Is the Popularity of Tattoos a Sign of Civilization's Decline?

Forget asteroids, plagues, or zombies: The true apocalypse will (allegedly) be the curiosity of tattooed millennials.   


In a puzzling and frustrating Telegraph article, Bill Borrows (who is not a Harry Potter character as earlier presumed) expounds on why he doesn’t like tattoos. Actually, it’s not just the tattoos that irritate him. Borrows uses his space, his platform as a writer, to bring down the hammer of judgment on the people.


He seems genuinely upset that anyone would want to ink themselves. His anger isn’t the lovable-but-crotchety old man style, like Andy Rooney or Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle. Tattoos are moving society backward, are ugly, and utterly pointless, he says. They are the equivalent of a Facebook like you put on your body. Was this ghostwritten by Clint Eastwood? 

Why, though, is he so upset? Why does he care? You have the ability, the enormous privilege as a writer to open for discussion things worth discussing. So why waste that? I don’t have a tattoo and I will probably never get one, but many of my friends do. For some, what they have chosen to place permanently on their bodies is deeply meaningful, sometimes representing a friend or parent lost. And for others, there was less thought; they just wanted one so they did it.


But I don’t understand why anyone would care either way, or why you would go so far as to judge someone for something you don’t understand. The bigger issue here is that he’s insulting people whose actions have no direct effect on his life. When people start assuming their own superiority, or that they know better, it creates divisions and defensiveness. Are tattoos the end of the world? Probably not. But hubris just might be.

Or zombies. Probably zombies.

Actually, the fascination with tattoos spans society. Science writer Carl Zimmer was surprised to discover the number of tattoos that career scientists have. Zimmer's blog, The Loonoften features pictures of readers’ science tattoos. Is he hiding any himself?


Image courtesy of iStock / Ryan J. Lane

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