The word camouflage first registered in my mind while I was at school. We were introduced to it in our biology classes as the art of concealment. A chameleon, for instance, changes colour to blend in with its environment. A white polar bear is hard to see on ice, as is a striped zebra in the African bush. As an evolved species we feel that phenomenon such as camouflage exist in lowly, inconsequential life forms only. And whenever we employ it with intent, we have a tendency to offer it a high-tech perspective, like the special camouflage clothing that soldiers often wear to become less visible. The startling fact is: camouflage is as much a human characteristics, as it is of the rest of natural world.

Camouflage 101
Image by Martin_Heigan via Flickr

It was hard for me to expect camouflage stealthily existing around, but not too hard to expect it in politics. Politicians have for long made us believe that they have only the interest of the public in their hearts. We often claim to know their true colours but fall prey the very next time we see a popular show-biz personality campaigning for them. Politicians and cine-stars easily put up smokescreens and camouflage to hide their dark side. Their sweet promises, luring demeanour, the people they move with, the media glitz, everything is a crafted ingredient in the camouflage recipe. We admire their daughters as actors and TV anchors, we buy their book of poems (overlooking the ghost author), and we curse the journalist digging too much in their private lives. Who says camouflage doesn’t work every time?

If that scared you now, it won’t when you have to use a camouflage yourself. Yes, we camouflage all the time; at work, with kindred, at interview and where not. We soften unpleasant ideas with foggy words, we act as confident individuals; blacken our hair with dyes; undergo plastic surgery to remove wrinkles; get dentures to replace missing teeth and apply facial cosmetics to emulate the lost lustre of youth. We call it make-up while getting a new camouflaged personality taking off Batman, the comic-book character and creature of night.

Sometimes this camouflage gives us courage to stay on. Consider chatting over Internet, toddlers pretending as adults and perverts as gentlemen. With adventurous and discreet screen-names chatting is easier to handle than the high-jinx of face-to-face conversations. You don’t have to worry about what your non-verbals sneakily profess. You even feel new boldness to flirt, to pen witty lines you never would have said in person. The Camouflage of faceless communication allows individuals to bypass awkwardness and provides an overwhelming sense of control.

Everyday our opinions are formed and solidified with inputs from Radio, TV and newspaper and so many times we are catered camouflaged propaganda. In the scientific and technical world, people often invent special jargon to cover up situations or facts that they may not want our audience to be exposed to directly, very much like the existence of aliens in the movie Men in black. Next time you take an appreciative look at city’s most popular newspaper editorial, look again; it may well be advertorial performing camouflage marketing. Very recently there was an outcry against liquor advertisements being run on various channels posing as Apple juices, mineral water, sports gear, in fact anything but liquor; the advertisement people terms these as surrogate ads. But that’s not new. Liquor and tobacco giants have been doing that for years, sponsoring cricket matches, even teams; thus covertly and conveniently camouflaging the lethal products they create, with their avatar of community chum. Your own English daily promotes business of flesh under the massage-parlour classified ads that ironically appear under the health and fitness column.

Accept or not camouflage has become a culture now. We use it unaware and fail to notice them around us. As long as people would like to hide themselves and evade truth, camouflage will unfold itself in numerous forms. You just have to look minutely to discover a camouflage.