couple of thousand male property holders, all of them trained in rhetoric, all of them likewise trained to listen, to hear. How can that apply over a territory bigger than the England most of the colonists had come from? Try representatives. The best technology of transportation for the time was horseback , figure a month or so to ride from Washington, DC to the furthermost states, like Maine, a few months to talk to the people, another month to ride back, a day or two to bathe and rest … six months in DC, six months back home. A good plan for a horseback-based democracy. And so forth: sub-divide the government by specialty: executive, judiciary, and two types of representatives. It should work. After all the Iroquois had been using that system since the Thirteenth Century: why shouldn’t the colonists manage? (This analysis, apart from the Iroquois Great Law, is basically Bucky Fuller’s.)

Great. A beacon to a world still oppressed by feudalism. (And don’t forget: feudalism was once a solution to a problem, not yet a new problem itself.)

Except that in 1999 horseback is no longer the state of the art in transportation technology. Riding around and talking is no longer the state of the art in communications technology.

I had Fuller’s analysis of the Constitution in mind when I first saw Ivan Illich’s proposal that cybernetics be used to establish a society’s free data base: who’s who, where are they, what do they offer, what do they want in return for their services, what do their peers say about them, what do their users say about them. Thus I founded FLEX as the democracy appropriate to the technology of the later Twentieth Century. You didn’t support it. You were too busy with Nixon vs. McGovern, too busy with Vietnam … many of you pretended to listen to what I said, to read what I wrote, but my impression is that what you understood was that I was campaigning for McGovern. No: Nixon and McGovern were irrelevant to fixing our outdated government. FLEX was the pattern for what the government should be. FLEX was a 1970 rewrite of the Constitution. Put people in touch with each other and then get out of their way: except in so far as you yourself are one of the people. Nixon would have been allowed to participate in FLEX, just not interfere with it.

My related piece on the history of universities is an analysis of the same kind. The early universities were based on the institution of the monastery. The monasteries collected, protected, and republished the literature of Christendom: the universities collected, protected, and republished the secular literature just being unearthed. If you had a copy of a rare document, you took it to the university where you became the lecturer on that rare document. Lecturer means “reader” remember. You had the document. Your “students” didn’t. You read it: slowly and clearly. Your students copied it: word by word. Once you’d got through it, once they had it all, they could go and “lecture” with it at another university. The university was the late medieval state of the art for dissemination of information.

With the development of publishing in the Fifteenth Century, all that changed. Did the university say, Oh, now you can buy the books, there’s no need for us to keep this up except with the books that you still can’t buy? No. They invented excuses for you to still need them.

Before the printing press, your priest both had the Bible and could read it. After Gutenberg, what did you need him for? Get the book, learn to read, there you are. Your “priest” found new excuses. Now the lecturer is supposed to know the book better than you. He’s known it longer after all. Now it’s not good enough that you can read, the priest still has to explain it to you.

Our intermediaries will always find new reasons to be indispensable to us, the more creatively once their original mission has been accomplished. In a feudal tournament the armed and mounted knight might defend your honor for you. He could ride, you couldn’t. He could fight, you couldn’t. Until Colt. Until Ford. Now you can have your own gun. What do you need the knight for? More excuses. He’s been fighting longer, etc.

There was also the tradition, hardly defensible, that God decided the right by deciding which knight prevailed. Now we live in a culture where you’re supposed to be literate. The laws are supposed to be written down, accessible to the citizens. (Of course they’re written, deliberately, to be inaccessible: you not only have to read English and Latin, but to know lawyerese. And of course you can’t learn lawyerese unless you spend time with lawyers. And you can’t spend time with lawyers unless they accept you as “worthy” of spending time with them … In other words, no law school will take you unless you can prove yourself steeped in the culture that favors lawyers. Seventeen years of “school”: that ought to do it.

So now you’ve been wronged. You’re supposed to be able to speak English. In “theory,” the law is supposed to be written in English, the Constitution says you may bear arms … But you still have to have a “knight” to fight for you if you want to invoke the law. Trouble is, I’ve yet to speak face to face with a lawyer who could understand one word spoken to him of realities outside kleptocracy’s Pollyanna mythology of who and what we are. Therefore, the truth is barred from the bar.

Of course in practice even the lawyers who wrote the law don’t know what it means until an actual court case decides something involving it. Then some other court case can decide differently. Then another .. till the Supreme Court says whatever it says. Even then, a new Supreme Court … (In kleptocracy even supreme gods can change name and nature with each new powwow.)

In science, natural laws are interpretable by analysis of events: pattern finding, pattern matching … In human law (which seems to include divine law), the idea that anyone can know what it means is not rationally defensible. Right to bear arms? Seems to mean you can’t do it.

Actually of course you can do anything: until they arrest and convict you for it. Even then you can hope for an overturn. Unless they just wasted you in the alley.

As Sylvan Saudan said, “Nothing is impossible … until you try it.”

Of course it’s also possible to be convicted no matter what you did or didn’t do. As I said to a lawyer friend recently, citing the historian Huizinga: the modern defendant pleads his innocence; the medieval defendant pleaded for mercy. Different world. Also, as I point out elsewhere: What sense does it make to plead your innocence when the lawyers have changed the meaning to “not convicted”? No one can know whether or not he did something until the jury speaks. Then, by magical fiat, you did. Or didn’t. The jury is the law’s magic wand. In legal theology, the jury is infallible.

That aside, I trust you’re following my critique of institutions. Marriage is supposed to protect the love-fertility-nurturing unit of man and woman. Does it do it? Hasn’t it rather become a weapon the priest and the lawyer use to destroy all love-fertility-nurturing not in thrall to the priest and the lawyer?


Notes

Athenian Democracy
Democracies like that of Athens and that of the United States (and perhaps that of the Iroquois as well) have something else in common seldom discussed on the same page: they’re closet imperialists. Or they’re already openly imperialist but are still second or third drawer as a kleptocracy.
The Athenians were little fry compared to the Persians. The would-be US discouraged King George; the Athenians thwarted Darius. Then the Athenians raced to grab the rest of the Mediterranean. Suddenly, the US stood tallest after the British and the Germans fell to their knees: both far too grabby.
When Athens fell on its face trying for Sicily, the democrats used Socrates for a scapegoat. I’m not worried about US ordering me dead after Afghanistan any more than I was after (during, or before) Vietnam: US deals with me by not noticing me. Spit on me enough, and it deadens my voice. Makes me as silent as the grit inside a pearl.

Explain
The best point I’ve ever seen made on this subject was Ivan Illich’s explanation of the Church’s invention of Purgatory. The Church is a capitalist institution. Capitalist institutions must grow. The Church, having convinced every one in their world that they needed masses (or having burned them at the stake instead of convincing them), had a monopoly on selling the masses. So they had to find ways to sell more masses. First, you have mass every Sunday. Then, every Sunday plus extra ones on special occasions. Then, … Well, they had all those too and still needed to expand. Deciding that the dead too needed masses gave them an infinite market.
I wrote my story Release to illustrate the same point as Illich had applied it to schooling. Already the schools have us needing them for longer and longer periods. (Bucky Fuller pointed out that that’s how the great pirates emasculate young competition: keep them in school till they’re too old and befuddled to endanger your monopoly. then you just hire them and they work for you.) My story had young scholars so busy feeding documents to dead scholars they’d be dead or as good as dead by the time they themselves graduated.
Illich never told me what he thought of it. Perhaps he never read it even though I wrote it for him. Or perhaps he didn’t see his own point illustrated there.
I meant the satire to be funny in a black sort of way. Unfortunately, it’s already too true for us to get it.

2011 06 26 I just realized I had two versions of this module up at InsTic: I read in the alternate balance, and will dedup after importing the balance of the Institutions posts:
Before the printing press, your priest both had the Bible and could read it. After Gutenberg, what did you need him for? Get the book, learn to read, there you are. Your “priest” found new excuses. Now the lecturer is supposed to know the book better than you. He’s known it longer after all. Now it’s not good enough that you can read, the priest still has to explain it to you.

2009 08 13

For decades I’ve meant to write a module on Gnosticism: a theology of direct revelation. Faith-based, Pauline Christianity refuses to listen to new messages from God. We’ve taken Christianity, a religion of rebels, of nonconformists, of people skeptical of authority, and turned it inside out: into a religion of obedience, conformity, credulity. Neither my church, nor my family, nor my friends, nor my professors … have yet listened to a single message I bear from God (or from Christ) (or from the sainted Ivan Illich.)

I’ve been saying that for half-a-century, have written (unpublished) novels about it … What’s new is that I’m just reading Ehrman’s MisQuoting Jesus, where he reviews the history of early Christianity. In the early Christian communities, the Christians themselves were regarded as divinely inspired. That changed with Emperor Constantine. No, no: it’s the Book that’s inspired, No, no: it’s the priests who are inspired, No no: it’s the Authorities who are inspired.

Christianity has succeeded in censoring God: just as the Christian story shows the Jews having done.Our intermediaries will always find new reasons to be indispensable to us, the more creatively once their original mission has been accomplished. In a feudal tournament the armed and mounted knight might defend your honor for you. He could ride, you couldn’t. He could fight, you couldn’t. Until Colt. Until Ford. Now you can have your own gun. What do you need the knight for? More excuses. He’s been fighting longer, etc.

There was also the tradition, hardly defensible, that God decided the right by deciding which knight prevailed. Now we live in a culture where you’re supposed to be literate. The laws are supposed to be written down, accessible to the citizens. (Of course they’re written, deliberately, to be inaccessible: you not only have to read English and Latin, but to know lawyerese. And of course you can’t learn lawyerese unless you spend time with lawyers. And you can’t spend time with lawyers unless they accept you as “worthy” of spending time with them … In other words, no law school will take you unless you can prove yourself steeped in the culture that favors lawyers. Seventeen years of “school”: that ought to do it.

So now you’ve been wronged. You’re supposed to be able to speak English. In “theory,” the law is supposed to be written in English, the Constitution says you may bear arms … But you still have to have a “knight” to fight for you if you want to invoke the law. Trouble is, I’ve yet to speak face to face with a lawyer who could understand one word spoken to him of realities outside kleptocracy’s Pollyanna mythology of who and what we are. Therefore, the truth is barred from the bar.

Of course in practice even the lawyers who wrote the law don’t know what it means until an actual court case decides something involving it. Then some other court case can decide differently. Then another .. till the Supreme Court says whatever it says. Even then, a new Supreme Court … (In kleptocracy even supreme gods can change name and nature with each new powwow.)

In science, natural laws are interpretable by analysis of events: pattern finding, pattern matching … In human law (which seems to include divine law), the idea that anyone can know what it means is not rationally defensible. Right to bear arms? Seems to mean you can’t do it.

Actually of course you can do anything: until they arrest and convict you for it. Even then you can hope for an overturn. Unless they just wasted you in the alley.

As Sylvan Saudan said, “Nothing is impossible … until you try it.”

Of course it’s also possible to be convicted no matter what you did or didn’t do. As I said to a lawyer friend recently, citing the historian Huizinga: the modern defendant pleads his innocence; the medieval defendant pleaded for mercy. Different world. Also, as I point out elsewhere: What sense does it make to plead your innocence when the lawyers have changed the meaning to “not convicted”? No one can know whether or not he did something until the jury speaks. Then, by magical fiat, you did. Or didn’t. The jury is the law’s magic wand. In legal theology, the jury is infallible.

That aside, I trust you’re following my critique of institutions. Marriage is supposed to protect the love-fertility-nurturing unit of man and woman. Does it do it? Hasn’t it rather become a weapon the priest and the lawyer use to destroy all love-fertility-nurturing not in thrall to the priest and the lawyer?


Notes
Athenian Democracy
Democracies like that of Athens and that of the United States (and perhaps that of the Iroquois as well) have something else in common seldom discussed on the same page: they’re closet imperialists. Or they’re already openly imperialist but are still second or third drawer as a kleptocracy.
The Athenians were little fry compared to the Persians. The would-be US discouraged King George; the Athenians thwarted Darius. Then the Athenians raced to grab the rest of the Mediterranean. Suddenly, the US stood tallest after the British and the Germans fell to their knees: both far too grabby.
When Athens fell on its face trying for Sicily, the democrats used Socrates for a scapegoat. I’m not worried about US ordering me dead after Afghanistan any more than I was after (during, or before) Vietnam: US deals with me by not noticing me. Spit on me enough, and it deadens my voice. Makes me as silent as the grit inside a pearl.

Explain
The best point I’ve ever seen made on this subject was Ivan Illich’s explanation of the Church’s invention of Purgatory. The Church is a capitalist institution. Capitalist institutions must grow. The Church, having convinced every one in their world that they needed masses (or having burned them at the stake instead of convincing them), had a monopoly on selling the masses. So they had to find ways to sell more masses. First, you have mass every Sunday. Then, every Sunday plus extra ones on special occasions. Then, … Well, they had all those too and still needed to expand. Deciding that the dead too needed masses gave them an infinite market.
I wrote my story Release to illustrate the same point as Illich had applied it to schooling. Already the schools have us needing them for longer and longer periods. (Bucky Fuller pointed out that that’s how the great pirates emasculate young competition: keep them in school till they’re too old and befuddled to endanger your monopoly. then you just hire them and they work for you.) My story had young scholars so busy feeding documents to dead scholars they’d be dead or as good as dead by the time they themselves graduated.
Illich never told me what he thought of it. Perhaps he never read it even though I wrote it for him. Or perhaps he didn’t see his own point illustrated there.
I meant the satire to be funny in a black sort of way. Unfortunately, it’s already too true for us to get it.

Whoops more error got introduced. I’ll edit later.
Before the printing press, your priest both had the Bible and could read it. After Gutenberg, what did you need him for? Get the book, learn to read, there you are. Your “priest” found new excuses. Now the lecturer is supposed to know the book better than you. He’s known it longer after all. Now it’s not good enough that you can read, the priest still has to explain it to you.

2009 08 13

For decades I’ve meant to write a module on Gnosticism: a theology of direct revelation. Faith-based, Pauline Christianity refuses to listen to new messages from God. We’ve taken Christianity, a religion of rebels, of nonconformists, of people skeptical of authority, and turned it inside out: into a religion of obedience, conformity, credulity. Neither my church, nor my family, nor my friends, nor my professors … have yet listened to a single message I bear from God (or from Christ) (or from the sainted Ivan Illich.)

I’ve been saying that for half-a-century, have written (unpublished) novels about it … What’s new is that I’m just reading Ehrman’s MisQuoting Jesus, where he reviews the history of early Christianity. In the early Christian communities, the Christians themselves were regarded as divinely inspired. That changed with Emperor Constantine. No, no: it’s the Book that’s inspired, No, no: it’s the priests who are inspired, No no: it’s the Authorities who are inspired.

Christianity has succeeded in censoring God: just as the Christian story shows the Jews having done.

Our intermediaries will always find new reasons to be indispensable to us, the more creatively once their original mission has been accomplished. In a feudal tournament the armed and mounted knight might defend your honor for you. He could ride, you couldn’t. He could fight, you couldn’t. Until Colt. Until Ford. Now you can have your own gun. What do you need the knight for? More excuses. He’s been fighting longer, etc.

There was also the tradition, hardly defensible, that God decided the right by deciding which knight prevailed. Now we live in a culture where you’re supposed to be literate. The laws are supposed to be written down, accessible to the citizens. (Of course they’re written, deliberately, to be inaccessible: you not only have to read English and Latin, but to know lawyerese. And of course you can’t learn lawyerese unless you spend time with lawyers. And you can’t spend time with lawyers unless they accept you as “worthy” of spending time with them … In other words, no law school will take you unless you can prove yourself steeped in the culture that favors lawyers. Seventeen years of “school”: that ought to do it.

So now you’ve been wronged. You’re supposed to be able to speak English. In “theory,” the law is supposed to be written in English, the Constitution says you may bear arms … But you still have to have a “knight” to fight for you if you want to invoke the law. Trouble is, I’ve yet to speak face to face with a lawyer who could understand one word spoken to him of realities outside kleptocracy’s Pollyanna mythology of who and what we are. Therefore, the truth is barred from the bar.

Of course in practice even the lawyers who wrote the law don’t know what it means until an actual court case decides something involving it. Then some other court case can decide differently. Then another .. till the Supreme Court says whatever it says. Even then, a new Supreme Court … (In kleptocracy even supreme gods can change name and nature with each new powwow.)

In science, natural laws are interpretable by analysis of events: pattern finding, pattern matching … In human law (which seems to include divine law), the idea that anyone can know what it means is not rationally defensible. Right to bear arms? Seems to mean you can’t do it.

Actually of course you can do anything: until they arrest and convict you for it. Even then you can hope for an overturn. Unless they just wasted you in the alley.

As Sylvan Saudan said, “Nothing is impossible … until you try it.”

Of course it’s also possible to be convicted no matter what you did or didn’t do. As I said to a lawyer friend recently, citing the historian Huizinga: the modern defendant pleads his innocence; the medieval defendant pleaded for mercy. Different world. Also, as I point out elsewhere: What sense does it make to plead your innocence when the lawyers have changed the meaning to “not convicted”? No one can know whether or not he did something until the jury speaks. Then, by magical fiat, you did. Or didn’t. The jury is the law’s magic wand. In legal theology, the jury is infallible.

That aside, I trust you’re following my critique of institutions. Marriage is supposed to protect the love-fertility-nurturing unit of man and woman. Does it do it? Hasn’t it rather become a weapon the priest and the lawyer use to destroy all love-fertility-nurturing not in thrall to the priest and the lawyer?


Notes
Athenian Democracy
Democracies like that of Athens and that of the United States (and perhaps that of the Iroquois as well) have something else in common seldom discussed on the same page: they’re closet imperialists. Or they’re already openly imperialist but are still second or third drawer as a kleptocracy.
The Athenians were little fry compared to the Persians. The would-be US discouraged King George; the Athenians thwarted Darius. Then the Athenians raced to grab the rest of the Mediterranean. Suddenly, the US stood tallest after the British and the Germans fell to their knees: both far too grabby.
When Athens fell on its face trying for Sicily, the democrats used Socrates for a scapegoat. I’m not worried about US ordering me dead after Afghanistan any more than I was after (during, or before) Vietnam: US deals with me by not noticing me. Spit on me enough, and it deadens my voice. Makes me as silent as the grit inside a pearl.

Explain
The best point I’ve ever seen made on this subject was Ivan Illich’s explanation of the Church’s invention of Purgatory. The Church is a capitalist institution. Capitalist institutions must grow. The Church, having convinced every one in their world that they needed masses (or having burned them at the stake instead of convincing them), had a monopoly on selling the masses. So they had to find ways to sell more masses. First, you have mass every Sunday. Then, every Sunday plus extra ones on special occasions. Then, … Well, they had all those too and still needed to expand. Deciding that the dead too needed masses gave them an infinite market.
I wrote my story Release to illustrate the same point as Illich had applied it to schooling. Already the schools have us needing them for longer and longer periods. (Bucky Fuller pointed out that that’s how the great pirates emasculate young competition: keep them in school till they’re too old and befuddled to endanger your monopoly. then you just hire them and they work for you.) My story had young scholars so busy feeding documents to dead scholars they’d be dead or as good as dead by the time they themselves graduated.
Illich never told me what he thought of it. Perhaps he never read it even though I wrote it for him. Or perhaps he didn’t see his own point illustrated there.
I meant the satire to be funny in a black sort of way. Unfortunately, it’s already too true for us to get it.

Institutions

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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