Re: the seriousness of mutilation

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 14 Jul 1996 09:39:19 +0900

Holly Swyers writes,

>Keeping all this in mind, however, I do not begrudge Mike Shupp's boredom
>with the topic and his sense that this is not "Serious Stuff." I'm
>disappointed in a couple of his responses to the protests about the
>seriousness of this thread, but to be fair, I think he's been provoked. By
>challenging the value of the thread, Mike has presented everyone with the
>opportunity to articulate why this thread is valuable - and to reassess
>whether it is or not. It is hitting some kind of nerve, since it seems to
>be lasting longer than the average thread on this list. If we decide that
>Mike's challenge is an excuse to denigrate each other and flame people -

Could it be (developing some thoughts I've posted elsewhere) that we are
accumulating evidence for my proposition that tattoos and mutilations are
highly uncomfortable subjects for those of us committed to seeing the
"Other" as folks like us," which becomes, through projection, people for
whom intellectual activity is more central and valuable than other aspects
of life? Committed by relativism to the ethical position that the "Other"
is an equal, we are happiest when attributing to them our own concerns.
Thus, worldviews, values, even rituals seen in aestheticized terms as drama
or art are comfortable subjects, ones that are, to borrow Levi-Strauss'
famous phrase "good to think." Piercing, scarring, burning--all suggest a
concern with the "meat" that is, in contrast, ugly, repulsive, "bad to

I wonder, then, if those among us who are tattooed are more or less
comfortable with their bodies than those of us who are not?

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo