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.


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.


Belated Response to John Harris – @Guardian

So, here’s an interesting article that essentially outlines a position that I recognise and identify with. Unfortunately I’m a bit late to the party as I’m not a Guardian reader.

There are a couple of things to observe here. The first is a key, missing aspect of Debord’s work from the Society of the Spectacle and that is the activity identified as ‘Recuperation‘. I say this partly because Harris has left it out and it is a central part of the theory. But more importantly in the comments section there is clear indication of how little some people have understood.

Is Debord an example of metaphysical meandering? No. I think it’s reasonably straight forward and has obvious application, more so now than ever.

Is it a difficult read? Yes and no. I think one of the goals is to read and to consider applicability in the everyday. One sees it all around us. However the Matrix analogy used by Harris is one that has occurred to me on numerous occasions.

Is it right to identify an aspect as practised by society, e.g. social media, as the locus for this discontent? No. It is everywhere. Whether it is gambling responsibly (is there such a thing?), or lottery winners to political parties aligning with ‘hard working families’ whilst profiting from compound interest and inheritance. Wherever there is the possibility of resistance and difference, then it is the purpose of the ‘Recuperation’ to ‘nullify’. It is like a single celled blob/virus that has the capacity to incorporate (consume), regardless, and allow a variety of practices to be absorbed before they can threaten the ‘construct’. How else can you account for corporate punk rock? If ever the words pivot were applicable, rather than in a business sense, then it is in this instance. The Spectacle has the capacity to pivot and absorb quite schismatic ideas and concepts into its framework. Almost everything operates or achieves a meme like status that allows it to pass unrecognised into daily use and to hide in plain sight.

The question of what would be an adequate resistance is complex. I do believe that one part of a resistance is to not use someone else’s name, such as Richard Dawkins or Malcolm Gladwell etc, to stand in place of individual thought, opinion and discussion. It is here where the ‘recuperation’ can claim a victory, where the use of a ‘star’ to stand in place of considered argument, dissension or resistance.

Perhaps to break off into smaller particles of thought, spread amongst all of humanity and not managed by government or corporations or the media, is probably part of the solution to the problem of the ‘recuperation’.