Monday 19 February 2024

Syndromes We Don't Have a Name For 10: Organisations

Like gangs, fundamentalist sects demand substantial "sacrifices" as proof of loyalty. (Athena Andreadis)

It is with great sadness and regret that I have to report the @sheffielduni executive board had decided to press ahead with their plan to close @UniShefArch and move only two small elements of our teaching into dispersed departments where they shall surely wither and quickly die. (@Hugh_Willmott)

High-handed rule by an arrogant inner group.
(Lucy Worsley)

Founders are often charismatic individuals who can attract well-known public figures and large sums of money to their cause. However, they are not necessarily well suited to running and sustaining the organisations they create. The initial money and the supporters are drawn in by the passion and commitment of these strong personalities, rather than by evidence of their effectiveness… (Peter Kent, letter Guardian, 2007 (He was talking about the late Camila Batmangelidgh.)

Beware of backing the wrong horse. Today the “Lambertist” organisation, now known as the Parti des Travailleurs, is a shadow of its former self. It has lost the thousands-strong activist base which Pierre Lambert won in the 1970s; it retains only some cranky ideas and a bureaucratic internal regime to remind Lambert’s disciples of what once was. The death of the sect-leader Lambert is far less sad than the tale of those who followed him, committed revolutionaries who acquiesced to the rule of a petty tyrant and his coterie in the belief that they were contributing to the cause of socialism and the liberation of humanity, and were politically destroyed and demoralised by the experience. (Read about it here.)

Entryists jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits.
(Guardian, 2016)

The bigger and more established [a campaigning] organisation becomes the more timid and conformist it seems to get, until it’s almost indistinguishable from the interests it should be confronting. (George Monbiot. See the critical outfit that is in hock to the phenomenon it is criticising, or even set up by it as a front, and intended to be toothless. See internal tribunals that never find bullies or harassers guilty, or force victims to reconcile with perps. See government enquiries set up to not find abuse or discrimination, headed by people who don’t believe it ever happens. See anti-racism initiatives that never lead to change. See many foxes in charge of henhouses.)

UK minister for building pylons loses role after campaigning against them. (Guardian, 2024. And "loses role" is a great euphemism.)

A friendly group recruits you – because they need someone to do the boring jobs. 

If you set up an efficient and well-funded organisation to do anything, beware of a takeover by a charming hard worker. He brings in many of “his people” and turns the purpose of the group into something completely different. A few of the original members cling on, either trying to continue the original project, or being brainwashed into working for the new goal and spreading the new word and repeating the new mantras. 

Or he may just want an important role and eventually a paying job.

A movement arises. It gathers momentum and has some influence on public affairs. Just when success seems to be approaching, it divides into Extremists and Moderates over a minor matter of principle. The factions quickly acquire names. The enemy is no longer the evil the movement started off fighting. What is the next act? The movement tears itself apart? Voices of reason say: "Of course you'll have to give up your more extreme demands." The movement is watered down until not even a molecule is left. The Moderates take over the official organisations and they become bandaid or astroturf outfits – and are known as "the reasonable face of...". 

Boy, some of these foremen are all crazy on this socialistic stuff and they want a union. So management has got up this Associated Foremen to have meetings and speakers to show them they’re part of top management and get ‘em over this union idea. (7 1/2 Cents, Richard Bissell)

But some organisations are set up to fight some evil, while knowing that if they succeed they’ll all be out of a job. What do they do when that happens? Find a new evil?

Perhaps the truth is that, after success in our great 20th-century drive for equality, Stonewall was left with bricks and mortar, an admirable staff, a CEO and a fund-raising team and, unconsciously, craved another big, newsworthy cause. Well, sometimes a big army with only small battles to fight does best simply to scale back. (Matthew Parris) 

They looked up and the times had changed. ( review of John Le Carré’s The Looking-Glass War)

The foreign branch of military intelligence (“The Blackfriars Boys”), a ghost of its wartime self now reduced to gathering remote intelligence and conducting research. (Goodreads commenter on The Looking-Glass War. It’s also known as “the department”.)

LeClerc and his ridiculous “department”. (The Looking-Glass War)

Interpol was once a dozy outfit where officials did a little desultory work in the mornings, went out for a boozy lunch, had a siesta and never came back. They were probably using ancient computers that weren’t linked to Europe’s police forces. A new director came in and made them work all day. 

In the 80s, a church in the East End gave a feminist group a free space to hold meetings. It did nothing but hold meetings – probably about "this group’s attitude to Nicaragua". The vicar eventually took his church hall back and turned it into an outfit that actually did something.

There are four magazines devoted to carp fishing. There are multiple methods of teaching children to read, and depending which is in power at the moment parents must get involved/mustn't intervene/must read a 40-page brochure on the method/must/mustn't mix reading methods. And that’s before we get started on the psychotherapists and the Palestinian Front for Liberation... The humanist societies were eventually persuaded to at least set up their offices in the same building. There were several organisations devoted to reviving Cornish who all thought they had the one true way of spelling, grammar, vocab etc. (Same for Breton, says a Brittany native.) In both countries, they have split their differences and concentrate on teaching the languages.

There are two factions in the Corrugated Iron Appreciation Society and they have furious disagreements in their Facebook group.

A small organisation has too many managers – too many lions and not enough Christians.

The monks of St Athos bar women from their mountain peak. Their tiny domain is big enough to accommodate a breakaway group – the monks of St. Esphigmenou who won’t pray for the Greek Orthodox patriarch because he’s too friendly with the Pope. The Eastern Orthodox broke away from the Catholic Church over a disagreement about the nature of Christ. Is he of the same substance as the Father: homoousion? Or a similar substance: homoiousion? An iota of difference.

There are several schools of dendrochronology, and they don't speak to each other. It's just bigotree.

More here, and links to the rest.

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