How to Break Rules and Get Away With It

F(Real conversation with employee).

“Call him a Fuckface,” I demanded.

“I will not. This is wrong!”


I DON’T WANT TO!”  How about I call him monkey turd instead, please?”

“No, he deserves to be called a Fuckface. DO IT!”

After some more back and forth, she relented and called customer “Fuckface.”  Customer left a $5 tip on a $12 bill.

For those wondering what a Fuckface looks like:



We’ll get back to the Fuckface incident later.  There’s a point to it.

How to Turn Someone into a Fucked-Up Fuckface

While American schools and society *tells* people to break rules and challenge conventions — “to think outside the box” (dorkiest phrase of the century) —  it paradoxically *trains* people to follow rules and to be conventional.  Somewhere Michel Foucault calls this the most effective form of mind control: let people think they’re special when in fact they’re just another fuckface.  In any case, those who don’t know how to break and test rules will either:

a) find it difficult to get ahead because they’ve turned into dumbasses.
b) look like dumbasses while breaking rules.
c) break the wrong rules too many times.
d) think of breaking rules as a guilty pleasure, turning something as mundane as eating chocolate into a subliminally kinky act.

If you’re interested in why schools teach obedience to rules, check out former New York state Teacher of the Year and education activist John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education, and Against School.  For our purposes here, I’m more interested in the sort of people such an environment produces. Gatto on obedience expected from teachers and students:

Consider the strange possibility that we have been deliberately taught to be irresponsible and to dislike each other for some good purpose. I am not being sarcastic or even cynical. I spent 19 years as a student, and 30 more as a school teacher and in all that time I was seldom asked to be responsible, unless you mistake obedience and responsibility for the same thing, which they certainly are not. Whether student or teacher, I gave reflective obedience to strangers for 49 years. If that isn’t a recipe for irresponsibility then nothing is. In school your payoff comes from giving up your personal responsibility, just doing what you’re told by strangers even if that violates the core principles of your household. There isn’t any way to grow up in school, school won’t let you. As I watched it happen, it takes three years to break a kid, 3 years confined to an environment of emotional neediness, songs, smiles, bright colors, cooperative games, these work much better than angry words and punishment.

Gatto claims that children ARE naturally responsible, that at school their sense of responsibility is beaten out of them — “it takes three years to break a kid.”  Gatto on the type of students such schools produce:

“Constant supplication for attention creates a chemistry whose products are the characteristics of modern school children — whining, treachery, dishonesty, malice, cruelty and similar traits. Ceaseless competition for attention in the dramatic fishbowl of the classroom, I have never seen this dynamic examined in the public press — not in 50 years of reading the public press. Ceaseless competition for attention in the dramatic fishbowl of the classroom, reliably delivers cowardly children, toadies, school stoolies, little people sunk into chronic boredom, little people with no apparent purpose, just like caged rats, pressing a bar for sustenance, who develop eccentric mannerisms on a periodic reinforcement schedule.  Those of you who took rat psychology in college will know what I’m referring to — just like the experience of rat psychology, the bizarre behavior kids display is a function of the reinforcement schedule in the confinement of schooling to a large degree. I’m certain of that. Children like this need extensive management. “

Most schools turn most kids into fuck-ups and most of them will look like fuckfaces as adults, impatiently waiting for their next paycheck so they can purchase novelties and escapes — orgasm orgasm orgasm! — that will dull the pain and boredom of their everyday lives.  Again, boredom isn’t a natural state, it’s learned. Contrast this with Amish education, which *formally* ends in 8th grade. Gatto again:

Look at Johns Hopkins University, not one of my favorite universities, but they’ve been tracking the Amish for a long time. They’ve published several…mind blowing books about what has happened in Amish America. In this century, at the beginning of the century, there were 5000 of these people, now there are 150,000. So the group itself has retained its integrity and grown 30 times. Second, 100% of the Amish, or as close to that as humanly possible, has independent livelihoods, and its divided 50% in small entrepreneurial businesses and 50% in small farms. Now consider the drawbacks these people labor under – the government of Pennsylvania has been their sworn enemy through the century. And, they don’t use telephones, they don’t use computers, they don’t use cars, and they go to the 8th grade only because the Supreme Court cut a deal with them in the 1976. So with all these drawbacks you have a community that with all intents and purposes has no crime at all, that takes care of old and young because it mixes both of those groups together in the life of the community, is amazingly successful, amazingly wealthy, and amazingly unschooled!

The Amish are neither fuck-ups nor fuckfaces.  They don’t need to be micromanaged, they’re self-sufficient, self-reliant, and productive. The Amish community is capitalism as Adam Smith had hoped it’d be in practice, without the corruption, the oligarchic excesses, and the concentrations of capital and power.

How Amish Break Rules

Those who think that the Amish are slavish rule followers and brainwashed screwballs probably also think Dead Poet’s Society is a highbrow film about stifled creativity finally unleashed. “Rip it out, rip it out!” we’re exhorted by a renegade English teacher who fashions himself as Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My [Fucking] Captain.” Then meet up in a cave to write poetry that channels someone’s metaphoric cock into some naifs hands, hopefully leading to some action with some real, public school pussy. The narcissist watching Dead Poet’s of course projects, identifies with the “courageous rule breaking boys.”  But that’s a ploy, a trick to get the audience to think they’re in on some juicy highbrow acts of courage, acts of love, when all the boys are doing is what they have always been doing: jerking off.  Instead of using their hands, they use contrived and sentimental poetry; instead of a blow up doll or a watermelon, they have that girl from the other side of the tracks. It’s the same shit, different form.  It’s a movie about how boys “break rules” by hiding their porno mags and jerk off sessions from scoundrel faculty, except the porn is dressed up as poetry and the jerk off sessions don’t include pizza to be eaten by the new kid, so enough people will find the film highbrow enough, inspirational enough to win bullshit awards that confirm some fucked up prejudices.  No wonder Robin Williams named Dead Poet’s his most embarrassing film.

Dead Poet’s isn’t unusual, similar formula is used over and over again to secure enough character identification to make a film profitable, perhaps memorable within public consciousness. Like Good Will Hunting, same shit, except they flip the script.  Instead of preppy boys, now we’re supposed to be down with the bros.  Or Twilight, where girl next door is sandwiched between high society vampires and low society beasts. Daddy doesn’t approve of either, and that’s precisely why it’s every middle-class white girl’s fantasy.

Point is, while we’re told by pop culture — music, film, books, Oprah!, even CNN — to break the rules, we’re trained to follow them, however inane they may be. Which results in some fucked up confused people. “I am Good Will Hunting,” fantasizes the kid with intellectual pretentions and no chance of going anywhere with his degrees in Anthropology, English Literature, and Women’s Studies. “I am Robin Williams,” imagines the teacher who jerks off to kiddie porn and asks students to write personal narratives. Fantasy and narcissism is what we’re left with when there’s no guidance, only glib exhortations.

Amish society doesn’t preach obedience. They are, after all, the ones with the courage to tell the government to fuck off.  They teach their members to think about how to handle temptations as sentient INDIVIDUALS, and not as preposterous film characters. That’s why Amish guidelines (not rules) are purposely UNWRITTEN and Amish governance is so decentralized that each church can make its own rules (based on guidelines). That’s why Amish teens are given the opportunity to explore the “outside” world — booze, smokes, jewelry, Oprah, make-up, whatever it is they could not have — and then asked to make a decision. Those who return are baptized, their convictions finally deep enough for the experience. They’re asked to break the rules to understand them. Godspeed to those few who leave.

The Rule Breakers

Anderson Cooper, despite his Yale degree and his blue blood lineage (Vanderbilt), had to forge his first press pass because nobody wanted to hire and sponsor him. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak figured out a way to get free long distance. Bill Gates rigged computer system to give himself free computer time and his preferred class schedule.  John F. Kennedy blew up toilets while in high school. They didn’t break the rules for guilty pleasure, or as narcissistic announcement of the self. There’s a greater goal, a higher purpose. Anderson wanted a chance and made one for himself. The Steves wanted to know if they can take on big corporations. Bill needed more computer time to figure out what he can do with them.  JFK, eh, he probably was being being a narcissistic douchebag, but experience must have been useful while he handled the Cuban Missile Crisis.

How to Call Someone a Fuckface and Get Away With It

Most of our applicants are either good or bad at faking obedience, or simply obedient.  (There’s a lot of repression going around).  Neither are acceptable in our work culture.  It’ll zap the life out of them, they’ll turn into the caged rats Gatto describes above, if they’re not already there. They need to be reprogrammed. They need to stop thinking of themselves as the main characters of some sappy action film.

To beat obedience out of new employees, we have them practice doing what they’ve been told to never do.  AND get rewarded for doing so (big tips). Totally Pavlovian. We offer Bad Service for $1.  “Includes a finger and customer choice of being called a Fuckface, Monkey Dick, or Gorilla Jizz.” Most can’t pull it off at first, or do so with hilarious results. That’s a good sign, as many of those who can do so see it as an opportunity to express narcissistic rage.

The point of this rite of passage ISN’T to create sassy bitchy employees. The point is to get employees to think about the wants and needs of the customer in a way they never have before (like, who would ever order Bad Service? Well, people do, so there, stop projecting); to become comfortable with being uncomfortable; to recognize that rules  are meant to maintain artificial order at the expense of individual responsibility and dignity; to test and break the rules so they can finally see the point of them and perhaps, one day, change them for the better.

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