September 24, 2004

Nostalgie de la Boue

Go and read Theodore Dalrymple's book review critique of middle class tatooing over at The New Criterion.

This is one of those pieces that, were I to read it in dead-tree form, would be covered with stars, circles, exclamation points and the like by the time I got done with it. Also, copious amounts of coffee launched from my mouth and nose. As a flag-nailed-to-the-mast Tory, I take particularly fierce delight in commentary that skewers people who ought to know better. Would you like a sample? Here you go:

Here we see the bodily consequence of an intellectual climate that has long extolled opposition and hostility to what exists as the only honorable and ethical stand to take towards it. Of course, such an attitude is fundamentally ahistorical and lacking in respect for the achievements of the past, and only people who live in an eternal, egoistic present moment could adopt it. (The eternity of the present moment is, of course, the key to modern shallowness.) The tattoo is thus the art form of the cultural vandal, and it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that the cultural vandal’s views should almost always be expressed with inarticulate sub-demotic vulgarity.

It is also no accident that some members of the middle classes should have adopted a typically proletarian form of bodily adornment as a badge not only of independence, but also of liberal virtue. A tattoo establishes them as tolerant, open-minded, and sympathetic towards those below them in the social scale: the highest virtues of which they can conceive. The tattoo thus appeals to the kind of modern bourgeois who believes that foulness of language is a token of purity of heart, or at least of sincerity. The tattoo, like the constant resort to the swearword, is an attack on bourgeois propriety, and as such a demonstration of largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

As they say, go read the whole thing.

Yips! to Mr. Enoch Soames, Esq.

Posted by Robert at September 24, 2004 09:39 AM | TrackBack
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