Saturday, January 4, 2014

breaking the Jell-O molds

Setting aside the acidic arrogance of the satirist for a moment, is it true or am I only imagining it ....

Give a man a good idea and he will turn it into a bureaucracy.

Give a man a heavenly dream and he will turn it into a hellish nightmare.

Give a man a bit of common sense and he will twist its neck into a ruthless senselessness.

Is there something woven intractably into the human DNA that allows onlookers to observe with considerable accuracy, "He'd fuck up a wet dream?"

-- Safety is quite an appealing idea, for example. The Department of Homeland Security and its waxing stature with street-corner cameras, the tapping of personal communications, the use of drones and an unwillingness to examine "terror" root and branch takes an appealing idea and codifies nothing so much as its horror.

-- Education is a good idea in the sense that it can provide a wider view of the possibilities in life and thus increases the chances for individual happiness. But is there any educated person who hasn't run up against the educator whose smug abilities leave others stupider than they were in the first place ... as for example in this wonderful, spoofing bit of gibberish passed along in email today:

-- The format may vary, but reflecting and perhaps repenting of errors is a probably a good idea. Aside from anything else, it can help instill the determination not to make the same mistake twice. But this morning, for reasons that escape me, I woke up thinking of "auto-da-fé," a term whose exact meaning and application escaped me. So I looked it up.

The Portuguese term "auto-da-fé" literally means "act of faith." It was "the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates" during the Portuguese or Spanish Inquisition, an inquisition that got its bureaucratic legs in the 15th century when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella "received permission from Pope Sixtus IV to name inquisitors throughout their domain to protect Catholicism as the one true faith." Not everyone accused of heresy or apostasy was necessarily burned alive, but a lot were.

1683 painting of auto-da-fé in Madrid
Talk about a nightmare growing out of an idea that has some merit!
Anyone who was guilty or knew of someone who was guilty was urged to confess. If they were approached and charged they were then presumed guilty. Since the suspects were not allowed to look at the evidence against them, they could only assume the worst. A defendant at the trial did not know what witnesses would be called against him....
The ceremony of public penitence then began with a procession of prisoners, who bore elaborate visual symbols on their garments and bodies. These symbols were called sanbenito, and were made of yellow sackcloth. They served to identify the specific acts of treason of the accused, whose identities were kept secret until the very last moment. In addition, the prisoners usually had no idea what the outcome of their trial had been or their sentencing. The prisoners were taken outside the city walls to a place called the quemadero or burning place. There the sentences were read. Prisoners who were acquitted or whose sentence was suspended would fall on their knees in thanksgiving, but the condemned would be punished. [italics added]
Although I have criticized the Roman Catholic Church in the past, that is not my intention here. The Inquisition and its attendant rituals simply serve as what I think is a good example of what happens when a reasonable and often good idea is poured into the Jell-O mold of governing policy... the kind of policy that can afflict both societies and individuals.

Heavenly idea, hellish application -- how many have not made that mistake? I certainly know that I have.

And worse than the mistake itself is the realization that undoing the error is a hell of a lot harder than committing the error in the first place.

Imagine trying to undo the Department of Homeland Security, an institution that employs thousands, has thousands more in an applauding audience, and is top-heavy with tax dollars. Imagine how hard it might be for an academic to learn convoluted and self-serving gibberish and then attempt to backtrack into a world of salutary straightforwardness. Imagine a spiritual institution or belief system top-heavy with Jell-O molds of right and wrong rethinking its mission. So much power and so much treasure are already invested ... personally or institutionally, sometimes it is just easier to support and advance the well-established error than it is to forswear the Jell-O molds.

All I can think is ... your/my life, your/my choice.

And too, the wry observation, "No one ever lay on his death bed saying, 'Gee! I wish I had spent more time at the office.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment