[MUD-Dev] Walking

Robert Zubek rob at cs.northwestern.edu
Sun Nov 12 23:59:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

although this has absolutely nothing to do with the topic, the
issue of forced marching reminded me of an interesting story that i
just read... enjoy... :)

- from "Europe: a History" by Norman Davies:

The Paradeschritt or 'Parade March' of the Prussian Army was one of
the most unnatural and expressive movements ever invented for the
human body. Its foreign critics called it the goose-step. The lines of
jackbooted soldiers were trained to point their toes on every upward
beat, raising their legs to a high horizontal position. In order to
keep their balance, they had to lean forward, swinging their arms like
cantilevers, and holding their chins in a characteristic jutting
posture. Since every step required enormous effort, the musical tempo
had to be moderate to slow; and the march was performed to a grim,
deliberate air of latent menace. Fierce facial expressions were an
essential adjunct to the soldiers' exertions.

The body language of the goose-step transmitted a clear set of
messages. To Prussia's generals, it said that the discipline and
athleticism of their men would withstand all orders, no matter how
painful or ludicrous. To Prussia's civilians, it said that all
insubordination would be ruthlessly crushed. To Prussia's enemies, it
said that the Prussian Army was not made up of just lads in uniform,
but of regimented supermen. To the world at large, it announced that
Prussia was not just strong, but arrogant. Here, quite literally, was
the embodiment of Prussian militarism.

The ethos of the goose-step contrasted very sharply with the
parade-ground traditions of other armies. The French Army, for
example, took great pride in the highly accelerated marching tempo of
its light infantry, which, with bugles blaring, exuded the spirit of
elan or 'dash' that was so much cultivated. The headlong charge of
Polish cavalry, who used to stop one foot short of the commander's
saluting base, demonstrates an exhilarating mixture of horsemanship
and showmanship. In London, the magnificently slow Slow March of the
royal Foot Guards, with its instant of frozen motion in the middle of
each stride, exuded a temper of serenity, confidence and self-control
that was quintessentially British.

The career of the goose-step has been a long one. It was recorded in
the seventeenth century, and was still alive at the end of the
twentieth. It was a standard feature of all military parades in
Prussia and Germany until 1945. It was exported to all the armies of
the world which were trained by Prussian officers, or which admired the
Prussian model. In Europe, it was adopted by the Russian Army, later
by the Red Army and by all the Soviet satellites. It was rejected by
West Germany's Bundeswehr, but was kept in being by the army of the
German Democratic Republic until one month before DDR's collapse in
November 1990. In 1994 it was still being performed in Moscow by the
special squads of KGB troops who had been high-stepping in slow motion
round Lenin's mausoleum for the past 70 years.

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