Wow Trib, way to go

Not sure if the Chicago Tribune is somehow trying to be edgy by publishing controversial editorials, or if they just give any bigot with a keyboard free license to spout uninformed nonsense, but I was completely shocked to come across a piece entitled Disfigured skin points where culture is going, by Paul Carpenter. Take some time and read it, it's lovely.

Some of my favorite gems include:

Referring to Pacific Island/Polynesian cultures -

"Just a few centuries ago, there was a culture still mired in the Stone Age, with no written language, no science, no math, no architecture, no nothing requiring thought. Its members had not even managed to invent the wheel.
That culture's only contribution to the world was the decorative ''tatu.'' In most other parts of the ancient world, tattoos were disfigurements used only to identify criminals or slaves."

Really? Nothing requiring thought? I didn't realize survival was so mindless. I had no idea that the task of adapting to a harsh environment where potable water is scarce, agriculture isn't exactly easy, and your nearest neighbor and trade partner lives hundreds of miles away across open waters was a cake walk. I could easily come up with the tools, social systems, navigation techniques, customs, and way of life that the peoples of the Pacific used and still use to survive in my sleep. Perhaps survival is easy for Mr. Paul Carpenter, who in this day and age doesn't need to do more than order his groceries or even ready-cooked meals to his door from the comfort of his armchair, but those who haven't figured all that out must be terribly backward.

In addition to all of that being erroneous, his statement that tattooing for the sake of art was invented by the Polynesians is completely wrong. Body marking, scarification, and tattooing is as ancient as art itself. Ancient bodies - mummies, those trapped in bogs, those found in ice sheets, and more have been found with traces of these markings. Cave and rock art commonly depicted decorated humans - what's more likely, that this was artistic license or a realistic representation of actual individuals with clan markings? Since the rise of artistic expression, mankind has shown a need to distinguish the individual through adornment of the body or, conversely, to mark affiliation with a group of other individuals in the same manner- this has taken form in piercing, body marking, clothing, jewelry and more. How can tattooing be viewed as anything less than a very natural form of expressing either individualism, oneness with others, or both?

Another gem
"Now that Polynesians can read, use wheels, count and appreciate musical instruments other than drums, they've advanced to a point where most of them have abandoned tattoos."

Have they? I've seen quite a resurgence in ritualistic tattooing all over the Pacific because people want to reclaim parts of their culture that have been whitewashed out by colonialism.

Lovely over-generalizations

"Nonetheless, I've said a lot about both prostitution and tattoos, which, come to think of it, always seem to go together.

No one can deny that the heaviest concentrations of tattoos occur in the lowest segments of society -- prostitutes, pimps, pugs, prison inmates, Ku Klux Klansmen and the members of street and motorcycle gangs."

And war veterans... and people who belong to cultures where tattooing holds a special significance... and people who genuinely appreciate the art of tattooing... and people who have lost a loved one... and so on


"Do not glamorize accomplishment. Do not glamorize intelligence, insight or integrity. Don't glamorize courage, generosity, leadership, skill or diligence. Such qualities are for nerds."

Yes, because none of these attributes are present within Polynesian, Asian, African, or Native North and South American cultures where tattooing is a way of life.

Gotta love selective history lessons...

" In some older cultures, influence traveled from the top down. Early Americans marveled at the intellect of people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and decided that education was a good thing, so they developed public school systems."

I love that the term 'older cultures' is only extended as far as post-contact North America; way to show your very narrow window of global awareness. If you want to play that game, inspired by the intellect of men like Jefferson, European-Americans committed horrendous acts of genocide to exterminate the Native Americans, whom said founding father found particularly loathsome. Oh yeah, perhaps it was their tattoos and the fact that they were 'stone-aged' and obviously hadn't contributed anything to society like the wheel or Tupperware. Never mind the fact that those people tamed two continents, and domesticated plants and animals that serve as some of the most widely-used food staples on the planet - a trifling thing compared to developing instruments other than drums and flutes.

To cap it all off, he closes with this lovely turn of phrase:

"In some modern cultures, influences travel from the septic bottom up. In no time at all, we'll catch up to the Stone Age cannibals of the South Pacific."

Do I even need to elaborate upon what a completely racist load of garbage that is?

Congrats, Mr. Paul Carpenter, on your completely Eurocentric view of history, and the glorification of all that is White over that which is dark, savage and backward. Yes, us tattooed folk will live in the 'septic' depths of our vulgar debauchery, with the whores, racists, cannibals, and criminals...

...and the teachers, politicians, artists, librarians, doctors, mothers, grandfathers, First Nation, Native American, and Aboriginal peoples - the war veterans, and all the other bottom feeders down here. Please, keep your Thomas Jeffersons and other 'inspired' thinkers to yourself; I think at some point, somehow down here in the mire we just might be able to invent the wheel on our own.

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