In North Yorkshire last week, it seemed to Kate and me that everybody had tattoos. Tattoos on their arms, legs, backs, faces, necks, chests. A sunny hour at the Saltburn beach was particularly revealing.
Our taxi ride back to the car at the end of the week put me next to a good specimen. The driver’s muscular forearm was filled by a colorful scroll declaring
~~~ DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR ~~~
I wondered, what do these words mean to him? Does he have in mind any particular kind of dishonor to be proudly avoided? Or is it just empty words that mean not much to him at all? For it’s hard not to notice, “dishonor” is the American spelling. Why would a tough guy from Yorkshire get his arm inked for life with a foreign spelling?
My guess is, he doesn’t much care how the words are spelled or exactly what they mean. He got the tattoo because it looks good. And before long I realized, this Death before Dishonor emblem exemplifies a general effect. Most people don’t think through their views very carefully. They put on whatever feels good, if they like the color.
[20 July 2021]