9.2. Demystifying Institutions

All institutions are messy. All institutions are flawed. All institutions need to pushed.

We have a tendency to mystify our institutions—to put them up on a pedestal, to place too much trust in them, even to believe they’re speaking with authority beyond this universe.

The recent, enormous collapse of trust we have in our institutions has shattered that illusion a bit. But not entirely.

A more accurate way to describe what we do nowadays is we’re skeptical of most institutions out there…but we still put a ton of trust in a privileged few.

We still put our preferred political party, our preferred media sources, and our preferred knowledge and belief systems up on a pedestal.

But the fact is: all institutions are messy.

All institutions are flawed.

All institutions need to pushed.

Institutions, like animals in the wild, are concerned first and foremost with their own survival.

They want to do the least amount of work possible to get the maximum amount of power, money, and authority in return.

They have to rely on what one of the founders of modern sociology called “the iron cage of bureaucracy,” in order to get anything done.

They cut procedural corners. They try to make problems go away through ignorance or suppression.

They create elite networks within themselves that become more concerned with maintaining their own privileged positions within the institution, instead of what’s best for the institution itself.

This doesn’t mean that all institutions are bad.

There are some institutions out there that do truly great work, that are a tremendous boon to humanity.

But just because an institution is one of the good ones doesn’t mean we should put it up on a pedestal.

Just because an institution is one of the good ones doesn’t mean it’s exempt from all the messiness and harmful tendencies inherent in all institutions.

We have to hold our institutions accountable.

We have to force them to do things the right way, even if that makes their jobs more difficult.

We have to force them to change with the times, even when they fight it tooth and nail.

We have to see them as the crude, flawed concoctions they truly are—even when they’re doing good work.

Because if we mystify them too much, then we’re going to be too hesitant to hold them accountable, and make them do the good things we founded them to do.

Institutions promote ridiculously flattering images of themselves and attack their critics because they don’t want to have to face the truth of how messy they are.

They don’t want to have to do the hard work of keeping up with the times, and making positive changes to how they operate.

They mostly just want to rest on their laurels, and bask in their past glories.

We can’t let them get away with that.

We can’t let them convince us to put them up on a pedestal.

We have to keep pressuring them to do a better job—even if they’re already doing a good one.

 

This is the 142nd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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