Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Institutions, Institutes and Waste Dumps

Institution sure is a respectable sounding word, isn’t it? If someone says you are an institution, they are trying to pay you a compliment. They are trying to say you are “someone firmly associated with a place or thing.” And that place or thing is always something good, like for instance Broadway theater or the silver screen. We don’t describe Jack the Ripper as a murdering institution.

An institution is, “a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture.” And again, it’s a respectable practice, relationship or organization-- one that makes a society or culture feel stable and secure, such as the institution of marriage. Nobody ever talks about the institution of divorce.

A prosperous society needs strong institutions. Banks are financial institutions and universities are institutions of higher learning. Where would we be without them?
We have our revered government institutions, like Congress and the courts. We count on them to protect us from chaos, to save us in a time of crisis.

We also have plenty of institutes to go along with all of our institutions. Institutes are also important elements in an advanced and civilized society. They promote our general welfare. How about MIT? And don’t forget the National Institutes of Health.

Institutions and institutes are great things to be and great places to be. So why then do we call those places where they lock cripples up institutions? A whole bunch of states once had Institutions for the Feeble Minded. I bet those weren’t very fun places to be. I bet if those places were named by the people who lived in them, they’d probably not be called institutions. They’d probably be called something like waste dumps: The Kentucky State Waste Dump for the Feeble Minded.

But these places weren’t named after the people who lived in them, thus they were called institutions. To those who didn’t live in them, they served the noble purpose of locking up cripples. A prosperous society needed strong institutions where cripples were locked up. Locking up cripples made everyone feel safe and secure. It protected them from chaos. It promoted the general welfare.

It was pretty much like penal institutions.

The waste dumps where cripples are locked up nowadays don’t usually call themselves institutions anymore. Government-operated waste dumps are usually called developmental or training centers. Nursing homes are called rehabilitation facilities. Big fucking deal. Lipstick on a pig.

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