An English In Kentucky



















April 14th 2009

    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 Lost.

    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."

    I sometimes 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. 

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 (Jeremy Bentham's body)   (The Panopticon)  (A Panopticon)  (Lost)