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There was supposed to be a post yesterday.  I even know what I  wanted to say in it.  I just wanted to write it on a better, and faster, computer than the one I have at home, so I put it off until I could run into school and get some time on the machines there.

Then, the way these things always work, I never got a chance to run in  at all. 

As it turned out, though, it brought me an epiphany, and the only thing that surprises me is that I was at all surprised.

I think that none of you has actually met a Nurse Ratchett. 

I shouldn’t be surprised at this, since in the experience of my own life, Ratchetts have been blessedly rare.   I think I’ve only met two of them face to face, and only one who was in a position to focus on me.

In the nasty situation I am presently in, there are plenty of people whose only concern is to save the institution–but not one of those people is a Ratchett, and the Ratchett involved in this, the one who started it and the one who keeps it going, is not only not working to preserve the insitution, but she’s perfectly willing to see the institution go smash as long as she gets what she wants, which is personal, individual power.

Perrsonal and individual.

What characterizes a Ratchett is not just that she wants power–there are plenty of power hungry jerks in the world–but that the kind of poer she wants.

A Ratchett wants to stand directly in front of her victim, look him in the face, and watch him writhe and squirm and finally capitulate, to accept his pleading assurances that all he wants is to please her, he finds her the one true friend he has ever had, everything she wants is good and true.

A Ratchett would find ordering about a crowd distinctly unsatisfying.   From everything I’ve read about Hitler, he was not a Ratchett in any way. 

I’ve worked in academic instiutions half my life.  I’ve never met an administrator who was a Ratchett.  I  know the kind of enforcers Robert is talking about–but they’re not Ratchetts.   They’re ruthless, and morally stupid.   They’re martinets.  But their object is to maintain the institution at all costs. 

A Ratchett’s object is the writhe and squirm, the breaking of an individual human will, by herself, in her presence, and for itself. 

If you want an Ayn Rand character for reference, it’s not her “second-raters,” but Ivy Starnes from the tramp’s story at the end of Atlas Shrugged.

It’s almost like an odd, fundamentally depraved form of sexual orientation–and, in a way, that makes the Ratchett far more dangerous than martinet administrators or politicians who’ll lie through their teeth to get into office.  

Most of us can’t even imagine wwanting to do to other human beings what the Ratchetts want to do to all the ones they come in contact with.  We really can’t imagine wanting to do it personally, and to watch the break. 

Robert’s administrator-enforcers make damned sure to get other people to cause whatever breaking is necessary, or to do it in letters or e-mails so that they don’t have to face what their actions are causing, if any break is caused.

Because those administrators also don’t actually need anybody to break.  They only need them to obey.  It’s nice if you buy into the program, but they’re happy to take your grudging compliance, and they don’t care a damn if you’re spending your free time thinking they’re idiots as long as you’re doing what they want done.

A Ratchett would never settle for that kind of compliance.  Her purpose is not to get you to obey, but to get you to break–the break is the point, not the obedience.  

Ack, I feel like I’m going around and around here.  Ken Kesey’s book is a good one, so I’ll recommend One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to anybody out there who wants to read it.   Kesey is an excellent writer who was badly served by his times, but both of his major novels (that one and Sometimes A Great Notion) are worth the time.

And politically, he’s apt to surprise you.  Ratchett is his strongest creation in character, but he was always focussed on them and the harm they do.  In his second book, though, he finds one in…a labor union.

Thinking about the Ratchetts I’ve known and the ones I’ve heard other people report on, it occurs to me that absolutely all of them have been members of the “helping professions,” most usually teachers, nurses and social workers and in every case I’ve heard of people who work with children.

Most people who are charged with running programs of various sorts that have been written on  Ratchett principles–those drug programs, for instance–aren’t Ratchetts themselves, and end up doing it all very badly, and find themselves angry and frustrated that the programs don’t work the way the material says they will.

But that’s our good luck, so I’m not going to bitch about it now.

And eventually, I will get to Yvor Winters.

Written by janeh

July 16th, 2009 at 7:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Typicals'

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  1. I don’t know. I don’t worry a lot about the internal motivations of people who hurt or threaten me, and so far I don’t see that this has added much to it, except in the way every small child learns that if you let your opponent see you cry, s/he will quite correctly assume that they’ve ‘gotten to’ you, and will be one up in the fight.

    You could be talking about other aspects of personality besides that of the budding sadist who tries to provoke a playmate into an hysterical collapse. With others, I doubt the ‘breaking’ is all that important except as a sign of winning and a sign that further rebellion will not be expected. I think quite a range of people in management want that kind of response and aren’t terribly happy with reluctant cooperation from underlings.

    You could be talking about something as comparatively benign as a management technique – you’ve got a job to do, you want everyone on your side, and you don’t have the charisma or influence to swing opinion of your underlings. So you try more or less destructive versions of manipulation.

    I thought I knew what you meant by ‘Ratchett’, but now I think I don’t.


    16 Jul 09 at 11:43 am

  2. Most of us find such cruelty inexplicable, so we tend to attribute such behavior, when we observe it, to other causes. Somebody might be having a bad day. They have been driven mad by a stressful job or other customers/associates who have made them angry. Whatever it is, the last thought is that Ratchett-like behavior as Jane describes it; breaking someone else’s will for the sake of seeing the capitulation; is that the person is doing it because they *like* doing it.

    Sadism, whether physical or psychological, isn’t part of most of our mind-sets. We don’t practice it, we don’t understand it, and unless confronted with it in the most blatant way, we don’t see it.

    Dealing with bullies is one thing. Dealing with a sadist is another. Why such personalities are drawn to so-called “helping” professions is a very interesting question. Perhaps because they perceive a concentration of vulnerable targets in such environments? A Ratchett would be drawn to those they could hold helpless, by medical fiat, by bureaucratic morass, or by seeking authority and power wherever available.

    So yeah, I’ve heard of Ratchetts, I’ve read about them, but I’ve probably never met one (or come into conflict with one) in real life. And I will point out that when one doesn’t conflict with a Ratchett, they would most probably look just like a regular person.


    16 Jul 09 at 1:41 pm

  3. I don’t think you can get through elementary and what is now called “middle” school without at least one Ratchett, and the armed services generally have a few around. In a hospital setting, it’s a little hard to sort them out from the merely power-hungry and egotistical. I’d have said I had two, arguably three. (Even at this date I’ll not name names, thank you.)

    And in fairness to the Ratchetts, kept to a place where one really DOES wish to remake people–prison and basic training come immediately to mind–they can do some good. Heinlein was right to observe that even a good surgeon may enjoy the sight of blood, and a good trainer may enjoy inspiring fear. But they have to be supervised–to be made to subordinate their impulses to the purpose and rules of the organization they serve.

    If as a supervisor, you let your Ratchetts run wild, you’re morally responsible for some appalling results. But I don’t think real Ratchetts are all that rare on campus. Apart from some instructors who aren’t taking their meds, take a good look at some of the more unsavory “orientation” bits. You get a touch of this in government and private bureaucracies, of course–but it’s not as much fun when the targets have value. A freshman is often a long way from home, and no one in the university cares two bits what’s done to him as long as he can’t sue.

    Perfect Ratchett hunting ground.


    18 Jul 09 at 11:08 am

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