Saturday 13 April 2019

My experience of booking a room in a bureaucratic-totalitarian society...

In the spirit of Vaclav Havel's 'poster test' (complete essay here); I had an illustrative experience about a decade ago trying to book a room for informal weekly meetings.

What Havel showed is that the totalitarianism of our society can be seen many times a day in multiple apparently trivial experiences. However, these experiences are seldom identified; I think because (unlike the Czech society under communism) modern Western societies have been extensively corrupted, and are complicit in their own oppression.

Inspired by The Inklings; I wanted to book a room for evening weekly conversation meetings of a floating, flexible population of some half a dozen people - from my friends and colleagues, and their friends and colleagues. The idea was that we might read and discuss work in progress or half-baked ideas; and follow the conversation wherever it might lead; broken up by cups of tea and coffee...

I found a suitable space in the rooms attached to a nearby nonconformist protestant church, and was asked to meet with the person whose role it was to rent out these rooms (the person was a somewhat motherly elderly woman - a fairly typical nonconformist; she was probably an unpaid volunteer).

I was rather surprised to be asked to meet with someone; but I guessed that it was a screening process, to make sure the rooms would not be let to anyone who might abuse them, or leave them in a bad state. Since I am a 'respectable' person, who has lived locally for decades, and the participants were people such as doctors, professors, Anglican priests... I didn't anticipate any problems.

But there was more to it than that. Before being allowed to rent the room, I was asked exactly who would be attending, and what we would be discussing.

I was stunned by this - but managed to respond that I had no clue, we would simply be having a conversation; I asked for clarification. Then it became clear that the church did not want to be associated with certain types of ideas, being discussed on its premises. These were not defined, were left vague and rather menacing; but it was pretty clear that the concern was with 'right wing' ideas.

So, the implicit situation was, that I was not going to be allowed to rent a room to have conversations, unless the representative of the church could be assured that (vaguely) 'right wing' ideas would be off the agenda.

By this point I had decided not to pursue the matter - but the excessively large amount of money asked for rental gave me an easy excuse to get out of the situation.

My interpretation of this situation is that this is a good example of how totalitarian power works, and the everyday, micro-level.

First: everything nowadays is run by committees - and committees are intrinsically left wing and atheist; because personal responsibility is eliminated, hence there is 'no morality' in committee decisions - which is another way of saying that they are always and intrinsically immoral; which is another way of stating the plain fact that Committees Are Evil.

All committees are evil, and this is how it works...

My understanding is that the church committees (and their representatives) are plugged-into the the church bureaucracies, local and national government bureaucracies (including the bureaucracies that inspect and grant permissions to churches, the national Lottery bureaucracies - which often subsidise/ bribe churches; and the bureaucracies that award prizes, medals and titles).

In other words there is a dense web of regulatory, permissory, and reputational bureaucracy surrounding each and every publicly operating institution. Any of these could trigger an investigative avalanche in response to a few accusatory words from... well, anybody.

All institutions live in fear of mass media bureaucracies; which can initiate and orchestrate and sustain mass hatred against anybody at any time. And the national bureaucracies are linked to the European Union (and its laws, regulations, and potential funding), the United Nations and beyond.

Functionally, all public bureaucracies are parts of a single system. What is the characteristic of this system? They are evil, but in what way? We can (and should!) observe that (whatever individuals may believe and think) all component bureaucracies are in basic, ideological agreement about social priorities and threats - and this includes even such low level outfits as volunteers working for local nonconformist churches.

These are the facts; but the implications are so far-reaching as to be unacceptable to almost everybody.  Because if all bureaucracy is evil, then all institutions that engage with the social realm are compelled to become a part of the bureaucratic system, and therefore complicit in evil.

If I had gone ahead and booked the room, then my loose gathering of conversationalists would necessarily have become a public institution, a part of the global totalitarian system; existing only by the grace and favour of this system - which could be withdrawn at any time.

So - here and now, already-existing - all existing and possible public institutions are intrinsically corrupt, since they are part of the primary manifestation of evil in the world. If you are pinning your hope on Any institution. 

The only way to avoid this is Not to be a part of the institutional world. Don't rent rooms! All publicly recognised groups are institutions and all institutions are One.

The only exemptions are groups of family and friends whose cohesion is from Love and have no 'official' or organised reality.

And this is precisely why the family and (that rare thing) real friendship are under constant and vicious attack from The System; who constantly try to infiltrate legal concepts into these affectional relations (under excuses such as rights of children, payment for housework, protection against forms of abuse, limitation of freedoms etc) - and to make these primary and definitional.

Things are coming to a point; and the old individual-group compromises which served Christianity (more-or-less well) for two thousand years, are already impossible - and this will get worse. The world of true knowledge gets ever further divided from the pervasive lies of public discourse.

We are already confronted with multiple, daily situations in which our inner, intuitive knowledge is contradicted by institutional authority - and most people, most of the time (including Christians) are coping by denial of this reality; which is simply to side with The System: i.e. the primary manifestation of evil in the world.

Note added: The usual response to something like this is - But what should we do? Where, implicitly, the 'do' implies some 'effective' This-World sociopolitical action. 

And with the (usually unconscious) assumption that 'we' already know how things ought-to be, and the only live question is how best to achieve this (within existing constraints of resources and time, given the supposed-probabilities of success and risks of failure... and so on). 

The whole thing rapidly becomes absorbed into the question (seldom understood as such, however) of how to activate one part of The System (that we like) and set it against some other part of The System that we don't like - because (we recognise) only The System has the power to compel and punish its errors and evils... 

But the lesson we ought to be learning is that this only strengthens The System. It is just office politics, bureaucratic infighting. It is the 'Boromir Strategy' (as advocated by the Secular Right 'Boromirosphere' - "Hey lads, let's use the One Ring to fight Sauron!" -

We need to see that this is precisely the triumph of bureaucratic totalitarianism. And then realise that the solution of rejecting totalitarianism in toto in a world where totalitarianism is Everywhere and doing Everything... which is something so radical as to be almost unthinkable - yet that is what we must think (or else fail the test). 


Ward Dorrity said...

Fascinating. A succinct account of the underlying machinations of the Administrative State.

Bruce Charlton said...

Comment from Arakawa:

"Mindful of this, and of the principle “what’s known to three is known to KGB”, as well as finding social performance in a larger group more stressful apart from any political considerations, I have always preferred to meet one-on-one on ‘neutral ground’ such as a coffee shop. But that only revealed the scarcity of people for whom such communication is preferred or even natural.

"In your case, it’s at least fortunate that the demands were up front. What seems more common from my observation of such meetups/clubs is that it will be allowed to occur, and if it goes on the strategy is to Send A Weirdo — someone who is extremely disruptive to the group and will drive participants away, whereas the conflict of removing that person from the group would be even more disruptive and carry political implications. Of course, this works in the culturally default context of open meetups where almost anyone can show up, or a stranger will be invited by default if they ask the organizers... I wonder if you indicated in any way that yours would not be one of those kinds of meetups."

Bruce Charlton said...


The story was simply illustrative of the way things work; certainly not intended as any kind of 'lesson' or advice.

But it was a private. closed meeting. While public/ open meetings are being cancelled and disrupted (for example the recent tour of lectures by David Icke - ),

I have also noticed that private/ closed unadvertised meetings (i.e. clubs) are also nowadays portrayed as intrinsically sinister because 'secret', and equally cancelled/ disrupted - such as the Intelligence Research meetings organised by James Thomson at University College London - to understand how such meetings are seen by the mass representatives of mainstream Estabishment evil, as usual Rational Wiki provides a concise illustration

But, as usual, we need to be aware that this is ultimately a *spiritual* war; and the aim is therefore always to sustain the perception of an enemy to justify further totalitarian control. Partly this is done by continual goalpost moving - such as happened with sexism and racism.

But when there is no real enemy, then an Emmanuel Goldstein invented/ fake enemy will suficce - as with the current mainstream fantasies of global, powerful, dangerous 'white supremacist' organisations.

As always, the 'battle' is very simple, between Good and evil, is absolutely unavoidable, and won or lost in every person's mind.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, the Rational Wiki article you linked was a real eye-opener. What it depicts just is totalitarianism, no exaggeration.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Everything I've seen on Rational Wiki is exactly like that - a bizzaro, inverted-world; and the reason I know is that Google has decided to give Rational Wiki articles a very high, often top, search ranking on the subjects it covers.

These have included some of my coauthor collaborators such as Edward Dutton and Michael A Woodley (do the search, take a look!). So RW is (thanks to Google) a very high impact source of 'information' on the internet - and Google's support demonstrates RW's representativeness of mainstream evaluations.

So RW is a useful resources - in its way!

John Fitzgerald said...

I was leafing through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford's 2019 almanac at my Mum's house today. There was a page devoted to one of those organisational-structure flow-chart diagrams, showing who's who and who does what in the Diocese. To me, the sight of the Church aping the world of business and HR in this way, was an eruption of pure Ahrimanuc evil and an admission and indeed a celebration of Ahriman's taking power in the Diocese. The medium is the message, form is content, etc. Honestly, an old-school pentagram would have been less alarming!

seriouslypleasedropit said...

"who constantly try to infiltrate legal concepts into these affectional relations (under excuses such as rights of children, payment for housework, protection against forms of abuse, limitation of freedoms etc) - and to make these primary and definitional."

This makes my blood boil

Bruce Charlton said...

John. A very good example. Yet, how few people can recognise that as a mark of actually-existing evil? At most, some might acknowledge this as sign of a risk of corruption. But the truth is that it is a mark of corruption, it is evil being-implemented.

JMSmith said...

On Friday afternoons, I run a small discussion group in the lunch room of my university department. I call it the Oyster because I send participants an "irritant" on Wednesday, and our aim on Friday is to encase this in a pearl of wisdom. The irritant is a short quote or image that is meant to provoke thought. In any case, we've pottered along happily for a few years, and outsiders have from time to time encouraged me to connect the Oyster to the department, college, or university bureaucracy. They suggest that we could "grow" if we advertised on official websites, and that we could apply for grants to pay for coffee and snacks. With half a dozen regular members, the Oyster is as big as such a group should be. As for the free coffee and biscuits, these are obviously just bait in the bureaucratic trap. So long as we bring our own coffee and tea, we are just six people chatting in the lunch room. Succumb to the lure of bureaucracy coffee and tea, and we become a regulated unit in the bureaucracy. There is another discussion group that meets earlier in the day. It is very large, highly organized, and fully funded. Some of that funding goes to provide a free lunch for any one who shows up for their discussion, and the half-eaten platters of sandwiches are always sitting on the lunch table when the Oyster comes to order a few hours later. This is just an anecdote that illustrates some of your points

David Balfour said...

I suppose, given the extent of the wicked web we seem to be stuck in, this seems to beg obvious question...If the system is so totalitarian, why then have you been 'allowed' to continue this blog? Why havent you just been shut down or silenced for having some distinctly different ideas, beliefs and opinions to the cultural mainstream. And at times frankly odd.

Actually, I found myself recently hypothesising (in a more conspiratorial mindset than usual) that perhaps as a professional psychology academic this blog is part of a long-term experiment to investigate the psychology of extremes of belief and religious ideology, with yourself going 'undercover' as a persona, to use the blog to attract comments and discussions from other parties in the general global population. The more I thought about it, the more plausible it seemed to me. Perhaps, your research is even being funded by a top government intelligence operation or...perhaps even an EU grant/funding that required mountains of paperwork and red-tape to get it over the line. Perhaps one day I will wake up to read a scientific american article or turn on the TV to see my old University Evolutionary Psychology professor, discussing the great strides he has made in understanding the psychology of religion, by pretending to be a Christian for a decade or so, to gather some data about how the backwards and non-progressive magical thinkers of the world wont wake up and smell the existential coffee of mortality!

I sincerely doubt it will happen. But how can I be certain?

I'm on to you Bruce Charlton ;-)

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - You can't be certain; and neither can I...

David Balfour said...

Ha! Well, At least I won't try and book a room now. Except perhaps for childrens parties and family occasions...