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Tattooed Absolution

An apt description of today’s urban culture is “post-modern”. All meaning is derived from context, without anchor to history and tradition. Tradition is merely fuel for irony, where the past is never faced honestly.

We knit and bake and work on motorcycles just like people did last century, but now the tone is different. The past has been deconstructed and rebuilt in terms of exploitation and degradation. The only acceptable way to embrace tradition is by mocking it. An implicit conflict between the experienced value and the learned negative regard remains unresolved.

Popular culture has lost the ability to be sincere. There’s always a catch, or a stain, or the risk of being held fully accountable for humbly doing decent work. To avoid the disdain of being too much like our parents, we do pretty much the same things, but with a tattoo. Or we wear the same eyeglasses as our parents did, the retro ugliness a demonstration that we know that culture of the 1960s or 80s was flawed.

The signalings of style and attitude dominate the substance of action. We are a façade. The meaning of life has become a presentation instead of a structure. The structure was provided by our ancestors. And it is maintained by people who the popular culture consider ignorant or stupid.

Without the required ostentatious displays of selflessness, those who live the values of previous generations are held apart. They lack the cultural awareness to participate in the irony. A truck driver wearing a trucker cap is too real. And perhaps too threatening.

Honesty is not compatible with post-modern sensibilities. It requires a fixed notion of truth and falsehood. It is an essential statement of self. Honesty is not symbolism and not relative. To be sincere is to create the possibility of failure.

Post-modern thinking, by removing truth, removes failure. Our past cannot be measured, and our society has transcended guilt. Only the ignorant acts of pre-ironic people require apology. As long as we do not really mean anything, we are unashamed.