We went to an indoor kids’ entertainment place yesterday. There were screamy notices that masks are obligatory on every wall. We didn’t wear masks. Other patrons mostly wore their masks around their chins but they all gave us dirty looks.

It’s not health that preoccupied them. It’s that some people have the inner freedom not to perform rituals demonstrating obedience.

11 thoughts on “Performance

  1. I recommend James C. Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism. He talks about anarchist calisthenics, breaking laws when no harm is caused simply to get out of the habit of thinking that laws need to be obeyed simply because they are laws. For example, jaywalking when there are no cars around. He also talks about an attempt in Germany to build a statue to honor war deserters. This caused an outcry even though most Germans, today, do not look back positively on the wars that Germany fought during the last century. Just the fact that people would disobey the law, even an immoral one, still bothered people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “breaking laws when no harm is caused simply to get out of the habit of thinking that laws need to be obeyed simply because they are laws”

      I think you’re teaching you grandmother to suck eggs… Clarissa is from a part of the world where breaking inconvenient rules is the national sport. People that don’t learn how to break the right rules at the right time end up in….. a very bad place.

      It does have a downside in that it can be hard to get people to follow rules that are necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have that issue with my American colleagues. Where I come from the mentality is very similar to how you describe the former Soviet Union. Rules are for suckers and only the suckers obey them when there’s no threat of punishment.

        It took me and my husband a while to get used to living in civilized society here in the US, where eschewing laws — just like smoking — is considered a low-class marker. Husband and I needed to get with the program and we did, but we definitely still largely do not follow a rule unless there’s a good reason for it. This tendency continues to cause me conflict with my Midwestern Protestant colleagues, who never met a rule they didn’t want to obey, no matter how outdated, ill-thought-out, unnecessary, or just plain idiotic the rule is. The US society is definitely focused on breeding / selecting for so-called upholders (it’s a personality type); they tend to be very successful in certain highly paid professions, like medicine.


        1. “breeding / selecting for so-called upholders”

          It’s also related to uncertainty avoidance, in countries with high levels (associated in Europe with south and east) of uncertainty avoidance people want there to be lots of rules – but they don’t feel any real need to follow them (though complaints are made about how other people should follow them), while countries with low levels (English speaking countries in general, Scandinavia, Netherlands) the tendency is for fewer overt rules and greater compliance.

          And… high uncertainty countries tend to deal with real catastrophy/dislocations better on the whole while lower uncertainty countries tend to fall apart (see Australia, New Zealand, Canada).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. To add to your point Cliff and Xy, my observation is also that American women are much more “rule-followers” than men. It is a sort of class-marker for upper middle class American women to follow every medicine-related rule as closely as possible, and if possible, add an extra layer of rules on top. Examples — the women in my social circle who were the strictest adherents of natural birthing and breastfeeding are now the most enthusiastic double and triple-maskers and vaccine-enforcers. It’s as if all the “my body, my choice” slogans they chanted 5 years ago have no meaning whatsoever….


      1. “never seen a rule without getting an itch to break it”

        That’s your survival instinct…. can you imagine what the life of a person who never broke rules in the Soviet Union would be? That sounds like plot of an absurdist short story (they wouldn’t survive any longer format….)


  2. This discussion is very amusing, and the bit about rule-followers doing well in medicine in the west definitely has a great deal of truth to it.

    If it’s of any interest, Asia is quite heterogeneous. People very much have the same “rule-breaking” attitude in India, while Japan and China are very different. Singapore has a very authoritarian government, but to my surprise, when I visited, I found that the public leans closer to India than China in their tendencies.


  3. I don’t see the “mask issue” as being all that important.

    This morning I decided to complete two imminent issues: going to the local military hospital to get medically important annual blood tests, and getting the biennial emissions inspection that Arizona mandates for my 23-year-old Cadillac.

    The outer door to the military hospital had a sign that said, “Masks required for entry, even if vaccinated.” When I pulled into the automobile inspection, I saw that all the young men there were wearing masks.

    So I just slipped on my not-at-all-uncomfortable, no-big-deal mask both times. It wasn’t a test of my manhood or anything — far less trouble than taking a shower early in the morning, and then combing my longish hair and putting on my adult “go to town” clothes for the events.

    Hey, just relax! The world keeps turning, and tomorrow’s rules aren’t that much more important than yesterday’s. So why fret about them?


    1. That’s exactly what people said in the USSR. It’s not a big deal. That’s how we ended up in a totalitarian regime. Every little removal of our liberty was not a big deal. Until there was no liberty left at all.


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