Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dictated Style

It is amazing how different cultures in different countries can be. In the United States, uniqueness and individuality are celebrated and encouraged. Most teenagers purposefully expend effort trying to somehow set themselves apart. It gives them their identity and makes them feel more special. I remember back when I was in high school, if two kids came into school riding identical dinosaurs, we all attempted to humiliate them by grunting and whooping, followed by unmerciful and swift castration.

In stark juxtaposition to our way of life here in the "western" world, other countries strictly control their populations. They feel that if they control the way the people look, the way the people act, the way people live, and the way the people think, those in power will remain in power. If nobody is seen as special or set apart, because they are just like everyone else, the more flamboyant ruling class will, by sharp contrast, be seen as somehow different, somehow more powerful, somehow more special.

This approach has been well documented in China, where education was withheld from vast segments of the population and the naming of children was strictly controlled. It was all about ego, all about control, all about maintaining power. China is but one example, there are, of course, many others. However, I was struck by a recent report on CNN coming out of Iran. There the government has enacted tough new laws dictating allowed men's hairstyles. (You may note that there is no law concerning women's hair in Iran as they must go about 24 hours a day wearing a bee-keeper's suit.) It was amusing to me that the report noted that the pompadour, hair-spray-infused coif favored by Prince in the 1980s, which many Iranian youths are smitten with, is strictly prohibited. Other styles that are forbidden are the Steven Seagal ponytail and the Billy Ray Cyrus mullet. The only allowed hair style for men is roughly akin to the bowl cut favored by Moe Howard in the Three Stooges. The penalty for violating this decree? Stoning.

The report indicated that this new decree was necessary to confront the cultural assault by the West. Funny that they only get 1980s MTV reruns, dated action movies with poor dialog and wooden action, film-weary achey-break videos, and classic Stooges reels.