I really don’t do uniforms. Get me right, here; uniforms when used as part of work I have no issues with. Military. Police. Security. Rangers. Official staff, like people who work at pharmacies, grocery stores. I can even see the value of them in schools, even if they’re not part of the Swedish school system.
What I do not do, in any from, is political uniforms, or de facto uniforms – standard expected clothing, in a cultural and societal context. Conformity.
I grew up in an aggressively mono-cultural society. Maybe most Swedes my age has forgotten all about it but once upon a time there was ONE way, and one way only, that you were expected to dress. Skirt length, trouser style, shoes, shirts or tops, materials, colour schemes – uniform. I you didn’t conform you were relentlessly punished. In school, you got bullied and ostracised, and the adults behaved like it was OK. After all, you had not adhered to norm, you were an aberrant. It was like they hoped it wasn’t contagious.
At the same time we got bombarded by WWII documentaries on TV, and lesson after lesson during class on the WWII atrocities, with a strong focus on the Holocaust. We learned of Kristallnacht, of the burning of books, of Entartete Kunst. We got taught what aggressive mobs could do.
Those two things together taught me one thing: to expect all and everyone to be alike leads to bad things. You cannot wholly erase individuality and so you force people into duplicity: one outer, public, persona, acceptable, within expected parameters, and an inner, hidden, persona. That is a scared and insincere society, were you live in fear of exposure, fear of being outed as Other. It is not the society that I want. Travelling pre-Glasnost Eastern Europe did a lot to cement that view.
When I see groups of people, dressed the same, or with dress items signifying a special belonging or opinion. When I see sports fans dressed in team colours, when I hear them chant: I think of the Nuremberg Rallies, of boots marching, of people sent to their deaths for being Other. It is a physical reaction – I shiver, in aversion. I feel fear. Regardless of if I agree with the cause or not.
This is of course not a popular opinion. You know, wearing (or at least owning for Facebook display) a pussy hat is more or less mandatory, these days. But I just cannot. For me, it is the Nazis, the Fascists, Stalin’s Gulags, all over again. Even if I do understand that it, in this case, is meant as a gesture of solidarity it is also an enforced dress code, a sign of tribal belonging – or not. Black or white, in or out, no discussions needed.
And there you have it. A group, any group, enforcing a certain dress code, or you’re not believed to be serious. If you want to belong, to not look out of place, not have to take “debates” with people who don’t want to have a serious analytical talk but to convert you, you better conform, even if it’s only a veneer.
Hear the chants. Hear the sound of boots, trampling everyone down.
Even if your intentions was otherwise.
Because democracy cannot rest on peer pressure. Even if you’re justified (in your anger).