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Plausible reasons for having tattoos or drinking fine wine

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Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:57 pm    Post subject: Plausible reasons for having tattoos or drinking fine wine Reply with quote

I think its fair to say that for this post I have an agenda.

I make a background assumption that it may not be possible to determine the motivations for a person's actions, even for that person. Instead of concluding that an action is rational or not, the more likely scenario is trying to disentangle myriad unknown or only slightly known motivations, and assume that despite their seeming to be irrational on the surface, they correspond to *some* kind of a useful solution to some set of unseen problems.

For instance: tattoos. There may be multiple reasons why one would want to get a tattoo. Among the least admirable of these would be for status (people who I think are cool or popular have them, so I will too).

When considering other motives for having tattoos, the one that I would find most rational would be that a person loved drawing on themselves, but this action led to problems. The most obvious problem is that the drawing made on oneself might wash away, rub off, or fade. A tattoo would be a rational solution to this problem. Why someone wanted to draw on themselves I leave unquestioned, as part of that "sea" of motivations that are unique to particular individuals, and, for the moment at least, beyond the question of rationality.

The other problem that tattoos could solve is the quality of the artwork that I might draw on myself. A tattoo artist could make a much better image.

Now, in the first case, if the "wash away" problem was a real motivation, then I would expect to find that the person had been drawing on themselves for a long time before moving to the more permanent solution. In the second case, a person might try to improve their drawing ability, use a stencil, or hire an artist to draw on them, and consider hiring a tattoo artist only after those approaches had proven inadequate.

So, if I find that someone has a tattoo, but didn't spend years before getting it, in making drawings on themselves that had the problem of only being temporary, or they did it without considering other non-tattoo means of improving the quality of the image, then there's a clear suggestion that the most rational reasons for getting a tattoo do not apply.

Furthermore, a big portion of that inchoate sea of reasons is ruled out. The reasons that are purely status-related stand out in starker relief.


There's a similar line of reasoning for fine wines. The consumption of fine wines might not be driven entirely by considerations of increasing one's status. I can think of one line of reasoning that seems quite rational.

So, for instance, a person might have a deep and abiding love of grape juice. They might buy many different kinds of grape juice and be knowledgeable about their varieties. They might reasonably think, then, about how they like grapes so much, and that the effects of alcohol (in moderation, perhaps) are desirable, and so that expanding the forms that they could enjoy grape juice by including varieties of wine, would solve the problem that grape juice contained no alcohol naturally. Whereever their love of grapes came from originally, their subsequent love for wine might follow directly.

In the absence of this prior love of grape juice, other, less distinctly recognizably rational motivations would need to be in play. Motivations based on the acquisition of increased status would stand out in clearer relief when the plausible rationale is not applicable.


Absent the scenarios I describe above, of the self-draw-ers, and the grape juice aficionados, there's a clear, but not proven, presumption that these people do these things predominantly in order to gain status. It's not a terrible motivation, but not particularly admirable.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have always thought of tattoos as generational selection. So, for those in the 30 to 45 age group (GenX) tattoos became a line in the sand. The tattoo was the thing that you (older) didn't do. For myself, growing up, the only people I knew who had tattoos were dock workers...real lower middle class blue collar stiffs. Somehow the next generation turned it into a "sexy" thing (for them).

Each generation has its own set of sexual "tags" that turn them on...even at a later age. Who among us who was born between 1946 and 1960 does not get excited when the fashion segment on the news mentions a "mini skirt".

These tags are also barriers. It is typical of the current young generation to select clothing that emphasizes some aspect of the body that can't be "counterfeited" by the older people. Things like breasts, tummies and butts get put on display to say "must be 25 or under to use this ride", much as desperate housewives and aging playboys will try to make themselves as "youthful" as possible (the store Forever XXI caters to that crowd) with clothing and by adopting teen catch phrases.


Fine wine might be another "memetic barrier". There have been many reports that the taste of very expensive wines is no better than moderately priced ones...sometimes just the opposite. But that's not the point. The point is not drinking the wine, but being able to afford drinking the wine. In the same way that many high end "luxury" cars are often (at least these days, and maybe always) no better than a standard car with all the built in safety features. Rich wants to let people know it is rich because it wants to both attract mates, and also keep trespassers out.


I always go back to that Dr. Seuss story about the creatures with stars, The Sneetches. In the story there is a two class society...Sneetches with stars on their bellies and ones without. The ones with stars are the elite...they preen around, being superior all day long, while the non-starred stare in jealousy. Until a man comes along who offers a service to "tattoo" stars and suddenly the cache of the star plummets...until the man comes back with a new machine...that takes the stars off...creating a new set of one-percenters!
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