13 October, 2011

The Dangers Of A ‘Fuck This, I’m Me’ Attitude

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The Dangers Of A ‘Fuck This, I’m Me’ Attitude
Man, I love sports. I really, really, really love sports. More than anything. (Oh, not more than you, my Dixie girl!) But as the Phillies have been prematurely bounced from the playoffs, (send flowers and video games to me for condolence) my attention has shifted to the great sport of hockey. Hockey is fantastic, and for those of you who think it’s the red-headed step child of the major sports, you’re sorely missing out. We’ll get together and watch a game and I’ll explain all the rules to you. In recent years, my love of hockey has gotten more fun as Dave, Marjorie and I all get on AOLIM and watch the Philadelphia/Montreal games together. It’s a great thing. You all should try it.
Speaking of sports (call me Captain Segue), I read an interesting article on the Fox News iPhone app. OK, OK, you people that think Fox News is the devil. Leave me alone, and I’ll leave your CNN (Communist Cable News) alone. Deal?
Soccer. Football. I dig on soccer. I watch it infrequently, but when I do, I like to watch it on the spanish language channel because the broadcasters are awesome. I think the enormity of the importance of soccer to the rest of the world is fascinating. I mean, we have a six month mob scene in this country during American football season, but it is in no way to the insane degree that international soccer is. It’s quite the phenomenon. And no, I won’t share who my team is because I don’t want any of my international readers to bomb my house if it’s their team’s rival.
A Columbian soccer player (that’s a player from Columbia) was held by Saudi Arabian police earlier this week for brandishing a Jesus tattoo while walking through a mall with his wife. Wearing a sleeveless shirt, his many tattoos were visible to the other shoppers, and the Jesus mod got some concerned attention. He was picked up by the Saudi moral police (which I don’t really know what they are) and held as they explained to the soccer player, Juan Pablo, that Shariah law dictates that tattoos must be covered. Juan Pablo apologized and they let him go after a PR guy from his team talked to the Saudi moral police.
This is a non-story to me. He got caught in a flash of ignorance in a very different society, held for a little bit, and let go after an apology. So why am I bringing it up? For a couple of reasons. And I’m going to talk about them. Right now. Here we go. Now. Right here. Yup.
First, foreign countries. I’ve never left the country. Well, I’ve been to Canada and that’s not that much of a stretch culture wise. (That’s not a dig, I swear, Marjorie) I’m talking about countries whose ways of life are drastically different to those you’re accustomed to. I’m talking about growing up in Jersey all your life, being entrenched in that culture and society, and then heading over to Tokyo and acting like the Situation and wondering why the locals are staring at you. What’s interesting about global society is that it is very much a thing that allows for the cultures and customs of its constituents to thrive as they were intended. We can all get a boner of this world society thing, but the people in Arab countries will still have their rules, Asian countries, European, and American. And that’s a good thing. Identity never hurt anyone, did it. And if you disagree, you probably ought to take those piercings out and peal those tattoos off. That each peoples of the world have different senses of sociological norms and rules makes humanity a beautiful thing, whether you agree with the rules or not.
Then there is your responsibility. Yes, you have a responsibility. I know that our generation and responsibility is like Superman and Kryptonite (or Venom and fire for you Marvel fans), but let’s talk about it for a sec anyway. When we travel or interact with people who culturally are very different from us, we have to understand the context in which we are participating. Especially when it comes to modification. Wha?! Yeah!
I know very few people who are world travelers. Yes, Dan; I know you’ve been to Italy and Ireland and you’re great and worldly. Please stop starting sentences with, “When I was in Ireland…” I bet even fewer of you plan to jaunt over to Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Africa or Thailand for a weekend of fun. So this may seem to not apply to you, but even in the context of our great and free country of the United States of America, there are vast cultural divides that we ought to consider in terms of our modifications.
I am very proud of my modifications and those who have done them. I like to show them when asked (not my nipple piercings; well, just ask nicely), and I like to talk about them. My reasons for modifying, my preferences of jewelry and tattoo art styles. But when we are dealing with people who are outside of our own accepted cultural aesthetic, we ought to be sensitive to their comfort and needs, especially when on their turf. If I’m a fan of Yakuza styled art, I should be wise to that on my trip to Japan. If I have a Christian tattoo, I ought to be wise to that when visiting a Muslim country.
It isn’t limited to travel exclusively, though my poor writing presents it that way. Everyday we are presented with at least a few people who don’t really get what we do. And I don’t punish them for that because what we do is still a thing easily misunderstood. Every day at the bookstore, I am a party to stares and questions. A lot of the questions are of the rude variety, but I have to understand that my aesthetic is one that is still swimming in the unconventional end of the pool. So when you’re heading to that traditional Greek wedding for an acquaintance co-worker, you may want to relinquish some of the stubborn gene and cover that tattoo on your arm of a zombie eating a nun’s face. (And if you have that tattoo, send me a photo please.)
This isn’t to say that we oughtn’t be ourselves and embrace who we are. I have no doubt in my mind that we each embrace who we are and accept freely who others are. But the danger lies in the idea that the other person, the stranger, the person who does not reside in the more freely accepting society aesthetic as we do, may read your mods completely differently. There is a time and a place. There is context, and so often in our society we have a ‘fuck it, I am who I am’ attitude. And though, on the whole, I subscribe to that philosophy, I also subscribe to a common sense and respect that dictates my responsibility to honor the customs and beliefs of others. At the end of the day the blind and patent ‘I don’t care what you think’ attitude can get you locked up in a Saudi prison, and I’m sure that is pretty high up on my ‘Places Not To Go’ list.
I would never ask anyone to mortgage his comfort and beauty for someone else, but in certain context, it is import to hold the door for others in order to exemplify to that other person that we in the modification community are tolerant, accepting, beautiful, and open to all flavors of people and beliefs; and we ought to do this as an invitation for that other person to do the same toward our culture. That’s how social tolerance happens. That’s how social change becomes a real and valuable thing. Marches and picket signs and sticking to your guns until someone locks you up and flogs you as an example breeds more hate than it does tolerance. The tolerance comes from reasonable compromise, and in our culture, that compromise will likely be birthed by common sense and the type of respect toward other cultures and aesthetics as we would like to see to ours. Stay beautiful, kids.

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