All visible tattoos deliver the same message: I am not interested in being hired for any position that involves interacting with the public. Tattoos on the neck and face deliver the message in capital letters.
Time was when tattoos were found mainly only among the demimonde of grifters, members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, rough trade, a certain segment of merchant seamen, and other denizens of the dark side.
I tend to take a dim view of tattoos, seeing them as the graffiti of the human body, and as yet another, perhaps minor, ingredient in the Decline of the West. Christians who believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit ought to consider whether tattoos deface the temple. But I do not dogmatize on this topic. You can reasonably attack my graffiti analogy, and if you insist that tattoos are beautiful, not ugly, I won't be able to refute you. Or at least I won't be able to persuade you.
If you argue that there is no, or needn't be, a connection between tattoos and cultural decline, you may have a case. You might even be able reasonably to maintain that the bodily temple is sometimes beautified by judicious inking. Leviticus 19:28 forbids the practice, but that text does not settle the matter. I tend to think that fascination with the ugly and grotesque does not ennoble us. The connection between the aesthetic and the moral needs to be explored.
But I celebrate the liberty of the individual and tolerate the tattooer and the tatttoed.
I only advise caution: permanent or semi-permanent modifications of the mortal coil are to be made only after due deliberation. You might want to consider such things as: the signal you're sending, your future employability, and, for the distaff contingent, how ugly that tattoo will look on your calf when you are 45 as opposed to 20 and the ink is cheek-by-jowl with varicose veins and cellulite. Cute baristas in hip huggers with tattoos on their lower backs bending over the espresso machine invite impertinent questions as to how far down the pattern extends. "Does it come up the other side?"
If you are thinking of a career in public relations, a bone through the nose is definitely out, as are facial hardware and a Charley Manson-style swastika tattooed onto the forehead. And if you sport a 'tramp stamp,' keep it covered.
Something you allude to, but don’t completely address, is the allure of fashion, and its strange nature. Fashion has a lifetime of at most ten years, usually in a way that what once conferred stature and gravitas turns into the ludicrous. Fortunately we can discard clothes, and change our hairstyle. This is more difficult with tattoos.
I.e. it’s not just that the tattoo will look ugly when the ink is ‘cheek-by-jowl with varicose veins and cellulite’. It’s that it will look ugly and ridiculous in itself.
I haven’t seen any theory that neatly explains the transformative power of time over fashion. Those of us who are older and have been through a few cycles of such changes are aware of it, and are somewhat, though not completely, impervious to it. It is philosophically challenging. How can the very same thing turn almost into its exact opposite? Moreover, when you look at what is now most ridiculous about the fashion, it was the very thing which in a bygone era was the most fascinating and important.
Some things do not date, and perhaps that is the essence of great art. I also think writing dates much slower. I mean, you can read Strawson or Moore and you don’t have a strong sense that it was written 50 or 100 years ago. Then you look at pictures of the writers, and they look quite silly in tweeds or glasses or smoking a pipe.
Fascinating questions. Why are people swayed in their sartorial choices by what is clearly ridiculous and non-functional? Ghetto blacks strutting around in baggy cargo shorts hanging half-way off their butts; women prancing in high heels; stout lesbians stomping around in work boots at a poetry reading; Beltway boys in their bow ties. The absurd corsets and bustles of yesteryear. Statement-making and sexual signaling are part of what's going on.
The Opponent seems to be suggesting that tattoos will go out of fashion and come to look ridiculous. I don't know.
London Karl, an Irish resident of London, checks in with this update:
I'm just back from my first ever trip to America. Only New York, which I am reliably informed is representative of nothing other than itself, but I was touched and impressed by the civility and friendliness I encountered. People there are way friendlier than the Brits. You may despair over your country, but you have that at least!
This is funny. New Yorkers are generally regarded as rude and obnoxious. Donald Trump, for example, is a New Yorker, as is Brian Leiter. No, I am not hastily generalizing from two examples, I am illustrating with two examples an antecedently established general proposition.
It is too bad that London Karl did not have the time or the wherewithal to travel deep into Real America where he would have found much better examples of civility and friendliness.
Some years back I read a paper at Tulane University in New Orleans. Wandering around one afternoon on my own, not in the French Quarter, but in some rather nondescript part of town, I walked into a restaurant for lunch. There I was greeted by a woman who displayed a level of hospitality and friendliness and warmth I had never encountered before. This, I thought to myself, is what must be meant by Southern hospitality. There was, of course, a commercial motivation behind the display; but it was also deeply genuine. That was back in '87 and I have never forgotten the experience.
During that same trip, however, I ran into chess master Jude Acers in the French Quarter. Stationed on the street in his red beret, he plays (or played) all comers at $5 a game. Nothing particularly civil or friendly about him, rather the opposite. But then he is a chess player, one, and not from the South, two. After five games, I paid him his $25 and he made sure that I understood that he had played me for a chump and 'taken me' for 25 semolians. Me, I was happy to part with the money for chess lessons on Bourbon Street in the romantic city of the great Paul Morphy.
He said one thing that has stuck with me. Near the end of a game, he pointed to one of his pawns which had an unobstructed path to the queening square. I couldn't stop it, but it still had a long way to go. He announced, "This pawn has already queened."
A deeply Platonic comment. A timeless use of 'already.' Sub specie aeternitatis, the pawn had queened, or rather IS (timelessly) queened.
"Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)
UPDATE. London Karl responds:
Trust me, I had the desire and the wherewithal to go into the real America; I just didn't have the time. I preferred the edgy friendliness of the New Yorkers to the passive aggression that passes for English 'politeness'.
We are in the age of post-consensus politics. We Americans don't agree on much of anything any more. As our politics comes more and more to resemble warfare, the warrior comes more and more to replace the gentleman.
Here is the best description of a gentleman I have encountered:
The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe. -- John Walter Wayland
By this definition, Trump is no gentleman; he is rather the anti-gentleman. But a gentleman among thugs is a loser. You cannot appeal to the higher nature of a thug; he has none. So you need someone who can repay the leftist in his own Alinskyite coin. You need a man who will get into the gutter and fight the leftist with his own weapons. You need a man who will not shrink from the politics of personal destruction preached by V. I. Lenin and used so effectively by his successors in the Democrat Party.
Herein an argument for Trump. I am beginning to think that he alone can defeat the evil Hillary. Ted Cruz is a brilliant man compared to whom Trump is a know-nothing when it comes to the law, the Constitution, and the affairs of state, and Cruz is a better man than Trump; but the Texan is a senator and thus part of the Republican establishment against which there is justified rebellion.
Personality-wise, too, Cruz is not that attractive to the average disgruntled voter. He is not enough of a regular guy. And being a better man than Trump he probably won't descend deep enough into the gutter to really annihilate Hillary as she so richly deserves. Trump can mobilize Joe Sixpack and Jane Lipstick. These types don't watch C-SPAN or read The Weekly Standard. They can't relate to the bow-tie brigade over at National Review. They are heartily sick and tired of the empty talk of the crapweasels* of the Republican establishment. They want action.
*I borrow this delightful bit of invective from the fiery Michelle Malkin.
It was a hot and humid September day, twenty years ago. I was sitting in a restaurant in Wuhan, China. There had been a power outage, so the air conditioning was off. The lady next to me was perspiring profusely. I somewhat crudely drew attention to the fact probably using some such expression as 'sweating bullets.'
The lady gave me an arch look and said, "Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow."
Does someone want to do something for you? Buy you lunch? Give you a gift? Bring something to the dinner?
Be gracious. Don't say, "You don't have to buy me lunch," or "Let me buy you lunch," or "You didn't have to bring that." Humbly accept and grant the donor the pleasure of being a donor.
Lack of graciousness often bespeaks an excess of ego.
We were re-hydrating at a bar in Tortilla Flat, Arizona, after an ankle-busting hike up a stream bed. I offered to buy Alex a drink. Instead of graciously accepting my hospitality, he had the chutzpah to ask me to lend him money so that he could buy me a drink!
Another type of ungraciousness is replying 'Thank you' to 'Thank you.' If I thank you for something, say 'You're welcome,' not 'Thank You.' Graciously acquiesce in the fact that I have done you a favor. Don't try to get the upper hand by thanking me.
I grant that there are situations in which mutual thanking is appropriate.
Some people feel that they must 'reciprocate.' Why exactly? I gave you a little Christmas present because I felt like it. And now you feel you must give me one in return? Is this a tit for tat game?
Suppose I compliment you sincerely. Will you throw the compliment back in my face by denigrating that which I complimented you for, thereby impugning my judgment?
At the beginning of last night's debate, both the president and the governor received the applause of the audience. But Obama did something Romney did not do: he began applauding. I've seen Hillary do this sort of thing too. Maybe it's a liberal behavior. Who was Obama applauding, and for what reason? Was he applauding the audience for applauding him? I hope not. Was he applauding the audience for some other reason? But what did they do to deserve applause? Was he joining in the applause directed at himself? Or at Romney?
It is a ridiculous innovation, but then liberals are big on ridiculous innovations.
Humble acknowledgement is the correct response to applause. Take a bow, nod your head, say 'thank you,' but don't start applauding in the manner of 'monkey see, monkey do.'
And another thing. The correct response to 'thank you' is 'you're welcome,' not 'thank you.' Humbly accept the thanks of the one who wants to thank you.
Addendum 10/24. A reader claims that Stalin, Mao, and Saddam Hussein used to applaud themselves. So maybe this is another case where PC derives from the CP. A little poking around turned up this: "Zizek is also known to call himself a 'good Stalinist,' and there is reason to believe that he fancies himself a petty Stalin, going so far as he sometimes does to adopt Stalin's habit of clapping for himself with an audience."
I seem to recall having written a couple of posts about Slavoj Zizek. I should bring them over from the old blog.