Chapter Companion Seven
“Knocking” was a very important part of the Elan program. I probably “knocked” about 20-50 times a week.
The concept of knocking ingeniously served two purposes:
For the person being yelled at, it was kind of like a mini General Meeting. You had four of your peers screaming at you because you had done something wrong. Peer-pressure is a very powerful tool, particularly for the teenage mind. Add in the sleep deprivation and hunger than makes your mind soft, and all of a sudden those screams really start to pierce you down to the core.
It is also important to think of the people doing the screaming. “Dealing crews” happened all day, every day. So when you were chosen to be a part of one, you would be screaming at multiple people over the course of 1 – 5 hours. You felt more like you were a part of an assembly line. My point is that you learned to just kind of “do it” (scream at someone), almost on auto-pilot, like driving to work. Sometimes it was your friend, sometimes it was your enemy, but most times you really didn’t give a shit but had to act like you did. Because most times you were yelling at people for stuff that was completely mundane, like brushing their teeth for 3 minutes when the limit was supposed to be 2 minutes. You simply went through the motions, but doing this all day, every day definitely had an effect on your mental state. It normalized screaming, it normalized the act of hating someone. And don’t forget that, like the person being screamed at, those doing the screaming were also hungry and sleep deprived.
Another interesting thing about this core Elan concept was the similarities to religion, or more specifically, the idea of “original sin”. “In the theology of the Catholic Church, original sin is the absence of original holiness and justice into which humans are born, distinct from the actual sins that a person commits.” Original sin can be simplified as “no matter how much you confess and how sorry you are for your crimes/guilt, you will always have that original guilt that you can never get rid of”.
Elan’s system was very reliant on this concept. The idea that simply being in Elan made you guilty. That regardless of what you did in Elan, you were a bad person simply because you ended up there. As an Elan resident, you knocked at least once per day (and multiple times on most days). You began to see your very existence as something that you needed to be punished for. Regardless of what you did, you knocked. You simply could not have a “perfect” day in Elan. No matter what you did, no matter how much you bent over backwards to please your masters, no matter how hard you tried, you were going to knock.
The idea of “you’re guilty no matter what” was important as far as breaking a person. To come back to religion, it made you feel like you were an inferior being at the mercy of The Gods (The Staff). Almost like you were an inferior species. You simply existed to be punished by them. And like real Gods, they didn’t actually punish you themselves, they used the other inferior creatures (the other Elan residents) to punish you for them.
Every time you knocked you were given a punishment for the crimes/guilt you were knocking for. And The Staff were the ones who wrote that punishment. So basically, they sat in the Staff office, got a pile of the houses’s “incidents” at the end of the day, and then the lead director of Staff (because even the Staff had a ranking system) would scribble in punishments, or as they called them in Elan-speak: LE’s (learning experiences).
Staff would go through 300 – 600 incidents (completely common for a single day) and, of course, with that many incidents, it was really impossible for them to sit and think through each one. So they simply dished out the most common ones. One of the more common ones was called “GI” (which I think was a military term meaning General Inspection). So we would get 1 hour GI, 2 hour GI, GI trashcans, GI toilets, GI movie (because once or twice a week they put a movie on the little TV), and this would add to our individual “LE list”.
When people were knocking, the person on “Top Zone” would be in charge of collecting all of the LE’s. So basically you would knock, enter a room and they would scream at you, and then when it was over, as you left the room, the Coordinator (all dealing crews had to run by a Coordinator) would scream something like “Joe N. – 2 hour GI, GI movie!” at Top Zone and it was his job to record that. At the end of the day, a High-Strength would collect that chart from Top Zone and add it to the master list. And then each of the Department Heads was given a list concerning their crew. So for example, when I was in the Service Crew (all new resident workers started in this crew by default), I had would have the Department Head of Service Crew coming to me every week making sure that I was tackling all of the LE’s on my list.
And like of like an overdue library book, the longer an LE stayed on my list, the more pressure was put on me to get off. People would get General Meetings because their LE list was too long. And of course, people would get booked for it, then knock for it, and then get even more LE’s.
So you would get more LE’s for having too many LE’s. And of course, the reason you couldn’t get rid of the original LE’s was because you were constantly busy and it was very hard to complete them with the already grueling schedule. Kind of like when you don’t have any money and you overdraft at the bank, so then bank charges you a fine. So you end up owing more money for crime of not having any money.