The Girl With The Tattooon Sep 18 in Blog Post by johnhornor
Conversation at my folks house last night, having dinner. My parents don’t consider themselves rich – and they’re not compared to all of their friends – but they’re pretty affluent and consequently, a tad out of touch. Maybe my mom a little more than my dad. Not in a Mitt Romney way, but just not aware of the turmoil that’s going on right now in America because she doesn’t have to.
We ordered pizza and my dad and I went to pick it up. When we got back to their house with the grub, my dad begins talking about the “cute girl that sold us the pizzas. Why’d she have to have all those tattoos and piercings? Seems a damned shame when I see a beautiful woman and she’s got all that stuff all over her.”
Mom asked, “Why do they all do that now? So many tattoos and rings and stuff.”
So, I told them what I thought. I said, first, you’ve got to understand that while you share a heritage, this girl – woman really, she was in her early twenties – is from a totally different culture. She might know what a sock-hop is, but she’s never been to one. Never ridden in a car that has bench seats (unless at an antique car show, where she got a new tattoo), never pulled a tab from a tin can. She’s never watched a rotary dial television – unless in a very self-aware retro-loving way. She’s never made a mix tape or listened to vinyl in the ritualistic ceremony of disc worship, ditto the self-aware retrophile. She’s grown up with cable tv, she’s grown up with the ubiquity of computers and internet and the prevalence of the instant age. She doesn’t have your values. Her values have been developed in a media saturated world full of constant advertisements, failing social systems, faltering government. And war. Don’t forget war.
In some ways, the way things are going for my generation, and hers, would be easier to understand if a big invulnerable flying saucer floated over Washington.
Off the cuff speaking, they call it. I’m pretty good at it, when comfortable in the situation. So I continued talking.
It would all be easier to understand if we knew there were aliens manipulating our system, possessing the brains of our leaders. But there isn’t. No aliens, just the government and corporations – which are pretty much the same thing.
Mom interrupted. Governments aren’t corporations, she said. One’s public and the other is private. So I explained about the revolving door policy of large companies and Washington, and Citizen’s United. She looked troubled, but I could tell she was having issues believing me, thinking I was just exaggerating. Conflating the reality of the situation. Maybe. It does sound a little crazy, but truth is stranger than fiction.
So it’s some sort of cabal, she asked. No, I said, unless it’s a spontaneous cabal of greed. There’s no organization other than capitalism and greed at the top levels of most multi-national corporation to make sure they harvest as much of the American people’s wealth.
Mom and dad own stock in Coca-Cola and they get the annual report, which I happened to see in their mail pile. So I pulled it out and flipped through it. Look here. They made 35 billion dollars last year. Ooh, look here. They say the average American has a Coke product a day. I flipped some pages. Here’s Mexico. An average Mexican drinks one Coke product a week, they say. And here they outline the challenges of getting the American populace up to two Coke products a day and the central American and Mexican citizen up to three Coke products a week.
Sheep, my dad said. Sheep to be sheared. He chuckled a bit, looked at my mom and remarked that he’d been saying the same thing for twenty years and she’d called him crazy and paranoid. (But my dad has a stockpiling, survivalist streak running in him so it’s understandable.) He said, when a company says they’re doing something for their consumers, you know they’re lying. Everything a corporation does is to increase the bottom line. They don’t care how they do it.
That’s pretty much it, I agreed. But mom frowned and shook her head. She votes Democrat – I do too, usually – and said, so we’re talking about the Republicans? I explained that no… not just the Republicans, though surely they’re more blatantly guilty of most of the egregious errors. Rampant lobbying, taking more corporate money. But Democrats do the same. There’s not much difference between the two, except on social issues.
So what does it have to do with the girl with the tattoos? My mom asked.
This is where it gets tricky, but here’s what I think. Look around Little Rock. Look at us. You’re fairly well-to-do. I’m far less. I’m struggling middle-class and if I don’t find a job soon, I’ll be struggling lower-class. Each generation has less than the one before it. Between the legislators, taxes on the middle class, the rising cost of everything – especially gas, and why are gas prices so high? Financial speculation – pretty much everyone is getting poorer. People have to shop at Walmart and Target and box stores. Our culture is becoming homogenized because we’re too poor too do it any other way. How do you show your individuality in an oppressive society?
Oppressive? My mom had some problem with that word. Her America is shiny and bright and everyone lives in a big house if they work hard enough. Unfortunately, the game’s not rigged that way anymore.
Yeah, oppressive. It’s an ugly truth, and it’s hard to look at when you’re planning your next trip, but it’s true.
I don’t know, then, my mom said.
Well a cheap way is to pierce and tattoo yourself in a variety of ways. You’re rebelling against the values of your parents – those people who put us in this situation. And remember she doesn’t have the same values as you do. She’s probably grown up in Little Rock, among the strip malls and box stores where everything is the same.
When we were growing up, there wasn’t much variety! My mom was pretty fierce on this.
Yeah, and there probably wasn’t two million channels on the TV showing you all the other ways to live, either. And maybe she just likes the way it looks, you know?
And that’s how we left it. My dad smiling, happy that I’d come to some of the same conclusions as him, but without his guidance, and my mom slightly perturbed as the blow her world-view had taken. But her world-view will rally, I’m sure.