matricola, emblem of communist kontrol and privacy  

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It recently occurred to me that in my article about the school uniform, I forgot to mention perhaps its best known and most hated feature: the number every student was supposed to wear on their uniform. It’s much like what students wear these days of their own accord: Abercrombie, Adidas, Parasuco, Lululemon, Joe Fresh, Smythe, Guess, but it also had a supposedly unique number and it was compulsory.

matricoleThis little piece of communist history is only important because it was one of the most irksome features of school life in that place and time. At the beginning of the year, we each got one, dutifully recorded by diriga in a list (or the “catalogue” – where teachers kept a record of all our efforts, academic successes and failures). The boys were supposed to wear it on their jacket sleeve, above the elbow, while girls had to have it on their breast, as you can see in the photo in the article on uniforms.

Now, the article with the communist uniform, discussing the influence of slim-fit pants and published May 6, was good enough as it was. And on May 7, this amazing pearl:

I can only hope that micro-Kim is not [the sole] reader of this blog. Either way, I had written this article before discovering the tweet (via Petreanu).

I hated this school emblem and hated its idea. It wasn’t enough that my individuality was melted into the collective through the uniform, now I had to be serialized, much like a prison inmate who had never committed a crime except that of having been born. ‘Twas a stark reminder that I was nothing but a prisoner of the education system in the communist lager.

The “reasonable” explanation behind this tag was that if a pupil was to engage in anything worth reporting, while outside the school or inside, anyone could report them to the school by their number. This was, however, wishful thinking because nobody bothered reporting and besides students were not wearing it when causing mischief (and if they were, but it was too hard to read). One had to have it sewn to the uniform, and that was checked when you would get into the school, but nobody would check if it was truly your number or not. You could always find one on the floor and use it instead of the one assigned to you, with no-one being the wiser. Besides, although we were all regularly engaging in “mischief” outside the school, as kids do, I have never heard of someone having been reported to the school for it. Inside the school, you were known by your name (at least I was). Being the tallest and youngest in my class wasn’t helpful in my situation. Outside the school, people would throw things at you – for instance, climbing a fruit tree for cherries, apples or anything else caused some weird inhabitant to throw water on you (usually dirty).

In a nutshell, “matricola” (the tag) was not useful for its official purpose. I suspect that it had a different effect, whether purposely or accidentally: it got people accustomed to being a cog in the infernal communist bureaucracy, a termite with little purpose outside that given by the state. Having to wear a tag made everyone much more agreeable to having “identity papers”, a CNP or SIN or any other kind of identifying number. It also made people more accepting of having their privacy invaded by the government and less likely to question security theater, in all its forms and manifestations, including having to provide CNP for registering a .ro domain name (ROTLD).

This indirect purpose seems to have been achieved. If you read comments from people reminiscing about their school years, even at the “matricola” posting on fb, here’s what you’ll find (and this theme keeps being repeated throughout):

Marin Elisabeta Mama le cosea pe carton si eu o prindeam cu ac de siguranta pe dedesubt, ca sa pot sa o scot! Eram o adevarata rebela!

Razvan Fcd Cococi o prindeam cu capse si o scoteam la filme :)))

Tudorita Margineanu Danculea si ce cafteala de la diriginta nu mai spun de uniforma daca nu era sub genunchi

Luciana Bulzan-lupescu eu trisam..era prinsa cu scai..cind plecam de la scoala o luam jos..Ami dadeam jos repede saronacul..aveam haine de schimb tot timpul la mine

Anaya Heaven Doamne fereste, sa lucrez in invatamant! Dar pe vremea aceea era teroare in sensul cuvântului. Acum ce este, ... mai râu! Dar.... ce ati semanat aia culegeti. Cine a permis ca elevii sa meargă cum vor, când vor si cu ce vor la şcoala?

Emma Emilia Tudorache ...poate daca nu le am fi smuls cu totii tara asta ar fi fost mai buna si unii dintre noi mai constienti de cat de importante sunt educatia, respectul si mai presus de valorile materiale pe care acum le veneram!

Ella Ella le aveam prinse in capse si dupa ce intram in clasa le aruncam de la etajul doi la colegii care nu aveau si le prindeau cu agrafa

Balcanu Jonny-Elena asa este pacat ca nu isi dau seama ce rau le fac tot elevilor cresc fara un pic de respect, eu am luat bataie de la profesori cu linia de lemn peste maini sau te trageau de urechi pana se inroseau si cand ajungeam acasa nu aveam curaj sa spun nimic la parinti ca ma bateau si ei asa ca tebuia sa invat,

Daniela Dumitru cit de frumos erea si cit respect se inpunea pentru cei care purta emblem uniforma sub genuchi nyu ca acuma pina la cur de se vad chiloti dear putea sa vina desbracate si pe urma spun ma violat pai de ce nu tu dai prilezu nu am dreptate.

Personally, I fought it with every fibre of my being. First, I wore it with an elastic band, so that I could easily take it off after control. I had stapled the elastic band with a stapler and needless to say, that didn’t work well and would fail in time, having had to repeatedly be reattached. I then moved to more permanent “staples” in each corner, as I could not find velcro anywhere.

Despite all the crap I got from diriga, I never affixed it permanently to my uniform. And that, my friend, is one of my childhood’s proudest achievements.

Sources / More info: fb, gcclg

Thank you for reading (mulţam fain pentru cetire)! Publicat Thursday, May 08, 2014 . Similar articles under the following categories (poţi găsi articole similare sub următoarele categorii): (Subscribe), (Subscribe), (Subscribe) . Dacă ţi-a plăcut articolul, PinIt-uieste-l, ReddIt-eaza-l, stumble-uieste-l altora, trimite-l pe WhatsApp yMess şi consideră abonarea la fluxul RSS sau prin email. Ma poti de asemenea gasi pe Google. Trackback poateputea fi trimis prin URL-ul de sub Comentarii.
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