Another Perspective

Tattoo You!

What is Western humanity doing to itself?

By 9.17.12

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What's with this tattoo craze that has taken the world by storm? The body has been projected beyond the personal and intimate, to become a walking canvass. It seems more and more people sport, one, two or twenty-two tattoos. And this is no one-nation, ethnic or religious fad, but cuts across borders and countries: rich, poor, fat or slim, men, women; Germans, Spaniards, Americans -- everywhere, everyone has been branded.

This proud defiling of the body is, to say the least, quite mystifying. Is the body not meant to be a repository of our entire selves? I will not go into what the Bible or main monotheistic religions have to say about them. Still, one would think this practice anathema, for while it conceals one's personality behind this self-made laceration, it also labels and relegates the wearer to a specific class or category of person.

Tattoos, which at one point seemed to be a dying practice, have come back with a vengeance. There is a delirious infatuation with them and there is no end to what one gets to see drawn or written on these motion pictures. From the fantastical and allegorical to the plain crass, the entire gamut of childish imagination is laid bare before us. Decorum -- that old-fashion-sounding word -- has been thrown out the window. Or are those who wear them meant to be making a point without having to pronounce themselves, uncover their true self, their identity, personality. In other words, what makes each one of us a unique, complex and interesting human being. On occasions one sees in certain tribes -- from Indians to Africans -- their bodies and/or faces painted for a specific purpose, usually ceremonial in nature. To be forever plastered with a message or drawing, however, is comparable to wearing the same clothes or sticking to the same idea for one's entire existence. Quite a curse if one comes to think of it, for we are meant to evolve, polish, and refine our ways with the passing of time, even at the risk of contradiction.

It is usually the young who are inebriated by this blunt posturing, which at times can be quite defying and provocative in nature -- but almost always rash.

Back in the old days to be tattooed had some significance. It was a mark, a sign that set apart those who bore them. It had to be "earned," like a badge of courage or daring, and it was mostly sailors or convicts who wore them, and usually only one, to symbolize a lost love, the clues to a hidden treasure or for other such fanciful reasons. There was mystery behind them, a story. No more. Nowadays, tattoos are like modern constructions: pêle-mêle, confusing, ugly.

When certain practices become fashionable what usually ends up occurring is that the initial idea or reason behind them loses all sense and purpose, creating the very opposite of what was meant or intended in the first place. This life-long fashion, however, is self-nullifying. Some will come of age and realize that what they thought as original or unique at one point in time is no longer so appealing or attractive. All the more so in these times where immediate pleasures are the norm.

Alas, since gravity has that crushing feeling, in the end, whether we like it or not, tattoos are not a pretty sight.

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About the Author

Elie Kerrigan is a writer living on Majorca, Spain.