02 July, 2013

Pejorative Descriptors

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Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Pejorative Descriptors

It's been a long and tough month, but luckily today it didn't rain. I think it's the first time in six weeks that it didn't rain. So there's that. The no rain thing. That's good. Meanwhile, I've been learning all new material for a new band that Q and I are putting together, dodging dumb questions and aggravation from the cats in my old band, and supporting a friend who lost his fifth relative to death in the past eight weeks. There have been some challenges. But at the end of the day, watching a dog poop is always funny. So there's that. Now you're thinking of a dog pooping.

Recently I turned a friend onto my blog. That shouldn't seem like an odd thing, that a friend would read my blog; but the majority of my friends don't, so getting people I've known for years to read this drivel is actually an accomplishment. But a friend has started to read, and when I saw her again, she had some interesting commentary. This friend is a bartender at a place I frequent. She's beautiful, friendly, interesting, and energetic. Q and I have been buying drinks from her for a long time, and over that time, a friendship germinated. Now we're friends. How wonderful. Sounds like a buddy dog and cat movie waiting to happen. Celebrity voices yet to be cast. She's wonderful and usually has my juice or soda ready before my crippled ass hits the barstool. We began talking about modification (she has many visible tattoos) and it came up that I write about modification. I gave her my card, and she began reading. Thankfully, this brings an end to this awfully boring exposition.

We discussed a recent blog post, she shared her thoughts, I listened. Then she said something I've not heard before. Or at least if I had heard it, I wasn't paying attention and probably whistling "My Feets Too Big" by the Ink Spots in my head. She said, "I don't like the word modified. Whether I'm modified or not, I'm still a person, right?"

This kind of blew me away. Also blowing me away, the smell of the crab legs that the grizzled guy next to me was eating. Sloppily. And impolitely. There's butter in your beard, man. But my lovely bartender friend's comment that there is a pejorative connotation to the word 'modified' was something I had never heard before. Modified has always been the word, a least for me, to identify myself in the culture. I am modified. It's a wonderfully accurately descriptive word. It's much better than other cultural or lifestyle descriptors. Black people aren't really black, gay people aren't always happy, and white people are more kind of weird pink color anyway. But modified. Modify. To change. To artificially manipulate. To make better? These are pretty accurate to what we in the piercing/tattoo/scarification/pocketing/suspension/haircut/facepaint/fingernail paint/aesthetic amputation/electronic implantation culture do. And it's simpler than saying... All that stuff I just said. And all inclusive to each of those wonderful art forms, thus including each of us into the same collective as others who may participate in modifications which may be different than those in which we ourselves participate. That's a pretty hard working word, I'd say.

My friend is correct, however, in that using the adjective 'modified' tends to, in some minds, exclude the personhood inherent in everyone. But is that factual in its intent to remove an individual's personhood, or is it the limitations of language and our human tendency to categorize in order to more easily understand? I'm unsure of which. Let's look at it.

I've talked about my attachment to words, and my strange freedom to use words only applying the meaning when necessary. What does that mean, exactly. I don't believe in bad words, but I do respect the ability for words to manipulate feelings. I tend to say any word in any instance. I often don't worry too much about the offense it may carry, especially if my intent is not to offend. Intent and connotation, to me, trumps denotation of any word. Here's an example for those of you who like examples.

I am crippled. I use a wheelchair during the day, and a cane at night. I'm the crippled guy. That's the best and most accurate descriptor. There's nothing insulting or offensive about that. My friends freely call me crippled, and often it is the basis of some quality comedy. Yet I have been in situations where a stranger has dropped the crippled word with the express intent to hurt or offend me. There it ceases to be the same word. It's the same word in its spelling and denotation. I am hobbled by disease and limited in my ability to physically perform to a normal degree. That's crippled. Yet the connotation, the context in which it is used can create an air of hurtfulness though the definition of the word is completely accurate. That's the problem with words. They can be beautiful inks with which to paint masterpieces, or devastating weapons with which to destroy comfort. All with a simple changed inflection or accompaniment of other words.

Getting back to the word 'modified.' My friend is correct. She is still a person, a beautiful woman, who happens to be tattooed. But being qualified as a modified person seems to her detract from her personhood. Is that accurate, or is it the inherent flaw of adjectives? Adjectives exist for people to apply more detail to what they hope to share. It allows us to share our senses. Yes, it's a chicken. But it's a fried chicken. Yes, it's a smell. But it is a cinnamon smell. Yes, it is a note. But it is a high, out of tune note. Do any of those things, the chicken, the smell, the note, become ignored or less of what they are because of the further description? Or do they become a special version of themselves, further explained and understood?

There are 7,126,790,400 people (roughly) on planet Earth. And each of us is completely unique to the next. What separates you from the other 7,126,790,399 people? Part of modification for many people is to identify with a uniqueness. To separate from those other folks and to be something the others are not, being truly unique. Modification helps us identify with that uniqueness. In order to collectively describe those individuals who are in no way like any other individuals is to corral them into a category that preserves their uniqueness yet allows us to, like any other collective noun, speak of them in general terms and examine their similarities and differences. Is that an adjectival shackle? If that is true, any collective noun is. Fish, people, fat, homosexual, ethnic, intelligent, inspiring, terrorist, loving, Christian, educated would all be linguistic shackles, and I'm not sure that is accurate. I tend to describe people, all people, as beautiful. Is that word a shackle? I should have picked a different word than shackle. What a dumb sounding word, but you get the idea.

All in all (which is a phrase that says pretty much nothing), I disagree with my beautiful friend. I think modified is a fine descriptor for our culture. It is a descriptor that welcomes open admission. One cannot choose to be black or white or gay or straight. But one can choose to be modified, which is a descriptor that only slightly breaches the surface of our culture's membership. In its initial intent to describe those who strive for individuality, it binds us intrinsically to others who may in no other conceivable way share anything with us other than humanity. That is a beautiful thing. Someone in the modified community, like myself, is in a brotherhood with people who have vastly different views and beliefs and likes and dislikes. I am in league, through modification, with Christians and Jews, blacks and whites, gays and lesbians, liberals and conservatives, hippies and metalheads. Since humanity is unfortunately never enough to start an understanding with one another, we have modification in common. And even if that is the only thing, it is a truth that we are similar even if that is the only way in which we are. Stay beautiful, kids.

Fun fact! Since I wrote the world population stat down earlier, it is now 7,126,792,750! Check out this population clock. It's neato. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

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