Is there a place for tattoos in politics?

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“Today’s politicians can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either. ”
― Gore Vidal

American writer, Vidal passed away in 2012, but his words are becoming increasingly relevant. Today, world over, we have right wing leaders and parties in power, some of who borderline neo-fascist governance tactics. There is unrest in the world, and there is growing disparity among leaders and their respective masses. The youth doesn’t recognise with most of the figures in world politics. But not all’s going downhill. Politics and governance across the world is seeing more involvement of young leaders, and that can only be a good sign, right? This means that not only are more and more women entering politics, but the number of tattoos we’ve seen on politicians has also increased.

Canada PM, Justin Trudeau has a Haida Raven with mother earth tattoo on his right arm

Now, this doesn’t mean that politicians are getting tattoos left, right and centre. Maybe, they are not in the constant fear that they need to hide the ones they have. Just look at Canada’s Justin Trudeau. He also has a large arm tattoo that he shows off on his time off. The Canadian Prime Minister has the planet Earth inside a Haida raven and the tattoo was done in two parts. The tattoo showcases a promise and appreciation to the tribal Haida community of British Columbia. Overall, it shows commitment and the ability to make a promise, something that we don’t see in too many politicians in our country, eh?

Often, tattoos are also associated with questionable character and conduct, especially face tattoos. However, (and fortunately!) this seemed to not be the case when Vladimir Franz, an opera composer and painter ran for the post of President in the Czech elections. Though the post of President is largely ceremonial there, Franz’s pro-education and apolitical stance allowed him to stand third in the polls. This number was based on how people saw him as a leader and not due to his head to toe tattoos. If these elections were held in another country such as ours, this man would have been branded a lunatic as tattoos are still greatly shunned in Indian culture.

Vladimir Franz. Media courtesy Mediazink

It’s great that countries and politics have begun to make room for self-expression, but culturally countries still have a judgmental face towards people expressing themselves. We have seen John Fetterman in the US who is a great example of a good youth leader in politics with tattoos. People seem to look more at the sheer existence of a tattoo as negative rather than understand that its presence is a sign of an ability to commit to something they believe in or even a promise to a cause, something Indian politicians currently lack in. Furthermore, since tattoos have been seen to be a growing culture amongst the youth, wouldn’t a tattooed member of parliament be encouraging the youth to ether politics in a sense? How long till India has one of those?

Jayalalitha tattoo
People are ready to die for Jayalalitha, a tattoo is a small price for their god

India has also seen another extreme in terms of tattoos in politics, and this is with respect to people who think of their politicians as a step above all. These people have gone as far as to brand themselves for their politician of choice such as the late Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu and had even offered to lay down their lives if she ever got in trouble.

In the future, we look towards youth getting into politics with tattoos. Tattoos that mean the person has made the decision to make a promise to themselves and they have the ability to extend that ability to promise to the rest of the country. In fact, this quote of Vladimir Franz (from an interview with TV Nova in 2013) sort of sums up why there is a space for tattooing in politics:

Tattooing is an expression of free will, not touching the freedom of others. It is an expression of permanent and unchangeable decision to stand up for your opinion, in both good and bad. (…) My tattooing is result of a long-term sophisticated concept, not a sudden emotion.

 

 


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