On Meetings and Bureaucracy

I don’t approve of most of what Stalin did, but there was one thing that he did do well: he was not lenient to bureaucracy. In the Great Purge, 80% of the party members were purged. 14/16 of army commanders too. And many NKVD members (some 3000 in a month), who themselves were doing the purging. Although I don’t like blood and violence, sometimes you have to go the extra step to awaken the bureaucrats…

Lest they take themselves too seriously. Lacan said that the true idiot is not the random person on the street who believes that he is the king, but the king who believes that he is the king. Why so? There is always a distance between the content of my self, and my position in symbolic space. The “King” is a pure symbolic position. It has nothing to do with the person who is actually occupying the position. In fact, it becomes terrifying when the King really believes that he himself is the King, when he takes himself too seriously, when he thinks that he really deserves the symbolic authority that is given to him. It is then that he becomes a self-righteous tyrant. That is when real terror reigns. Stalin is one example of this.

So I have observed—since I am now, how do you say, an amateur bureaucrat in my school as the Deputy Head Boy and the Head of House—that meetings with a lot of people do not work, because everyone takes it too seriously. They really believe that what they are doing matters, so they argue all the time about even the smallest things (I have to admit that this happens to myself too). At the end, 20 people meet. Everyone have their own opinions. Everyone speak. No consensus can be reached. No consensus, actually, can possibly be reached, because here are 20 people, who, although all independently wealthy constantly being spoiled bourgeois kids, have different understandings of rightness, goodness, have different telos that they wish to assume.

This is where Habermas, then, goes wrong. Participatory democracy, in the sense of engaging in rational discourse in good faith (satisfying all the validity claims) to reach a consensus, is untenable. It is more enervating than invigorating. Arbitrariness, perhaps, is better than such an approach. For in arbitrary decision, at least we know that what we are deciding is arbitrary, whereas when we have reached a consensus, we have the illusion of agreement. (When the structure of consensus, of universality, always precludes a certain position—as Ambedkar maintains, against Gandhi, a Caste system, no matter how well organized, always excludes some person. This exclusion only have to be structural to function. It need not even be actual.) How can 20 people agree, when I cannot even reach a consensus with myself? It is an impossibility.

Conclusion? Let Bureaucrats be efficient or perish; burn every meeting with more than one person involved; don’t take myself too seriously.

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