Two Parables About Conformity and Authoritarianism
Allegories on things that were, things that are, and things to come.
Given what’s occurred in the country recently, I thought I’d make a podcast episode that points out just some of the foolishness of where the United States is and where it might be headed. But I’ll leave the final analysis of these stories for you to decide the meanings.
One sunny day, a man drives his modest gas-practical little car to a beach at the shore. He parks his car on a street near the beach and proceeds to walk to it. Upon entering the beach, he then takes off his shoes so he can enjoy the feeling of the sand and sea water massaging his feet.
Meanwhile, another man drives his giant gas guzzling four by four jeep to the beach at the shore. He drives fast and recklessly, screaming at the slower cars to get out of his way. He is looking forward to being on the beach, where he can then loudly play his music while barbecuing steaks on the large gasoline powered grill he’s loaded onto the back of his jeep.
Once he’s arrived to the entrance of the beach he sees there are others just like him who have driven their large jeeps, trucks and SUVs onto the beach. Resembling an encampment of an invading army, or perhaps more like the burning oil fields of Iraq during the gulf war, the other drivers have set up their large grills next to their autos and are enjoying the beach enhanced by the smell of burning meats.
The man admires his fellow gas hogs and then looks down the beach to see a lone man walking on the beach.
He huffs in scorn at he man’s foolishness. After all, why bother to walk to the beach when one can drive up as close to the water as possible?
The man in the jeep then precedes to push his gas pedal to the floor as he charges onto the sand.
Unfortunately, the man has made an error in judgment. Due to all the other jeeps, truck and SUVs also charging onto the beach, the sand at the entrance to the beach has been churned up and softened into a series of lumpy sandy tire traps.
As the man attempts to speed onto the beach, he finds that his Jeep gets quickly mired in the sand.
He tries to put the Jeep in reverse to back out of the holes his tires have dug into the sand, but the aggression with which he uses to gun the engine only sinks his tires deeper into the sand.
The angry man gets out of his jeep to inspect the situation. The oversized tires on his auto are nearly buried in the sand.
He yells over to his fellow Jeep, truck and SUV brethren for help. However, they pay no mind to him, as they’re listening to their music too loudly while filling their bellies full of grilled meat.
Other large vehicle drivers, who are a bit more careful, enter the beach and pass by the man, giving neither a glance his way nor an offer of assistance to him and his hopelessly stuck jeep.
The man tries to call a tow truck but he finds that his cell phone has no service.
Meanwhile down the beach, the man who was walking on the beach has had a sufficient amount of the sand and sea water gently massaging his feet. He decides to leave the beach.
As he walks off the beach he sees the distressed jeep driver and the collection of selfish other drivers. He makes a wide path to avoid them as he exits the beach and heads back to his modest little car parked on the street. Upon arriving at it, he shakes some sand off his shoes, enters the car and starts it up.
As he drives off, the man looks into his rear view mirror and catches a glimpse of the entrenched jeep driver who is now screaming and cursing at his vehicle.
The man smiles and drives away.
Yuri Popovich sat at his boring and repetitive job on the production line in the Comrade Khrushchev Scissors factory. He watched the scissors die-cutting machine stamp and spew scissors to the conveyer belt.
As he sat there he thought about his squalid little state supplied apartment and how it needed plumbing repairs; Its mildew stained walls also badly needed painting. Yuri then thought about how the apartment lacked electricity at certain times of the day, and how the apartment also never had adequate heat during the long, cold Leningrad winters.
He then reflected on his inability to buy a decent loaf of pumpernickel bread, or even purchase a stick of butter, or a jar of jam to smear onto a slice from one of those scant loafs of bread.
It was thinking of a nice dollop of jam on toast, which motivated him to make the slightest of adjustments to the scissors die-cutting machine.
Not a major adjustment, just a minor twist of the dial. Enough to make one side of the scissors off by just a minuscule 1/10th of a millimeter.
After doing this, he watched the scissors getting pressed and move down the production line. He subtly smiled, satisfied that his adjustment introduced a small bit of chaos to this mundane rundown world.
When his shift was over he was still smiling as he passed his comrade co-worker, Sergey Totopnick, who replaced his position on the line for the second shift.
Sergey wondered what Yuri had reason to smile about. It wasn’t like the interminable routine of this job would offer any levity.
It made Sergey very curious.
As he sat on the production line watching the scissor die-cutting machine, this curiosity wormed its way into Sergey’s brain. He looked around the factory floor to see what possibly could have amused Yuri so much.
Was it one of the other drab, joyless co-workers?
A few meters away sat Doliv Fricktov, a slovenly pile of a man. Was he the one who was somehow amusing Yuri?
Doliv farted as Sergey watched him.
However this didn’t amuse Sergey since Doliv often farted due to his known overindulgence in kielbasa and cabbage.
No, it was something else.
This curiosity started to push Sergey to really resent Yuri. How dare he be allowed even a smidge of joy at this miserable job!
It was then that Sergey was struck with the idea to play a trick on Yuri and the other comrade co-workers.
He made the slightest of adjustments to the scissors die-cutting machine.
Not a great amount but just enough to make a pair of scissors slightly off by a 1/5th of a millimeter.
Sergey derived a great sense of satisfaction at his jest upon Yuri and the others. This elation with his adjustment helped Sergey enjoy the rest of his shift. He even gave a wink to comrade co-worker Boris Clinkonoff as Boris replaced him at the end of his shift.
Boris was taken aback by this wink. He wondered what Sergey’s wink signified? Was it some kind of warning?
Did he know how Boris smuggled a pair of scissors out of the factory?
Boris contemplated this wink as he watched the die-cutting machine spit scissors down the production line.
Paranoia seeped into the cracks of his brain. He worried that somehow Sergey had told the floor comrade about his theft and that he’d be sent to the gulag over his need for a pair of scissors.
It was a perfectly innocent theft. How else was he to shorten the length of of his oversized work pants?
Boris started to panic and nervously scanned the factory floor for any secret police coming to take him away.
It was at this moment that he devised a scheme with which to distract from his thievery.
Boris decided he would make the slightest of adjustments to the scissor die-cutting machine.
Not an obvious amount, but just enough so that when confronted about the purloined scissors, he could quickly distract his accusers by pointing out how the scissors die-cutting machine was off by 1/2 of a millimeter and posed a serious threat to product consistency, the factory’s reputation and the superiority of Soviet Manufacturing!
For the rest of his shift, Boris broke out in a cold sweat as he worried he’d be whisked away at any moment.
When his shift was up he walked hurriedly by Mishka Foopnick, the comrade co-worker who was taking over the seat for the next shift.
Mishka noticed the edgy and sweat-laden state that Boris was in as he passed. This made Misha very worried. He began to obsess over reasons why Boris acted this way and became concerned about his own safety.
By the end of the week, the Comrade Khrushchev Scissors factory flooded Soviet shops with pairs of scissors where no two sides were exactly alike and none of them actually worked.
NEW BONUS ALTERNATE VERSION!
I decided to create a more “Russian” version of the Soviet Scissors story.
If you enjoy really goofy Boris Badinoff impressions you’ll enjoy this:
I hope you enjoyed this podcast and thank you for listening.
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