HOW TO INSTITUTIONALISE THE WORLD
You are alone and in enemy territory; stumbling around a frustrating, exhausting, shoddy reality which is, at its core, hostile to life in all its forms. Your instincts to share, cooperate and bring the necessities of life within reach of ordinary people are relentlessly punished. In fact all your finer instincts are a burden here; your talents are useless, your uniqueness a liability and your actual experience of life a threat. The only way you can survive in the world, much less accept that it makes any kind of sense, is to have your humanity amputated. No easy matter—in fact the eradication of your consciousness, creativity and sensitivity is a lifelong profess, beginning in the proto-institution of the home, continuing through fifteen to twenty years of intensive schooling and ending with forty to sixty years of work in the institutions of the world, also known as the system.
This vast mechanism of interlocking institutions, tools and techniques was originally created by and is continually powered and informed by the addictive primal fear and the mental–emotional momentum of the egos of its individual members. By ego I mean a self-informed self—a mental emotional entity which calls itself ‘I’ but is radically cut-off from my sensations, feelings and consciousness, and so cut off from the environment, the context and the present moment, which it perceives but dimly and always in terms of what it can get out of it 1.
Because the dystopian system is a manifestation or reflection of ego, its only purpose is to serve ego, which means to serve itself. It will feed, house, entertain and care for you, but only while you are useful to it; i.e. while you are selfish. If you are not sufficiently ambitious, mean-spirited, cynical, violent, addicted, subservient, inhuman or lacking in fundamental dignity—if, in short, you don’t take your self seriously—you will be discarded from the institutions of the world, prevented from rising through its hierarchies, ignored, ridiculed, exiled (into poverty or precarity), imprisoned or, in extremis, eliminated by its authorities.
This is not a conscious activity. Nobody is consciously exterminating dissidents, and there is no illuminati ensuring that only system-subservient mediocrities get admitted into prestigious universities, get the highest-paying jobs or get elected. There is no conscious conspiracy because ego is unconsciousness—it is automatic, unaware and mechanically selfish. Conscious awareness of what is really going on, is a threat. It is, in fact, the threat.
In the early days of the system this threat was eradicated through direct human agency— through the will and overt violence of royal power, which reined in independence, crushed resistance and annihilated difference—but, as flesh-and-blood human intervention contains the seeds of consciousness, fairness and responsibility, it became necessary to abolish human power as soon as rational technique was advanced enough to create a system that could run without it.
In place of pesky human interference, sensitive awareness of the context, spontaneous creativity and so on, the system uses its own mechanical ‘intelligence’ to manage its operations; which means that it follows the only directive it can possibly ‘understand’; expand (or ‘profit’) forever, infinitely beyond any human limit. This leads to excessively large, hierarchical institutional structures which a) cannot run without bureaucracy (as the distance between head and hand becomes impossible to bridge without paperwork) b) prioritise abstraction and specialisation (and language or rationality-exalting philosophies) c) manufacture nothing but varieties of porn (i.e. that stimulate the emotional component of ego rather than, as with true art, still it) and d) hollow out culture and destroy nature (both of which are meaningless to ego) and e) generate inequality and waste.
Because human beings do not enjoy living in a sterile, unreal, unnatural, bureaucratic virtual prison of proliferating bullshit, and will instinctively subvert any attempt to enslave them, all institutional processes must be directed through a set of [interlocking and mutually-reinforcing] filters
THE FIVE SYSTEM FILTERS
In 1988 Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman proposed five news filters which ensured that media output served institutional interests and manufactured consensus (and consent) without any overt control by a ministry of truth. This propaganda model, useful and accurate as it has proved to be, only applied to the news content of the news media, not to its comic-strips, its dramas and documentaries, its celebrity interviews or its feature films; nor to any other institution (on which, it must be said, Chomsky at least has decidedly shifty views).
To understand not just how the entire media, but how the entire institutional system inevitably creates shoddy clothes, furniture and housing, nutritionless unfood, drug-suppressed sickness, boredom concealed with spectacle, self-loathing concealed with ‘career’, lack of society (and lack of privacy) concealed with ‘identity’ and lack of original art concealed with novel titilation; how it creates an endlessly proliferating porn-tranced self-world of intense, unconscious unhappiness, owned by a corrupt, psychotic elite, managed by a subservient bureaucratic professional-class, built by a depressed, violent, enslaved, sick and over-worked underclass and built on an earth which is actually dying—to understand the whole system, we need to look at the five system filters that keep it all together.
- reliance on self · the egoic system can only perceive and therefore function through what can be imagined, possessed, measured, described, controlled, desired, feared or rationally used. Everything else—originality, responsiveness to the context, genuine mysticism, profound love for humanity and for nature, outrageous generosity, genius, death and revolutionary beauty—must be ignored, exterminated, controlled, outlawed, ridiculed or suppressed from nursery school.
- reliance on technique · consciousness is, a priori, ruled out by the modern system. Its only comprehensible values are rational action, logical thought, technology, and the ordering of linear timespace into discrete objective parcels (money, countries, classes of people, etc.) for technical processing in service to the system. This technique, however, does not just demand more technique (a machine which produces more raw material needs more machines to refine and distribute the surplus, more technical labour, which must be pacified with more propaganda, etc.) but demands total technique (a technical police force, for example, must constantly observe everyone to be ‘perfect’2); there is no other value as comprehensible, to ego-technique, as ‘more’ and ‘total’. ‘Different’ or ‘nuanced’ or ‘truthful’ simply do not, or cannot, exist and any suggestion of them must be eradicated.3
- reliance on the market · the institutions of the world must all be subservient to the needs of the profit-oriented property-economy. They must be run by corporations that must put profit above every other consideration (through fiduciary duties to shareholders and through operating in a cut-throat competitive system). This permanent market-expansion creates distances which can only be covered by the system, waste which can only be disposed of by the system, sickness which can only be cured by the system, futility which can only be made meaningful by the system, helpless stupidity which can only be educated by the system and loneliness which can only be filled by the system. Man is crippled and deformed by the market, and then sold crutches to complete himself.
- reliance on other institutions · all reputable information, opinion, authority and, should the system ever struggle, the support of tax and armed-intervention, can only come from institutions (and their professional representatives), elite graduates or agents of power. No other source is as corrupt, as indoctrinated or as submissive; i.e. as ‘credible’.
- reliance on objectifying exposure · from cradle to grave individuals must be under continual bureaucratic surveillance so that a) they can be measured, recorded and ‘known’ and therefore controlled or filtered out; and, more importantly, b) they will place themselves under their own schizoid, spontaneity-suppressing self-conscious scrutiny. For the first objective—of control through measurement—it is necessary that individuals are monitored by those in institutional power (doctors, social-workers, teachers, spooks, etc.). For the second objective—control through self-consciousness—the identity or motive of the observer is irrelevant; teevee viewers, neighbours, social-media friends, comments-page peers and some chap with a camera-phone can all enhance the inherently passive, predictable, addicted, anxious and self-referential qualities of the objectified self (personality or mask) when it feels like it is being watched, named, rated, judged, defined and recorded.4
Once again: these five filters are not consciously put in place by an evil cabal, they are created automatically from the expand-and-profit priorities of ego, and they automatically result in the creation of artificial (virtual) environments which are separate from nature and society, which force members into subservient roles, which punish independence, which honour only those activities which the market can make use of and which devalue and suppress honesty, generosity, innocence, beauty, soft-consciousness and even masculinity (through rewarding inaction, obedience and wordiness) and femininity (through rewarding ambition, rationality and insensitivity).
So what about the elites? What about the managers? What about the 1%? What about them? Well, although the system runs automatically, there does still have to be people on the top of the pyramid of evil who take care of the machine; human-shaped entities in authority who work, while at work, to personally wipe out the threat of independence, but their actions are always within the framework of the system. If they were not—if they were not sufficiently selfish—they would have been caught by system filters long before they reached their position of power. Everyone, for example, who reads submissions, applications, references, progress reports and the results of ‘objective tests’ knows the unspoken code by which system-friendly psyches are to be welcomed and those who ‘are disruptive’, ‘have a relaxed attitude’, ‘cannot concentrate’, ‘are not team-players’, ‘are not technically adept’, ‘have strong opinions’, ‘are not working to full potential’ and other euphemisms for ‘reject!’ 5 are passed over. And everyone who holds the keys to elite positions of authority can sniff out the right attitudes, the right ideas, the right ‘work ethic’ and even the right tone of voice for the job.
This is how psychopathic ceos, ambitious interns, hollow politicians, system-friendly bosses, shuffed-out professionals (including Chomsky’s colleagues6), living-dead billionaires and the favoured cultural elite can all claim, with total—factually accurate—sincerity, that ‘nobody tells me what to think’. Nobody has to tell them what to think, because the system would not have allowed them to reach the top if they had to be told. They have learnt—long, long ago—to internalise the values and priorities of the system, and have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to do so.
This is why they succeed.
This is part 2 of a three part series. If you are interested in this brief analysis, and would like to see how it fits with the whole thing, I have laid it all out in The Apocalypedia.
- How this ego came to be, what its nature is, how it works and how it is different to consciousness, is briefly explained here and here.
- Likewise the ‘perfect’ entertainment industry makes it impossible to be idle for a nanosecond, the ‘perfect’ energy industry makes everything dependent on massive quanta of energy, and so on and so forth.
- See The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul,
- See Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault.
- Employers have at their disposal a whole range of convenient terms—confidence, presentation, commitment, personality—upon which to hang any ideological conflict.
Non-Stop Inertia, Ivor Southwood
- I had a long correspondence with Chomsky about, amongst other things, this. Unfortunately he asked me not to publish what we spoke about, but his defence of professionalism was feint to the point of non-existent.