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A Few Arguments Against Tattoos

Doctors traced an outbreak of skin infections back to bacteria in the ink.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

September 3, 2012 - 7:00 am
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Presumably the social significance of tattoos has changed somewhat. In 1913, Dr. Charles Goring (father of the distinguished actor Marius Goring), a prison doctor, published a vast compendium of statistical information about criminals called The English Convict, in which he wrote:

It was originally asserted by Lombroso [the famous Italian doctor, anthropologist and criminologist], and the statement has been confirmed by observers, that the criminal displays an inordinate tendency to tattoo his body – the tendency being regarded as an atavistic revival of the love of ornate display which characterises the savage.

Goring also found that the tattooing among criminals was inversely proportional to their intelligence.

But that was in 1913; educational progress has since been immense. The Journal therefore did not comment on the cultural side of the question, on the sudden mass outbreak of extreme bad taste, but dealt only with its health aspects, for example on the ways in which tattooing might be made even safer than it is now:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reaching out to health care providers, public health officials, consumers, and the tattoo industry to improve awareness, diagnosis, and reporting (through the MedWatch program) in order to develop more effective measures for tattoo ink–related public health problems.

Once the tattoo industry has been successfully reached out to, we can safely predict the next stage: publicly funded programs of tattoo removal. How long will it be before there is an editorial drawing our attention to the psychologically damaging effects of unwanted tattoos? And where Psyche comes, can Soma be far behind? Cost-benefit analysis will clearly show the advantages of tattoo removal, from greater self-esteem to better employment prospects.

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

Is ‘Suck It’ Really the Most Creative Thing Ke$ha Could Think to Tattoo Inside Her Lip?

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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