A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Eighteen centuries ago, the Roman Empire was in heavy decline. Nobody knew it, though. It was still the largest, strongest and richest political entity on the planet. Its reach extended from Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland into modern day India and perhaps even further into China. Not bad when your fastest vehicle is a chariot. It was the only superpower. Inconceivably mighty, it dwarfed the disorganized and primitive tribes that skulked on its borders. Yet, within a generation, it was physically disintegrating, and less than 100 years later, to all intents and purposes, it was gone. To the average Roman of the day, though, this scenario was as unimaginable as flying a robot to Mars for a look around. He would have laughed himself stupid at the very suggestion and gone back to the orgy. However, because history’s telescope has 20/20 vision we can clearly see that the seeds of Rome’s demise had already been planted.
There are as many theories about the fall of the Roman Empire as there are scholars to write them, but most agree that somewhere in the 4rd century, the collective attitude of Rome changed. It’s all tangled up in a series of complex political, economic, social and spiritual factors, but here’s the Twitter version. Romans quit looking over their borders for new opportunities and sat down to partake in the spoils of four centuries of war. From that very moment, the Roman Empire began its steady trudge from lean and mean to fat, dumb and happy — until there was nothing left but flab. It went from social organization and engineering to orgies and entertainment, and that eventually resulted in 500 years of chaos when European civilization itself hung in the balance.
I said all this to say, the other day, I saw a headline on a most respected website whose name starts with an “H” and ends with an “ington Post.” It read: “Anal Tattoo Girl Gives Important Interview (NSFW).” I didn’t read the interview. I’ve got nothing against tattoos, anal or otherwise. However, I kinda have the feeling that an interview with a girl whose only claim on my time is an anal tattoo can’t be all that important. For my money, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers discrediting Obamanomics was much more important. But, actually, I was holding out for Congressman Todd Akin to explain what a “legitimate” rape was. (I think there are a lot of people around who would consider that one a biggie.) My point was (and still is) that although anal tattoos may be fascinating from a strictly logistic point of view, they are not important. Actually, they’re distinctly trivial, and I was (and still am) surprised that a website of H…….ington Post’s calibre would give it the time of day. However, since I first saw the headline, I’ve discovered (without much trouble) that anal tattoos are a serious trend among young women. In fact, the girl with the anal tattoo has quite a following. If you like, you can see her getting inked, as it were, on YouTube. (I refuse to give the link, just as I’ve refused to give her a name. She has all the notoriety she needs without my assistance. ) SPOILER ALERT – Curious as it seems, in order to get an anal tattoo, you need to take off both your blouse and bra.
I’m not a novice here. I understand that the girl with the anal tattoo is a publicity hound. She’s looking for her Andy Warhol fifteen minutes — in the hope that it will turn into something more Kardashian in scope. No worries girl! If that’s your only marketable skill (notice I didn’t say asset) by all means use it. My real problem is that, in our society, this sort of thing carries a whack of clout. If the girl with the anal tattoo had put the same amount of time, energy, money and what must be considerable discomfort, into feeding the hungry, for example, none of this would have happened. She probably would have been born, lived and died with neither you, nor I, nor YouTube ever realizing her existence. Her limited fame is based entirely on what seems to be the obscene amount of titillation our society now requires.
We are not Romans in our acquaintance with decadence — yet. For the most part, our world still looks beyond itself for its reason to exist. However, I don’t think it’s melodramatic to wonder, if, somewhere in the dark and distant future, some historian will point to the second week in August, 2012 and the girl with the anal tattoo as the beginning of the end of Western Civilization.