Empty Days

Sunday, April 25, 2004



Went to get myself some black tea and noticed a strange gathering in the area - hippie-like folks and lots of bicycles. Turned out it was the opening of a new baba-cool cafe - protect the environment while smoking weed or something like that. We already had a similar coffeehouse open up in a French trendy area but I am not sure what happened to it - it was called Marie Juana :) The police promised to raid and they probably did too. In any case, it is hard to see how you can safely smoke weed under licence in this town.

But it's not just weed. It occured to me that I share a lot in common with these people - pretty much the same ideas and outlook, except I am not radical about it and I don't really follow the dress-code that goes with all this. As a result I don't look the part - and because I don't look the part, there is no immediate recognition, and no possibility of trust or communication.

It's an interesting fact to reflect upon. People are like dogs - you need to sport a certain style to get recognition and "familiar smell". Dogs emit various odors, people sport various clothing styles. If you're too much of an odd-ball you are looked upon with suspicion by about everybody. So in the end it's up to you - if you want to connect with a certain range of people, adopt and exhibit signs that they will clearly recognize as familiar. Otherwise - just piss off.

***

I remember some conservatives at some rally were mocking the fact that the so-called "anarchists" all dress the same. That's true and it might look like a contradiction in terms. However this is the nature of social groups. Conservatives can't very well dress as anarchists and expect to be recognized by their own crowd. In the end all dress codes, flashy or not, are just silly - yet necessary. Try to get a job at a corporation headquarters without an impeccable suit and tie and a proper hair style - good luck to you.

But these are truisms. The more interesting part is the rare occasions when some people are able to defeat the barrier of non-recognition and enter a group without submitting to its dress-code. Could you tell you need to be a near-genius or a born-leader to do that?

A russian proverb says: "you're welcomed by your robe, yet are judged by your smarts". True enough - and some folks are sometimes able to forego the robe part altogether.

***

Of course the dress-code is just part of many other codes - that are implied by default. If you dress like a punk and don't know the linguo and all the necessary concepts you're off your mark. It's like being in the military - you're not just given a uniform, you're given a whole language of concepts and skills that go with it.

Basically you need to learn a culture.





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