Tattoo You?

Based on this article on BBC website and the research of Dr. Andrew Timming and various assumptions that can and are drawn from research regarding tattoos and employability.

I’m not really concerned with majority of the article. In many ways it’s a nonsense piece. However, there are some assertions made that require being put into some sort of perspective.

This passage from the section subtitled ‘Tidal wave’ is of particular note:

However academic Andrew Timming at St Andrews University, who has researched the role of tattoos in hiring practices, says a change in attitudes is inevitable.

“There’s a tidal wave of young people with tattoos these days and they’re not always going to be young.”

“Employers are going to have to accept that they’re integral to the fabric of society and accept that they may potentially have a place at work.”

 

The second comment is worthy of reading several times. Surely the BBC researcher/interviewer didn’t quite do their job as thoroughly as they should have? Makes Andrew appear somewhat confused in what he’s trying to say.

What’s even more ridiculous is the suggestion that tattoos have agency and a role to play in the action/decision making process. Are tattoos active? Let’s not try and gift them with some sort of power. The decisive power and choice lies with the people who have tattoos and those who decide against them or are concerned about the effect tattooed employees might have on their businesses. Are tattoos integral to the fabric of society? Perhaps that’s still a while coming.

A change in attitudes is inevitable, is also questionable. Yes, some attitudes change, perhaps soften around the edges, but someone who has a spider’s web tattooed on their face or CFC on their forehead, does not mean that they will be working for the Palace anytime soon.  We’ll have to wait for that revolution, regardless of what ACAS might say.

The final assertion in the section labelled ‘Missing out’, requires some examination.

In his research Dr Timming found there were some organisations where a tattoo might be deemed an asset – those marketing towards younger people, including bars and clubs or in the creative industries where it can be seen as a sign of original thinking.

 

Marketing towards younger people.  Are these the same people in the tidal wave of which some won’t even be young? Are those working in bars and clubs really going to spend a lifetime doing this job because of their tattoos?

The creative industries where it’s a sign of original thinking? Does that mean anyone who doesn’t have a tattoo is somehow lacking in original thinking? Really? The degree of modification, recuperation and absorption into the daily fabric is quite perplexing. A couple of propositions from Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle seem especially relevant and applicable here:

165 The capitalist production system has unified space, breaking down the boundaries between one society and the next. This unification is also a process, at once extensive and intensive, of trivialization.

and

172 … But the general trend toward isolation, which is the essential reality of urbanism, must also embody a controlled reintegration of the workers based on the planned needs of production and consumption. Such an integration into the system must recapture isolated individuals as individuals isolated together.

 

To my way of thinking, the recuperation, that this article is clearly an agent of, is generally presented by quite benign, non-threatening means. Slightly ‘fluffy’ newspaper articles, usually backed by some sort of research of a qualitative nature transformed into ‘numbers’ and attached to an illusory pretence of a scientific method. Humorous end of the news, light hearted pieces that everyone can chuckle about.

Essentially this is really an attempt to get everyone employed regardless of possible barriers or impediments and to create favourable conditions of reception and acceptance.

196 … meanwhile, from within the various disciplines in which structuralism has taken root, an apologetics of the spectacle is disseminated as the thought of non­thought, as an authorized amnesia with respect to historical practice. As forms of enslaved thought, however, there is nothing to choose between the fake despair of a nondialectical critique on the one hand and the fake optimism of a plain and simple boosting of the system on the other.

 

There are some marvelously, descriptive phrases here that really capture the working of the system and the promulgation of its ideology by unwitting agents using the scientific tools of the day to create the winning argument to create acceptance being disseminated by an official, authoritative outlet. I might well be using a very large hammer, in the shape of Debord’s text, to counter a ‘fluff’ piece but unfortunately this is a good example of the Spectacle at work. Ideology at its best!

Whilst the probable aim of this article is perhaps to offer solutions to ensure employment is maintained as much as possible and that exclusion, for whatever reason, is maintained at low enough level,s to ensure ‘full’ employment, one should keep in mind that whilst something might appear to have a sort of rationality, you should not confuse the things of logic with the logic of things.

Creativity with a Small c

I attended an event not so long ago where the conversation turned to creativity (luckily Innovation took the night off). It seemed to me that everyone wanted to claim some portion of it and the list of ‘creative’ endeavours and what constituted creativity are lengthy and quite laborious, particularly when espoused by learned individuals who associate with companies ‘known’ for creativity or at least inspiring it.

But here’s the thing. So little of what is done actually moves people. Very little of it, if ever, means something to anyone and it seems that any passing ‘guru’ or disruptor can claim the space without actually ever doing a thing of value to deserve the ‘crown of distortion’. Observation is a marvelous thing, especially when allied with hindsight coupled with not actually having to do anything under the guise of ‘facilitation’. There are many sites that tell you what you can do to be creative in writing essays or ‘think differently’ or ‘do stuff differently at work’ or ‘don’t be boring’, and yet the very thing practiced by the individual exhorting everyone else to be creative is poor at best. Frequently it is also wrapped in a veneer of self deprecation that suggests ‘hey guys, I’m just like you, please don’t pick on me’! I suppose it could be summed up as a behaviour type.

Open Culture ran a very small Eno video that ‘mourned’ the loss of humanity in music. Of course it got retweeted by everyone who identifies with this loss or is at least sympathetic to the ’cause’. But is this the truth? Is it representative and is it fair? Do we need to be fair or should we accept unmitigated opinion for the sake of ‘being provocative’? I suppose the retweet, especially of someone like Eno that stands in place for considered dialogue, is the most that these creatives are capable of mustering in the absence of any real dialogue. It’s not really a solution is it? It doesn’t seek to discuss the topic and is symptomatic of the person lacking ‘cojones’ to speak a truth against power. Eno commands a lot of attention in some circles, and many seem to gift power to him. So much so that he can ‘name his successor’ in that pseudo-aristocratic practice! However not everything that he says is right, nor should it be blown up to become meaningful when it isn’t. It is just the sound of an old bloke being asked his opinion for the millionth time in his own echo chamber.

It is at this point that I should wrap my closing comments in a cloak of self deprecation, so that you don’t pick on me, but I won’t because what I’ve written is observational and seeks to redress the balance where there is none. Perhaps the goal of media is to always be biased and perhaps we should view those who do media studies with suspicion!

From The Society of the Spectacle (Debord), it seems that proposition 60 is applicable to Eno:

Media stars are spectacular representations of living human beings, distilling the essence of the spectacle’s banality into images of possible roles. Stardom is a diversification in the semblance of life the object of an identification with mere appearance which is intended to compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced diversifications of productive activity. (Guy Debord)

 

The ‘diversifications of productive activity’ might well encompass the very works that Eno and his followers disapprove of. I also believe that proposition 63 has a lot applicability as well:

What spectacular antagonisms conceal is the unity of poverty. Differing forms of a single alienation contend in the masquerade of total freedom of choice by virtue of the fact that they are all founded on real repressed contradictions. Depending on the needs of the particular stage of poverty that it is supposed at once to deny and sustain, the spectacle may be concentrated or diffuse in form.

In either case, it is no more than an image of harmony set amidst desolation and dread, at the still center of misfortune. (Guy Debord)

I realise that for some the reaction, naturally, will be to ‘defend’ Eno but the opposite requires defence. That music as practised and made by young people, generationally different from Eno and the phalanx of retweeters, might actually display different values and reasons for making the music they choose to make. Are the younger generation somehow less creative, in constructing the soundtrack of their times?

When change happens, something always gets lost to make space for something new. Isn’t it better to allow the space for the new and potentially exciting thing rather than cling on to what never was and can’t be reclaimed?