|Conformity: Another Brick in the Wall?|
I saw a statistic the other day indicating that Las Vegas is the 2nd most tattooed city in America. 40% of Americans between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least 1 tattoo. And, the latest trend is that women are slightly more likely to get a tattoo now than men (23% vs. 19%). I’m not surprised, and if anything wonder if the statistics may be erring on the low side.
In my line of work I have occasion to see all sorts of body work meant to celebrate individuality. I stopped being shocked by what I see a long time ago. But I can’t resist the impulse to point out the irony of so great an investment in demonstrating one’s individuality, through the process of mimicry. Nowadays, this particular expression of individuality is fundamentally driven by the overwhelming desire to be like everyone else. Pop culture says ‘be yourself’ and ‘anything goes’ while simultaneously snarking ‘What! You don’t have a tattoo?’. Whether it’s full sleeves of tribal motifs interspersed with skulls and other angry imagery, or the regulation floral print of a sassy lady, it’s all very predictable. I will freely concede that the brick wall right below the skin on the back of your head tattoo is clever. But it saddens me to think that our expressions of inner self are increasingly determined by things so superficial. This is the epitome of ‘skin deep’ identity.
In 1982, RUSH released Signals. Neal Peart is probably the greatest drummer that has ever lived; he is also a gifted lyricist. His chorus in the lead track Subdivisions captures the fear of being cast out for failure to conform (listen here). Call it peer pressure or whatever you want, but it creates a willful surrender of our individual will to the will of the herd. Frequently, the herd leads us to places to which we would not otherwise tend to go.