My 15 year old daughter used the term in a tone that was not the least bit disparaging. As in, “so-and-so has her ears gauged”. For all I knew this could have been a science project, but from the context, I correctly concluded that she was referring to the practice of placing barrel shaped rings into one’s earlobes, and incrementally increasing the size of the rings until the flesh has stretched to the desired diameter. I am relieved that my daughter has no desire to enlarge her lobes, but I was a bit surprised that she did not seem as repulsed by the idea as was I. Not that I have anything against creative self-expression; if someone wants to mutilate their body, that’s none of my business.
Except when they want to serve me food.
Case in point: The day after my daughter told me about her friend’s ears, I went into a McDonalds. I was only halfway in the door when someone yelled at me, “WELCOME TO McDONALDS.” (This in itself irritates me, but I’ll save that rant for another article.) As I approached the counter I saw the source of the yelling: a teenage kid who apparently was absent the day they taught how to wear a cap. But the yelling and the cap and the fact that he had no idea what he was doing were only minor annoyances compared to the earlobe abuse. The last thing I want to see while trying to choose from a menu of McDelicacies is a see-through body part. When I want to look at something behind your ear, I’ll just ask you to tilt your head, thankyouverymuch.
I have never understood the attraction to poking holes in one’s body just because one can. Even the “harmless” tradition of regular old ear-piercing has always seemed a bit primitive to me. Just because we have those things called ears hanging out there, we think we need to hang decorations from them. When I was growing up in rural East Texas during the sixties and seventies, ear-peircing was a right of passage for young teenage girls. In those days, it was a big deal, involving trained medical personnel and follow-up visits. Now you can have your ears pierced in the mall at a kiosk in the time it takes for mom to buy a cell phone from a kiosk.
The serious issue here – and this also applies to the whole tattoo thing – is a cultural trend in our society that preaches we can do whatever we want with our bodies, including desecration. If it offends others, good. If it dishonors God’s creation, even better. America’s departure from Judeo-Christian values is giving rise to a neo-paganism which is expressing its values through rituals, including “body modification”. Perhaps it is these pagan origins that make this behavior so repulsive to many of us. But to many it’s merely a pop culture fad. Its popularity among mainstream young people probably has little to do with paganism; instead it stems from the basic human need to irritate one’s parents, coupled with the current trend of “herd individualism”. When combined with the increasingly secular nature of our society, however, such rituals are indicative of a generation that is not simply playing at paganism, but truly embracing it. We see plenty of evidence of this shift around us. Think about it. Ancient pagan cultures did not value the human body or human life. They often honored plants and animals above people. They engaged in self mutilation. Some engaged in infanticide. Sound familiar?
Pierced and tattood young people are not a cause, but an effect of this shift. Ironically, it is those educated elites who teach that the concept of God is a dangerous, primitive myth, who believe that an enlightened society will emerge from the abolition of moral absolutes, that are instead leading us backward into a culture much more primitive, and much more dangerous than they imagine. Not to mention the negative effects it can have on a Quarter Pounder with cheese.