An Educational NewsletterGOOD MORNING!
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Today we have another feature! Today, The Morning Text was written by Austin Peinhardt. Austin is also one of my best friends and I’m so excited that he is featuring today and will feature in days to come. His newsletter comes in two parts, this being the first. So without further ado, I give you The Morning Text.
Tattoos have become a staple of modern military culture in the western world, especially in the US military. However, the development of this cultural aspect is rather broadly unexplored. The goal of today’s morning text will be to create a rough outline of the development of tattoo culture in modern warfare, starting at the very beginning, and to discuss ethical issues we can glean information from through this history. Due to the fact that this history is extensive, this will be a two part text, today’s spanning from Polynesian origins to the Civil War.
One would assume that tattoo culture in the western world would have originated, or at least been influenced by, ancient western culture. This is not the case; while ancient civilizations in Europe such as the Celts from Britain and the Dacian and Illyrian cultures from Greece practiced tattooing, these practices largely died out during Roman conquests. The origins of our modern military tattoo culture actually lies in Polynesian civilization.
Most Polynesian cultures, including the Samoan, Hawaiian, and New Zealand tribes practiced some form of ritual tattooing. In fact, the word tattoo can be seen to be derived from the Samoan art of “tatau”. Tattoos represented an individual’s life force or “mana” (yes like from the nerdy videogames we all love). They marked an individual’s social status and were mandatory for many, as refusing them would lead to a person being labeled a pala’ai (read: coward) and being ostracized from the clan.
This form of tattooing was discovered by European civilization during the late colonial period, as explorers such as James Cook encountered these civilizations as they sailed the Pacific in search of rich territory. The story here is similar to much of colonial history, with some practices synthesizing with western culture and others being completely destroyed. In Hawaii, where the practice of tattooing was kept secret to the extreme of destroying all tools after every tattooing session, European violence caused the practice to disappear entirely, leaving no evidence as to how the art was performed.
These tattoos first became popular among sailors, usually as tokens of their adventures on the sea. For about a decade tattoos remained only on sailors, as the christian church did not take kindly to those who sported them. It wasn’t until the country grew closer to the eruption of the Civil War that tattoos began again to spread towards the mainstream of culture, as it seemed the church had more important issues to worry about. In 1846, Martin Hildebrandt set up a tattoo shop in New York City, beginning a tradition of tattooing sailors and military service men on both sides of the Civil War.
This early history of tattooing brings up a much broader discussion about the interaction of civilizations; what are the benefits and the detriments of the civilized and uncivilized world colliding, and what steps should be taken in the process of this collision? This may seem like a discussion for the past, yet there remains several uncontacted tribes in diverse locations throughout the globe. It is my opinion that the answer lies in a combination of cultural synthesis and political sovereignty (most likely bought through a sponsored grant from a reputable anthropological foundation).
Here is where the challenge for the day comes in. These uncontacted tribes will disappear sooner than many realize. Your challenge is to research one you are interested in, and learn about one of its traditional cultural practices. From there you have to describe that practice on a google doc (doesn’t need to be long, a few bullet points might even be enough if the practice is simple) and share it with me at email@example.com . I will post them on one google doc which will be attached to the second part of this morning text. Preserving the practices of disappearing cultures in modern times is as easy as typing a few words on a google doc online. Plus, it will be fun to read all the interesting accounts of unspoiled ancient culture people find.
(to be continued)
That’s it for today! As this is a trial run, I am entirely open to tweaking The Morning Text, please provide feedback so that I can better cater to your interests. If you believe you have received this message in error and no longer wish to receive them, please notify me. To view previous Morning Texts, please visit themorningtext.com.
Have a wonderful day.
Written by Austin Peinhardt