The Official Masquerade

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Контент 16+ (лексика) You won't catch me dead in a business suit. Even if I did put one on, I would probably snag it on a nail and rip a hole in it or slip in the mud and change it from navy blue to turd brown before I even got to work... I don't know how to tie a necktie. The last time I wore a suit was when I married Liuba in 2017. It's been hanging on the rack ever since.

Uniforms? The only uniform I ever wore was when I was a bench-warmer on my Junior High football and basketball teams. Even though I practiced hard, I was usually just along for the trip; I was never in the "starting lineup', nor was I a key sub. I was just there, like an unused jockstrap. I sat while the best guys played. That was America back then. I'll never forget those two-a-day sessions in full pads (American football) in the scorching late August sun. I had never played football before but I went out for the team in hopes of becoming more popular with my status-conscious classmates. But the JV coach was trying to steal the varsity Head Coach's job, so he played these meaningless practice games to win. Evidently, he didn't think I could make a contribution, so I sat. Same in basketball. Ass on a bench, dick in hand. Go Team Go. BUT....I had my UNIFORM on. Ура !!!
Nor was I ever in the military. They were fighting the Viet Nam War when I came of age, but I managed to wriggle out of it because of my status as a university student. if it hadn't been for that I would be carrying a Canadian passport around with me today, because I would not have stayed in American and allowed myself to be drafted into the army.

Even now, after all those years, I find that I have a negative knee-jerk reaction to people in uniforms. Such as security guards. In my opinion, Russian okranas fall into two groups: guys who are OK, even affable and personable once they see you a few times; and those who are complete for-all-life jerks. Most of them, in fact, are ex-police and/or ex-military, and that probably explains a lot. The expressions on their faces reveal their hatred and contempt for the world, and the uniform grants them what teensy-weensy bit of power they have. In short, they have submerged their individual identity (a place where they are on shaky ground) for the collective identity of some corporation or agency. Most of the time, they are unyielding sticklers for RULES. The 'letter' of the law -- its literal guideline -- has been drilled into their brains, but the 'spirit' of the law -- law interpreted in special cases for the betterment of people, that is to help people instead of hindering them in emergencies, for example, simply because it is the Right Thing to Do -- usually is beyond their mentality.
I can give you two examples. A woman told me recently of a time when she had landed at a major airport with three children and a lot of luggage. Having made their way to the Arrivals exit, the woman, who had called a taxi, stepped outside the big glass door, just a few steps, to try to identify the number of the taxi. The big glass door closed behind her. The security guard saw all this happen. But when the woman, in full view of her children, who were standing like sentinels next to the pile of suitcases, tried to come back in, Mr. Asshole would not let her re-enter through the exit door. Instead, she had to walk halfway down the building, go in through the Entrance, endure the security check etc. It probably took 15 minutes. The bastard could have just let her back in. But he wouldn't. Because the rules said.....blah blah blah. Some of you will say, yes but he could have got into trouble, there were video cameras, etc. And I say PISS on all that. The security guard should have behaved like a human being, not a drone.

Same thing with a place I used to go to see a student in Yugo Zapadna. I had a private student down there whose ultra-efficient timeclock of a wife made all the arrangements. It was her job every Saturday morning to call down to the security station and order me a pass. But sometimes, she would be doing activities with her children and forget. When that happened there were problems with one okrana at the gate. He was (surprise, surprise) a little guy, maybe from some 'guest-arbiter' country formerly part of the Soviet Union. If the dutiful wife somehow was distracted and didn't order the pass, he would refuse to let me through until I had got a hold of her on the phone. Even then, he would not just let me hand him the phone to talk to her; rather he would insist that she called HIM. When she did, I was in. The point is this: I went there for almost three years and I must have seen that guy 50 times. He knew perfectly well who I was, and yet he played the same bullshit game every time. Don't tell me he was just "doing his job". When he wasn't there, the other (Russian) guys waved me on in without a problem.
So it wasn't the rule; it was the cretin whose job it was, to open the gate. HE, not the RULE, was the problem. He knew perfectly well that I was not an undesirable person, but his attitude and behavior betrayed all sense of humanity and COMMON SENSE. I had a passport, phone number, etc. But this prick would not budge.

Some of you may support this. Some of you might say: "It was YOU, not him, who was being arrogant, as if expecting some special treatment just because you are an AMERICAN English teacher." And I say No, not at all, because I have encountered the same stupid mentality America, the UK, and elsewhere. I would argue that mutual recognition, longstanding repetition, and simple human feeling should have overridden an insistence on documentation.
There is a basic principle that I would suggest. Strange as it may seem, rules are meant to HELP people. They are meant to create Order (just think of traffic lights), so that everyone gets his turn, gets his chance, but they are not, or should not be, devised just to inhibit or crush people. But most of the stupidest things in Russia (and everywhere else) are brought about by dullards obsessed with rules, the same deadbeats who never understand that rules are a vital part of cooperation and progress, but never meant (except by the cunning of clever human rats and the idiocy of retarded human robots) to stymie the basic goals and principles of a free society. And those that enforce these rules always hide behind their various uniforms.
Today I was fined 250 roubles for crossing the street outside the underpass in Uznaya. I -- and everyone else -- has been doing the same thing for the last three years. There is NO POINT in walking all the way to the corner. One crosses and snakes up the pass near MakDaks. But TODAY the Men in Blue were out in full force in this one little area, catching everyone, one after the other, doing the same thing that we/they had been doing for years.
250 rubles. I earn that much while I am going to the toilet. But it's the idea that counts... The uniform gave these guys the right to basically steal my money. The law? Don't make me laugh. When do people in authority worry about the law when it applies to themselves?

Yeah, I know, we all need a job. Sometimes you have to put on the Burger King T-shirt or the MakDaks cap just to play the game. We gotta eat. But that is child's play. The most insidious uniforms are the unofficial ones, but ones which are game-breakers in terms of your career. In Corporate Culture, for example, the uniform includes having not only the right clothes but also the right phone, because no client is going to take you seriously if your portfolio is augmented with a tiny Samsung or Nokia from the Dark Ages. They will put you down as a gypsy who has broken into the building.

Not all uniforms involve official company costumes. I think that young people, those who fancy themselves as rebellious, wear radical clothes -- Goths, Punks, Hippies -- thinking they are being unique, but in fact, they are wearing uniforms. See one Goth, you've seen them all. At least such youngsters are trying to be original. They just don't know how.
And then the uniforms become more subtle. I have small bones (like my mother) and was very skinny as a boy... I started, long ago, weight-lifting, building a fabulous body in order to compensate. There was nothing wrong with me, but I thought there was, and so I built an armor. I built a uniform.
As I analyze it now, I see that my personality, as manufactured for the here and now but based on certain deeply felt emotional truths, is a kind of uniform. As a boy, I was shy and strange, but I was smart, and so I built, and have continued to do so, a persona that I guess I need to show the world. That swaggering exterior is but a uniform that covers the fundamental vulnerability and neediness in me. At heart, I am as vulnerable as ever, just not as worried about acceptance or rejection.
But I too dress myself in a gown. Do I have the right to judge, I too who am a hypocrite, a practitioner of all those things I condemn? I wonder about it sometimes.....But I think that I have ultimately succeeded in being FREE. It was always been my target, even in the darkest days.
That okrana in Yugo Zapadna made for brief, annoying moments, but I won every time. In the end, he always had to let me in. Because my world was bigger than his. He knew it and I knew.
So, my advice, my friends is this: if your uniform, whatever it may be, is just apparel that you throw in the laundry bin when you get home, fine. Do what you have to do. If your uniform is your life, your security system, your one access to 'power' -- then you, my friend, are a loser. And need to get a life.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

One thought on “The Official Masquerade

  1. Don’t know about other countries, but in Russia I guess it is way deeper, than a uniform. I mean that a choice – to help the lady with children or to help a professor to enter – completely depends on a person. There even exist a notion “a syndrome of a watchmen”. It means that the lower a position of a person is the more arrogant he is in his action. And a “qualified” watchmen can always hide behind his uniform, can’t he?

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