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(en) Britain, ORGANISE! #68 - Psychology Behind Uniforms - by Joanne Roberts

Date Thu, 05 Jul 2007 08:52:54 +0300


The presence of uniforms in modern society is unavoidable and, for a number of vague and dubious reasons, people are indoctrinated into this regimented practice from infancy. --- The first direct encounter a person will have with uniforms is when they first attend school. Most primary and secondary schools in Britain adopt a strict uniform policy. The less strict still encourage children to wear uniforms.Parents and pupils alike are told that school uniforms help avoid inequality, in the sense that all children will be dressed identically and thus, bullying will be eliminated. In theory, this sounds like a very admirable, noble reason for having school uniforms, but if one examines the reality of the situation it becomes nothing more than a naÄve, grossly misguided notion.
Firstly, the idea of having school uniforms in place as an antidote to bullying is unrealistic. School uniforms do not eliminate bullying. At best, they help soften one form of bullying. By dressing all school children the same, it becomes more difficult to tell whether a child comes from an poor background or not, but not impossible. Bullying still exists in other forms, be it racial discrimination or verbal bullying brought about by a child looking âdifferentâ to their peers, i.e. overweight, tall or any other distinguishing physical characteristic. The second flaw in having school uniforms in place as an antidote to bullying is that it masks the greater issue, which is that poverty exists in the first place. To drape an poor child in a school uniform will not change the fact that the child is poor. It only masks the poverty, which is a grossly offensive act, derisory and cowardly. The state of affairs which every member of society should be striving for is complete equality, i.e. every child coming from a comfortable background. If this were the case, then uniforms would be completely superfluous. To ignore poverty by simply dressing every child in a standard uniform simply does not achieve anything, it only makes it easier for the privileged people to ignore or forget that poverty exists. The third and most obvious flaw of school uniforms is that they undermine individuality. From infancy, children are being encouraged, if not forced to all dress the same. It has absolutely no bearing on their academic ability or their ability to discern between right and wrong, but school uniform does have a bearing on a personâs ability to find their true individuality, their true identity. In a sense, it is a mass indoctrination. The school environment becomes an allegory for life in the real world, and the message is clear: everyone must look the same. Can we be surprised then, when the track-suited teenager thinks itâs acceptable to break the nose of the teenager who dresses from head to toe in black?

As if it wasnât bad enough that school uniforms stunt the individuality and freedom of children, the adult population too continue the use of uniforms, to a bizarre extent. They have become so commonplace in day-to-day life that people now find their presence unremarkable. Banks, offices, supermarkets, sports centres, restaurants, fast-food outlets, clothing shops and hotels are only some of the places in which uniforms are on show. These uniforms are remarkable in their ugliness. They are of course, designed that way, for a number of reasons. One cannot help but suspect that one of the reasons is that the powers that be want to demean and humiliate the working-class. It is another subtle way for the ruling class to assert their power over the working-class: dress them up in clownish clothing and speak to them as if they donât have the brains they were born with. Every single one of the jobs listed above is a working-class job and the one distinguishing feature of uniforms worn in working-class jobs is that they are all hideous. What confuses me is that people so glibly adorn themselves with revolting trousers, made from burlap, sewn by a child in Taiwan being paid seventy-two pence a day. Or skirts so unattractive and severe they belong in the Victorian era. Or cheap, garishly patterned blouses which look as though someone has vomited on them. How can people so willingly strip themselves of all dignity and self-respect?

But the main reason for uniforms in jobs is to extend the indoctrination begun at infant level. Every uniform screams âconformâ. In a truly equal society, a bank manager would be wearing the same uniform as a trainee bank clerk. This is not the case. Instead, the manager gets to wear a suit of his or her choice. Why? Because they have more money. Money = Privilege = Power. Does anyone really care what their bank cashier is wearing? Can anyone seriously tell me that they think it affects an individualâs ability to do their job? For that matter, does anyone really care deeply whether the person serving them in a supermarket is wearing their cheaply-made skirt and atrocious blouse, complete with name tag? No. Itâs just that people have become so accustomed to seeing such sights that they would now be deeply shocked if they didnât. To even ask people to wear name tags is deeply offensive in itself. It reduces a person to little more than an item, a product on a shelf, precisely labelled.

And let us not forget the shameful, sad, degrading, advertising campaigns which certain banks now bribe some unlucky staff members into taking part in: Embarrassing adverts in which bank staff parade around like performing seals, with their uniforms brazenly on show, name-tags in place, singing some consumer-friendly, FM-lite pop song, but changing the words to suit the world of banking. Scarcely has a more pathetic sight ever been seen. If this werenât bad enough, the same can be seen in the variety of literature, encouraging an individual to get up to their eyes in debt, which the banks will happily provide anyone with. Nothing can excuse the fact that millions of people, children and adults, up and down the country are being stripped of dignity, self-respect and individuality, by being forced into wearing cheaply-made, deliberately unattractive uniforms which are neither necessary nor desirable. It is yet another sad indictment of modern society that such petty, trivial torments are still being imposed upon the working-class.
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