Institutional Perspective

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The priest speaks from a pulpit: elevated above the congregation. The judge presides from a bench: elevated above the citizens.

The Romans would have scourged Jesus till he was prone on the cobbles, or in the muck: with the garbage, the spoiled cabbage leaves. Christians depict Jesus risen: on the highest stained glass in the cathedral.

The whole of mammalian epistemology concerns relationship.

Primates, whether living in trees or descended to the ground, assess things in terms of the horizon: is it above me? or below me? or on a level with me?

We picture God at the zenith of the universe: as though the universe were a tree, with a sky and a ground, a top and a bottom; we picture his nemesis at the nadir.

Stop being taller than me!
A Hard Day’s Night

When Einstein was just some Jew with crazy ideas that defied sense, a Jew no one could understand, the ringleader of a plot to assassinate him, convicted in the US, was fined $5. Ah, but once he’d gone to Roosevelt with the Bomb, and Life Magazine had written him up, why then he’s the stuff of legend: the prototype genius, the jig which others fail to cut themselves after …

Information is any difference which makes a difference. For humans, the difference must be perceived. But any Freudian will tell you: perceptions don’t have to register out-loud in the cortex, for reactions to occur. When Griffith lit Lillian Gish for filming he didn’t relay on every member of the audience to gasp and say aloud, Ah, she has a halo! (light from above, but from above within.

Macroinformation emerges (within our unconscious, but also sometimes in our consciousness) when complexes of meta-difference collide.

There are complex differences in perspective between Mandela in prison and Mandela on a podium;: between the wretch in the Bastille and the prisoner plucked from the Bastille and carried on the shoulders of the revolutionaries.

And that’s exactly it: social change necessitates, can’t take place without, playing do-si-do and see-saw with icons.

Christianity generates macroinformation automatically for any celebrant who imagines a difference in perspective between heaven and earth. Not buying into that quite so easily now, I still try to imagine differences between how an intelligent human perceives things and how an intelligent non-human would perceive things. (We should beware of assuming that either the one or the other is automatically better.) (To be generally better, wouldn’t perception have to somehow transcend perspective: point of view: advantage / limitation?

Indeed, shouldn’t humans be skeptical of God’s perspective? What can God really know from Heaven of hormones squirting?

In the meantime, we at least should try to be aware of image manipulation by those with greater than average social leverage. The image hasn’t moved in a thousand years? Maybe it should be nudged, maybe it should be toppled. The image has been under mud so that no one has yet seen it? Maybe it should be exposed, wiped off a bit. (Centralized authority can be advantageous (like Mussolini’s train schedules) in some circumstances, but how wise have we been to allow it to become society’s default setting?)

I am a writer. And a speaker. Among many millions of others. I for one never open my mouth (or set fingers to keyboard) without targeting some set of images to jiggle.

But the millions also have a (for the time) indomitable inertia not to notice.

So. Time has to be considered. Time, the most easily forgotten of the (somewhat-known) dimensions. The Van Gogh being worthless in 1890 does not accurately predict its value at auction in 1990.


All increases (and decreases) in wealth, in price, in marketability … in belief … are macroinformational.

And, dammit, we shouldn’t take any of our maps, models, traditions … too seriously until we’ve made some honest attempt to check them against experience: and the best and latest, scientific theories.

@ K. 2004 10 15

Macroinformation Examples

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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