The Dark Side of Institutions

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Institutions /

Institutions: the Dark Side

Any human being lies nearer the unseen than any organization.
Howards End

I have to say something of the greatest importance without having the time at present to integrate it properly into this setting: my Institution folder in my NoHier directory.

We see well in the light. We don’t see well in the dark. We tend to forget that there is a time when we are asleep, when we don’t know what’s going on. We see and revere Dr. Jeckyll, only hear rumors of Mr. Hyde.

Doch man sieht nur die im Lichte
Die im Dunklen sieht man nicht

Bertolt Brecht

But I’m afraid that the following generalization is potentially true for all human institutions. We say we want our holy men to go into the priesthood. Then we say that our holiest men are in the priesthood. Then we see some stranger wearing black: we say he’s a priest, we say he’s holy, we give him money, we trust our children with him!

We say we want our most talented writers to write, our bravest men to protect us, our most beautiful women to bear … Then we build these reservations for them.

Great. That’s the day-time view: Dr. Jeckyll. Then how come Jesus is hanging on the cross? How come Thoreau is in the woods? How come Joan is burning at the stake? How come Tolstoy got no prize? How come we know all about Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon and can’t say a sensible or true word about Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Moses Harmon? How can Lolita have been rejected by every publisher in America? How come there can ever be such a thing as a “sleeper” or an underground classic? Why should anything ever be underground?

Because we put bigots in the church and then label them holy. We put conformists in the White House and label them leaders. We promote parochials: we put test-takers in the university and label them intelligent. We repress holiness and leadership and intelligence by bestowing authority on the parochials.

Because we confuse our maps with our territories, our faith with evidence, our hope with truth. … Worst of all, we forget who and what we are: humans! Large, camouflaged, predators: used-car salesmen, telemarketers: liars! fools! gulls!

We describe the animal by its camouflage. And once we’ve institutionalized something, we forget that our descriptions are maps; we treat them as territory! [See my Semiotics: Map / Territory posts at my pkTools blog.]

2011 07 27
American Hard Ball
If you’re not caught you’re not guilty:

So we manage our institutions so that we never get caught.

Lolita Rejected:
Since first reading Lolita I have regarded it as the quintessential twentieth-century love story, an astonishingly great novel. A perverted love story is just the right emblem for our culture. Right in tune with the perversion, we reject it. Of course the Wicked Witch doesn’t want to see herself in a true mirror; she wants a flattering mirror with flattering light.
So what else is new? This: I just learned that Louis L’Amour had n x n rejections, trunks full! I have trunks full of manuscripts; he had trunks full of rejections! (and warehouses full of manuscripts) till he caught on! And now he’s shoved down our throats, blown up our nose: an endless stream of suppositories reamed up our ass.
@ K. 2002 08 01

Society Social Order 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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