Elephantine Institutions

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / NoHier / Deschooling /

Elephants are large vegetarian mammals, very large. The biggest herbivores have always been bigger than the biggest meat eaters; but with the elephant we have a big vegetarian and can tear most big carnivores to tatters The bigger the stomach the bigger the body, the bigger the body the bigger the stomach, the bigger everything. Smart too: up to a point.
Elephants process huge amounts of vegetation. Their digestion is inefficient in the extreme. Whole branches of small trees go into the mouth; bits of branches come out the other end, leaves still attached, still green, ready to photosynthesize: if only the were still attached to a parent shrub.
There’s one species of grasslands shrub so used to being eaten by elephants, so long accustomed to being excreted undigested by elephants, that it’s evolved to coat its seeds so firmly that all seeds of the species are sterile UNTIL that coating has been stripped off in the guts of an elephant. No babies till you’ve been consumed and discarded by the elephant.
Sound familiar? Sounds to me just like a university. Big. Somewhat social, but too big to get around easily. Somewhat smart: but never a tenth as smart as some of the seeds that flit through: winking, immune.

Bucky Fuller spoke at university after university, round the world, round the year. Did those universities blunt his intelligence? Not a bit. Did those universities understand a thing he said? Not a bit.
Only some of the other similarly immune seeds he met passing through.

Now: how should I stitch this in if there’s to be another draft?
Organisms are communities of organisms. There are mites on our skin, there are bacteria in our gut. Scientists have changed their mind more than once as to which sub-parts of a cell have never lived except as part of a cell and which once came and went at their convenience. (Are there any that still leave?) The mosquito lands on my skin, flies off. I can live with or without mosquitos. I cannot live without the E. coli in my gut. I cannot live without all the parts of the cell, and its permanent guests, staying put.
How should I stitch this in?
1950s, 1960s … Marshall McLuhan got published. By the ’60s everybody at a university had read some of one or two of those books. Everybody, whether they’re read any or not, was quoting those books, using some of the diction. The medium is the message.
But did anybody get it?
The most disastrous paper I’ve ever seen given at a university was unfortunately orated at Holy Oak by my best friend. His presentation assumed a digestion of McLuhan and some new brain matter fertilized by the McLuhan concepts. He might as well have been trying to buy plutonium from headhunters in a dugout canoe on the Amazon. (Please: I am not insulting those in the canoe (when did they claim to know plutonium? I am insulting the academics present that day at Holy Oak. (Not that my friend didn’t flub his delivery too.))
Don’t confuse the intelligence of the institution with the intelligence of the individual members who staff it. Don’t confuse the intelligence of the committee with the intelligence of the individual members who constitute it. Any institution can be immune to learning B while it gobbles learning A. Ditto any individual. Still: there’s a huge difference between Moses trying to deliver a Commandment from God to Beyu, a priest at the Temple of Ba’al, and Moses trying to deliver a Commandment from God to the Temple of Ba’al. The people around the lake, however ill they understood Jesus, understood Jesus a hell of a lot better than the costumed priests at the Temple of Jerusalem.
I don’t doubt that God will have a way of testing how many, if any, of his messages get through to Beyu; but I can’t imagine him wasting time testing Beyu when he could be applying the test to the Temples. How many messages got through? Did any?

Elephants don’t digest well; but they eat so much that they get sustained anyway.
The plant puts so much into its pollen, into its seeds. But the plant has no control over how the seeds fare once they’re airborne. Which is why, as Bucky said, if nature wants something to grow, she’d better supply a lot of seeds. There are a lot of elephants out there.
How many seeds are seeds for a sea change?
How many virgins are ready to get quantum pregnant? Meta pregnant? Pregnant in dimensions never seen before?

Humans are social critters. I say we are social primarily for the sake of homeostasis. We are systemically conservative. We want change to prove itself before we give change a chance. Therefore change will get no chance: and there’s no better barrier than a gang of conservative humans banded together into an institution. God has small chance of getting a message past a church. The people have small chance of getting any messages past congress, past the media. This on top of it’s being so unlikely that an idea will come to a human in the first place!
Institutions exist to catch ideas and to stifle them before they can get a fair hearing. That’s why all institutions are hierarchical. That is the purpose of hierarchy: once the human ayes have gone to Jacob, don’t ever ever let God or Esau be heard from.

Keywords school, university, institutions, elephant

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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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