Elf Ears, Facial Horns & Complete Freedom of Expression

Posted by on April 19th, 2011 in art, body mods, ethics, identity, where's my alien dancing girls

Via BoingBoing we have this piece on one of ABC’s programs, a “Look at the Freaks” story on the ‘sudden rising trend of Elf Ears‘, the new body-mod “fad.”‘ Blamed for this are Lord of the Rings and Avatar (and we’ll leave aside for now the separate issue of the rise of Na’vi as a hyper-real faith & freedom of religion). The story begins, as such fine pieces of journalism usually do, with a lighthearted quip:

Why would anybody want to do this?

So sayeth the gym-broadened, bottle-blonde’d, make-up wearing, probable result of plastic surgery, carefully constructed media personage. Oh, you meant why would they do stuff that isn’t socially accepted within the enforced/repeated framing of the Mainstream Media?

There’s an old quote I always like to bust out in situations like these, that I once read in a cartoon in a tattoo magazine:

Q. What’s the difference between a person with tattoos and a person without tattoos?

A. The person with tattoos doesn’t care if you don’t have any.

We’ve featured the work of Steve Haworth before, and the best thing about this story was that I immediately sought out a body-mod artist that visits my own shores on occasion, for friends seeking just such enhancements.

Now our old friend Ötzi the Iceman has tattoos, making this a most timeless, Human act. So what is the deal here? Are we in a new Victorian Age of Prudes?

Well, before I go any further, let me wedge in the recent contribution on this issue made by Lady Gaga: “‘I think promoting insecurity in the form of plastic surgery is infinitely more harmful than an artistic expression related to body modification”, continuing “I am an artist, and I have the ability and the free will to choose the way the world will envision me.” Speaking after appearing on the Jay Leno show thusly:

Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed that these Facial Horns are only cosmetic.. that she didn’t go all the way. Maybe she will soon? Maybe she won’t? Maybe it’s perfectly cool for her to play around with her own Identity?!

Indulge me while I wax lyrical for a bit, because there are some Things that need to be Said:

We are The Strange Children of Change.. the Wild, Beautiful Freaks that half frighten, half excite. . It falls on us to lead the way across these waves of radical change, calling back the way forward.

We come from all the cultures across the world and all ages. From many subcultures too; from SF Fandom, Science, Goth, Steampunk, Otherkin, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Biohackers, etc

Radical Inclusiveness & Revolutionary Optimism are the Tools of our Trade.

We are friends to all. But remember, good friends call you on your bullshit and help you grow. They encourage you to realize your full potential and be a better (post)human.

Those within the Hierarchy see everything with binary vision: us/them, friend/foe, good/bad..  immediately judging for Fitness within it’s internal categories of Correctness.

We natives of the Network see with multiplicitous eyes.  Not judging, but listening.. finding all the common ways we connect, sharing our stories, offering advice, hard won wisdom and invitations to explore new things based on our own past experience and knowledge.

The only thing we don’t tolerate is intolerance.

Where our fellow travelers are mocked. Where courageous explorers like Lepht Anonym are criticized and called “un-transhumanist” by the likes of Natasha Vita-Moore & other elements of the H+ society, we are saddened. This is the Transhumanism of the Hierarchy. Remember, it is the forces of Control that started this whole mess.

The answer isn’t to appear “more palatable to the mainstream” (the defense with which they mark such decrees), it’s to shatter the whole fiction of a Mainstream to begin with!

So much of Transhumanist literature and discussion reeks of body hatred, of a desire to leave the meat behind and live forever in electric dreams, in their idealized, distant Future. Maintaining their current existence purely through virtual avatars. Grinders challenge and extend their limits in the here-and-now, taking everything they can find from the realms of Diet, Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Computer Science, Neuroscience, Engineering, Physical Fitness, Architecture, Industrial and Fashion Design, etc etc, to enhance, explore & express themselves however they choose.

Freedom to modify one’s body, and it’s cousin, cognitive liberties… are they harder to fight for when the previous victories of Freedom of Speech, Religion, Association and so on seem to be under threat at present by so many forces. I say no! We support them all. We demand the right of a person to live and act however they choose – so long as they don’t physically harm anyone or restrict anyone else from equally doing so.

These Cultural Norms we struggle against are forced on to us by the weight of history and the continued existence of a Society where Citizens still need permission to make choices. Where they are not trusted and must be nannied by the State. Where everything appears to exist purely to reinforce the Normal (a term who’s only true meaning is in Statistics); that Impossible Individual representing the complete average of the group. This impossibility makes everyone a Square Peg in a Round Hole.. forever trying to Fit In.

Which brings us to the First Corollary of There Is No They: There Is No Normal.

If necessary, think of it this way, from a purely economic rationalist, productive point of view: if everyone is free to express themselves however they choose, they’ll be happier, more motivated (and frankly, less likely to kill themselves), instead of spending so much energy squashing down their True Self. A richer Society could exist!

We need to Defend these Freedoms. All of them. To stand firmly and say these things are Correct. Let us evolve!

In the Industrial Age everything seemed to be measured with the Bell Curve, but now we are in the territory of Exponential Graphs, Asymmetry and Radical Multiplicity.

For now, let us look Forward! to a more rich, varied world. Let multi-humanism be the new multi-culturalism!  Because it’s all hands on deck time, people.

In conclusion, as catt avery tweeted recently, “the evolutionary strength of the human social colony is most certainly its diversity of expression.”

(And that’s why I think Elf Ears and Facial Horns are cool.)

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10 Responses to “Elf Ears, Facial Horns & Complete Freedom of Expression”

  1. *applause* Right on, chum.

    As ever, it strikes me that the supposed Normal is just a matter of privileging one kind of kink over another. Cosplay is weird if you're dressing as Klingon, Elf or Na'V – utterly commonplace if you're wearing a Beckham football shirt. But they're precisely the same kind of magic-by-association – trying to take on the aspect of another by using their outer expressions of difference.

    It's fine to have an aesthetic dislike of a bod-mod – I, for example, will always prefer natural, gravity-pulled breasts over perky implants – as long as it's expressed in that mode alone, I don't think it's a problem. The problem comes when you insist that Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's Not OK.

    It's so fucking easy for the us/them dualism to kick in, even (especially?) among supposed intellegensia striving to find their place among the mashup of multiple past, present and possible future we call Culture. The H+ snobbery towards a genuine cutting-edge (heh) seeker like Lepht is pretty typical. "Spoiling it for the rest of us", "Try not to weird-out the Straights too much", etc etc.

    Normal is, as you say, merely a term of art in statistics. I'm reminded of Robert Anton Wilson's canny appropriation of this in his spoof org CSICON – Committee For The Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Normal… whose tenet was "there's no such thing as an average person, or a normal sunset".

    The more of us who are out about our passion, whatever that may be – and are, as you say, radically inclusive of others – the more that mirage of the Normal will blur.

    Am now catching up on cattavery's stuff…

  2. I think one of the reasons that Lepht Anonym is drawing criticism from the H+ community is because Lepht is actually implementing new things, rather that sitting around writing papers or wanking with other people over coffee about it. I say, more power to Lepht.

  3. Awesome job waxing lyrical man

  4. Thanks for linking to my post at TheoFantastique on hyper-real religion, and for making me aware of elf ear body modification as a result. I just posted some thoughts on this that your readers may find of interest: http://www.theofantastique.com/2011/04/19/elf-ear…

  5. Classic Daily Fail article link – "it must be the marijuana that made her want to do this!" is one of the sentiments thrown in there – super reporting as ever from that shit-ticket of a paper.
    This kind of idiotic shit makes me want to cough ten years of cigarette tar out of my lungs directly into their mouths. I seriously have no problem with those that are intimidated by others that choose to express themselves differently – they can (and invariably do) get over it. It's the whore-hoppers that make a profit selling hate to these folk to turn them against us that need a good shoeing.

  6. Amen! While my political beliefs are, of course, irrelevant to transhumanism and grinding as a whole, as an egoist anarchist/post-left anarchist, I completely echo the sentiments of this piece. Of course, it goes without saying that you don't need to be an anarchist to defend freedom and to tolerate everything but intolerance.

    As an aside, could you provide examples of the H+ community in general, or Natasha Vita-Moore in particular, actually dismissing Lepht and/or the grinding movement? I'm writing an entry for biohack.me (no, I'm definitely not plugging anything *hint hint wink wink*), and I could use some examples like that :-)

    ~Ian

  7. Natasha Vita-Moore – "NatashaTranshuman" made some public comments on here:
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/transcen…

  8. This is all a case of people never moving out of the childhood stage of “Look at me! Look at me!” The fact is, we acquire enough mutilations naturally without paying someone to do them for us. I have never seen a tattoo that didn’t look like a muddy mess after a period of time.

    Grow up and do something worthwhile that will make people admire you. Body modifications are a way of demanding attention. Like respect, that must be earned, not demanded. Demanding either is admitting you don’t deserve it, but want it anyway.

  9. Why do you think we give a flying fuck whether other people are staring at us? The only people drawing attention to the body modders are the people who are so repulsed by it. As the article itself said, the person with tattoos doesn't care if you don't have any, but the inverse apparently doesn't hold true.

    And I completely agree that respect and attention must be earned, not demanded. No body modder I know is demanding attention. The only reason we have any attention is because people like you make such a big deal out of it.