The (non) culture club of no return 

By Christine McKellar 

There are cultures and subcultures within any society. There are trends and fashions that flit and flitter in and out: generation after generation. There is also a fabric that adheres to each generation and culture. A definitive, and yes, historic testament as to what defined that era and the collective consciousness therein. Were we to transport ourselves forward one hundred years from today, were we to look back on the video footage, the data, the literary archives of this millennium, were we to exhume our ancestry from dusty photo albums and scrapbooks—what would those ancient records tell us? 

They would tell us this was the age of the truly non-originals. This was the age of the ultimate conformists. This was a triad-generation so lost in a glut of outdoing the most outrageous in the hope of becoming someone, something—anything—of value, that all value was lost. An age where beauty was standardized: Breasts were enlarged, enhanced, exposed. Lips puffed to conformity. Faces smoothed by Botox and surgery so that all could look upon the world with the same flattened affect. Men could have erections on demand by virtue of a little blue pill. But, most importantly, bodies could be made “unique” and “individual.” 

This last mindset is what has let loose a mind-boggling glut of self-mutilation unheralded in any one generation by numbers so vast. The majority of these over-eager participants are too young and immature to understand the cultural nature of tattooing, body piercing, branding and scarification. None of the aforementioned practices were meant as “personal statements” or acts of societal defiance. There is no Caucasian construction worker who has the cultural RIGHT to tattoo a Maori warrior symbol—or any other symbol—all over his back, neck or arms. Or to put plugs in his ears. For umpteen generations ear plugs have been the tribal right of the Burmese women of Southeast Asia. Belly, nose, nipple, and genital piercings are proprietary to certain cultures too. They were never meant for teenybopper baristas. 

There is no woman on the runway, no Playmate, no movie star whose 38D synthetic, upright, perfectly-even-with-a-landing-strip-in-the-middle breasts or manufactured face and smile qualifies her to be crowned as a genuine beauty queen, either. 

Our cultural legacy should be in the beauty and wholesomeness of our minds, hearts, bodies and souls. In our music, art, literature—even in such hobbies and passions as gardening, saving animals, saving the Earth. The gift we leave to generations unborn should be how hard we worked and invested in these things that should last forever. The average medical costs of piercings gone bad, the cost of designer tattoos, and, oh yes, the thousands of dollars to remove those same tattoos once one grows up, plus the millions spent each year on breast augmentations, plastic surgery, sex toys and stimulants, those dollars could save the world.  

This utopian vision sure beats the hell out of one wondering why granddad’s ear plugs are about where grandma’s boobs should be.