The New Definition of ‘Liberty’
The Silence of Institutions
by Butler Shaffer
A few decades ago one could . . . still accept the expression “My Country right or wrong” as a proper expression of patriotism; today this standpoint can be regarded as lacking in moral responsibility.
~ Konrad Lorenz
I was startled the other morning to see a cable television news headline that read: “Department of Justice studying police officer shootings.” My initial response was to wonder if Will Grigg’s LRC articles and blogs on the brutalities, murders, and other criminal acts by police officers had generated so much attention that the political establishment was forced to deal with what appears to be a rampant problem. I later discovered that the DOJ was concerned not with police officers shooting ordinary people (what Will calls the “mundanes”), but with people shooting police officers. I felt a bit embarrassed having imagined, for even an instant, that modern government officials might have had occasion to regard such police assaults on individuals as the violation of a moral principle worthy of attention.
There is little doubt that political systems represent the most destructive, repressive, anti-life, and dehumanized form of social organization. If one were to consciously design and carry out a scheme that would prove disastrous to human well-being, it would be difficult to improve on what we now find in place. Such entities thrive on the energies generated by the mobilization of our inner, dark-side forces, a dynamic that can be brought about only through us, by you and me agreeing to structure our thinking to conform to the preeminence of such institutionalized thinking. I explored these processes in my book Calculated Chaos.
But it is not sufficient for the state, alone, to organize and direct how we think of ourselves, others, and the systems to be employed in conducting ourselves in society. Organizations that began as flexible tools that allowed us to cooperate with one another through a division of labor to accomplish our mutual ends, soon became ends in themselves, to which we attached our very sense of being. Tools became our identities; our shared self-interests became co-opted by the collective supremacy of the organization. In this way were institutions born.
In order to clearly distinguish one form of organization from another, I have defined an “institution” as “any permanent social organization with purposes of its own, having formalized and structured machinery for pursuing those purposes, and making and enforcing rules of conduct in order to control those within it.” In short, an “institution” is a system that has become its own reason for being, with people becoming fungible resources to be exploited for the accomplishment of collective ends.