Sunday, September 22, 2013

Monday Musings 183: The anatomy of atrophy

Monday Musings 183: The anatomy of atrophy

Everything begins as a movement, becomes a business and then ends up becoming a racket. 

All status quo generates a need to change from within. Only sometimes the need is felt just in time but most of the times it is late. All status quo germinates an ecosystem of vested interests, however much the system raves and rants about the authenticity of intent. Hence the forces of self preservation will keep change at bay. There in hangs the tale. Change from outside is rarely peaceful and the change from within is often late. 

Every religious system began as a movement to reform the status quo and soon it became an oligarchy, spawning reformist movements as a response, over time meeting the same fate. Reformist movements needed reforms. There goes a Zen story that captures it so beautifully. Disciples of a wise Zen master were searching for truth in a jungle and soon it became a competition as to who will discover the truth first. A disciple came rushing and shared with disappointment that someone had found truth first. The Zen master replies with nonchalance, “do not worry - they will make a religion out of it - and soon the truth will be lost". 

Economic systems which promised El Dorado are nowhere to be seen and those which are still around are struggling for acceptance in the puritanical form and shape that they were conceived. Communism is buried in history and capitalism is a prisoner with the capitalists. If the former had the hypocrisy to deal with the latter has cronyism to battle. Both began with great intent, but got corrupted along the way, like a clean spring from the mountains acquires silt and mud as it flows down the plains. 

Organizations begin with fancy vision, mission and value systems and soon become a caricature of itself. More remain a pale shadow of the promise that they had shown than the ones who blossom to their potential. It takes only a few years of blinking to let the innards get corroded. Academically organizational processes, systems and institutions are supposed to keep a watchful eye on this degeneration, and yet there is clear evidence of all of them failing - sometimes dramatically, and at other times corrupting the fabric like a silent malignancy. Individuals gone berserk can bring even the most sensible organizations to its knees over time. Soon everything becomes a sham, a charade, an act - and ultimately a racket. 

This seems to be an ageing process. Is it natural atrophy, which is the way things will always be? Will things become a racket only because only then it will give birth to the chrysalis of reform? As Peter Senge, a systems thinker says, "Things become worse before they become better". 

God - why are there always more questions than answers? 


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