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.)