Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon was the
perfect prison. A single warder could all the time see everything,
and every prisoner knew it. There might also have been some tattle tales
rattling on about the possibility that this was nothing new, because a deity can do the same
thing. And here I suggest it is the difference between "all
knowing" and "all powerful" which collides in the
imagination when deities become suspect. Reason they argued is like
mathematics, its solutions are pure.
But ever since
Hegel, heroic minds delving into this world conclude that objectivity is
naive. Our world is a subjective place and requires a subjective
understanding, and so they look to find solace in relationships between
things. The Panopticon advances the idea of relationships between
individuals to include architecture, geography, space.
This investment in the subjective is
why teachers and prison warders have become increasingly necessary.
It is their purpose to drum into our heads the sum of human
knowledge. They are paid to sit in the center, to open and close the
doors, to suspect the peculiar and give plot to the television series
The Panopticon was almost built in the
Russia of Catherine the Great. Not by Jeremy Bentham, but by his
brother. The rowdy still
angst against the possibility of it. They call it "big brother" or
"fascist" or "imperial running dog."
wonder whether the vegetable garden is a Panopticon. Everyone in
their place, carefully rotated, given minimal room to grow.
When this thought comes into my mind I sneer at it, push it aside, call it
peculiar and I hear a loud whispering along the back row. The
strawberries I believe are responsible, and soon they will be relocated.