During our discussion this week of the Modern Primitive Movement someone, I don’t recall who, said that tattoos have become less of a way to fit in and more of way to stand out. I think this idea of standing out; being a distinct individual has become a general part of our culture as young Americans. In the past tattoos and other historically primitive rituals were done in order to express your participation in a certain group or society. Olive Oatman was tattooed to formalize her acceptance into Mohave culture, naval officers in the 1940s were tattooed with anchors and American flags to represent their involvement with the armed forces. This concept of tattooing as a way to be part of something greater than ones self represented the culture of the past. However, today culture has shifted in a way that the individual triumphs over the whole, and being different is considered “trendy”. And often in the eyes of the American teenager, being considered “trendy” is way more important than being mainstream.
The mainstream, anything that the majority does, is ultimately exponentially less interesting than that which is different. This can be seen in the popularity of Burning Man. It began as a way to reconnect with spirituality, something greater than ones self, something unheard of by many, not mainstream. Thus, it was intriguing for individuals drawn to the trendy new thing. However, this draw as something new resulted in an unfortunate twist of irony in which the trendy became the mainstream through the desire to be different. The American teenage ideology that different is better has an inverse affect in which things that begin as different ultimately become mainstream. Burning Man is no longer a tranquil escape to become one with nature and spirituality, but now a music festival laced with celebrities, billionaires, and beaucoup drugs. It is just a matter of time before Burning Man is no longer of interest to its attendees because of its introduction to mainstream culture. The Modern Primitive Movement is bound to become even less relevant as the idea of being part of a group is less attractive in modern society. However, there is a chance this primitive ideology of togetherness may return as it clashes with the idea that you have to be an individual to be “cool”.