The other day I saw a small contingent of soldiers walking through New York Penn Station. Presumably they had arrived and were on the alert in response to some potential threat to our safety, so I was glad they were there.

But it occurred to me how odd it is to see soldiers in full camouflage in the heart of one of the world’s most urban locales. In the context of New York City, camouflage clearly does not serve to disguise. In contrast, it does precisely the opposite.

And I realized that this is exactly the point. The soldiers were meant to stand out, and this was achieved by virtue of outfits that make no sense at all, if those outfits are taken literally.

In a situation like this, we are being asked not to take the appearance of these soldiers literally. Rather, we are being asked to see them symbolically, as conveyers of an age-old message: “My very appearance reminds you of the jungle, with all its untamed terrors, so you will remember that I am your defense against the darkness your city lights cannot reach, and that which lies beyond.”

Not a bad message really, as camouflaged messages go.

2 Responses to “Camouflage”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    Of course, you’re left wondering what effective urban camouflage actually would look like. How do you make big tough guys carrying M-16 rifles not stand out in a busy train station?

  2. admin says:

    It could be easier than you might think. The soldiers varied quite a bit in size, ethnicity and gender, so without their uniforms, I think they would blend in nicely.

    As for their weapons, those are getting more compact and efficient every year. At some point soon they might become smaller than the ever-expanding iPhone, and then they will be quite easy to disguise. 🙂

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