Tag Archives: social segregation


Compartmentalization is a military concept.

It’s part of a design intended to keep the hierarchy in place, from top brass down to enlisted private. The lowest in rank reports to his/her next in rank, and ONLY to that officer; said officer in turn reports up the ladder, one rung at a time, until orders come down from the top and the whole process is reversed. Going above one’s immediate superior is considered “breaking rank” and anybody who breaks rank is either disciplined or expelled.

Now a retired public school educator, born female at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, I was not privy to how, when, or why this concept for both establishing, securing, and maintaining control was adopted by other institutions; I only know that, in my adult lifetime, compartmentalized structure and its related thought processes have become ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, society as a whole and, more critical, its related interactive behaviors neither require nor operate successfully within such a structure. Reason? The right hand can never know what the left hand is doing. The “only told what you need to know” plan creates absolutely zero option for lateral movement, resulting in comprehension deficit, protracted delays in information relay, communication breakdown, and system failure.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a glaring example. When the top brass acted compartmentally, and those lateral in rank were not uniformly informed, the result was chaos. From dispensing accurate information about the virus’ nature and behavior to managing testing design and distribution, those at all subject levels – from Governors to Mayors to local public health authorities – were swimming in a sea of conflicting, contradicting data and panicked, reactive supposition, waving wildly to one another from across the moat. And, where did that leave the rest of us, still?

Oh; and, let’s not forget how closely related compartmentalization is to its cousin, social segregation. All action and reaction follows a hierarchy not only of power, but of importance; as such, those “at the top” call the shots, and those in middle management become glorified pawns of the system handed down therefrom. Even when minorities reach middle level authority, they are still subject to the mentality – with its subliminal, similarity bias and vested preferences – of the mind at the head of that table.

Now, we have a form of compartmentalization at play with regard to our upcoming Presidential election. Who decides whether we can vote by mail? Who determines whether mail in ballots will be properly distributed, received, or processed? I took a small social media poll this morning, of those I know personally, and the confused data poured in. Twenty one individuals responded; among these, seven households had received duplicate application forms, and the rest weren’t clear on how such ballots were obtained, several insisting that PA wouldn’t receive theirs until September 14th. Mail in ballot applications can be found online, yet many were unaware and one woman recounted the following, which I quote:

“I requested my mail in vote request on line for the primary, and never received it. I contacted the person who advised me; she [ confirmed that she ] received the application, and told me I could come down to the courthouse and get it?? Now I have received an email confirmation for a mail-in ballot. Will I really receive it? I guess I will have to wait and see. “

But, we can’t afford to sit around and wait. Compartmentalization may work for the military; but, among civilians in crisis, it is a recipe for confusion, riddled with blind spots, rife with the potential for panic and pandemonium. As we approach this critical election season, preserving individual access to the voting ballot had better set fire to that rigid, tyrannical system before democracy as we thought we knew it becomes a casualty of war.





© 8/22/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Hyperbole? All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material. Permission to reprint in part or whole granted upon written request. littlebarefeet@msn.com


QUESTIONING The ANSWER: How to Get Labeled the “Troublemaker” in Your Own Hometown.


Anybody who was born in Erie, Pennsylvania within the past century knows.

This town has an unspoken history.

What has appeared in print, alternately surreptitiously or boldly depending on the relative acceptance of the author’s credibility, has alluded more than once to what everybody has always known: this was a Mafia “mob town”.

Back when Italians and Irish were the dominant first generation immigrant population, the “connected” families were well established. One of them led the city’s government for decades. These were the days of scenes from The Godfather movies; small business fronts, numbers runners, clubs, and neighborhood networks all set up to keep everything smoothly under control.

Into this picture, my Italian father appeared as a displaced citizen. A Bostonian ward of Massachusetts, he’d found himself here by way of a night train and a native Erieite who would become his wife, twice – the first time, in 1944, and again in 1955. Having graduated from barber school after WWII, he would set up his first shop on what, in those days, was the center of the East side: Parade Street. A decade later, he would move to purchase a cement block building on the corner of East 5th & Wallace Streets, and serve a regular clientele of Russian and Polish immigrants as well as city officials for 44 years.

I can remember Dad speaking about the BB gun holes in his plate glass windows on 5th. He and Mum would discuss them, in front of my brothers and me; these were Union people, harassing him to join and follow all their rules for price fixing. I cannot remember when the BB gun holes ceased, but something happened to end them because, once they stopped, they never appeared again. The city officials, however, continued as loyal customers until their deaths by natural causes. Many a final haircut would Dad give, to each of them, in their hospital beds at Hamot, St. Vincent, and over at the Vet’s.

A dear widow and long time Erie resident told me her take on the city, recently. Her late husband was beloved, and well known. And, as secretary to an attorney’s office, she knew who all the racketeers were, by name. She said that, back then, there was no crime in Erie; the mob saw to it that the streets were clean.

Nowadays, Erie is in transition from being an industrial mecca to a vacation resort, and shows promise. But, socially, vestiges of its history can be found in a continually manifesting tribalism. Because, geographically, the city is set on the water’s edge of Lake Erie its flat terrain is laid out in the “Philadelphia grid” style of endless, square city blocks. Consequently, there is nothing to distinguish one neighborhood from another except immediate, unspoken boundaries of ghetto; those living in poverty can be found one square block away from the wealthy, investing elite who own historic villas converted into office space and executive rentals just down the street from City Hall.

So, these tribes of peoples, set apart by closely juxtaposed neighborhoods from Glenwood Heights to the upper lakefront blight, still function in parallel proximity. Even as each nationality represented continues to celebrate its heritage in the multiple summer ethnic festivals, one problem persists: Social segregation. Now, who is in control?

And, that is the first question.

In Erie, as in these United States, every citizen is free to ask that first question. Ask any question, once.

The answer given is expected to be accepted.

But, what if the answer, often the official position on any topic, isn’t acceptable?

What if there is a problem with its content?

I have always been the inquisitive child. If Why? is the question, I will be the first to ask it. Unfortunately, though an established professional in my own right, I am merely the barber’s daughter. Who will give me the straight, factually accurate response? Do I need to know it?

In Erie, you can ask; but, you cannot ask, again. If you challenge the answer you are given, what happens to you is swift and inescapable: you are labeled the “troublemaker”.

And, once branded, you had better retreat into the shadows and stay away. Control is everything to those grasping after it and, in a town where the history was all about leaving well enough alone, if you wonder you are to do so in solitude; if you doubt, you are to keep quiet; if you disbelieve, keep your religion to yourself.

To what end can we know how Erie, Pennsylvania will survive those who do?





© 6/12/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Born at Hamot; raised on the East side; educated in the public schools; taxpaying homeowner on the West side; lifetime Erieite. God Bless Our Home, and all who dwell within it. Thank you for your respect.