I don't know, but I am hugely reassured this morning by a survey from Pew Research.

Many recent innovations are popular and seen as beneficial (e.g. cell phones, "green" products, email, and the internet).

However, some others are not particularly popular - e.g. reality TV shows and "more people getting tattoos," were seen as improvements by only 8% and 7%, respectively, but seen as "a change for the worse" by 63% and 40% respectively.

Reality TV must therefore divide people more than the survey suggests. Why? Because it is clearly hugely popular with a small number of people but clearly hugely unpopular with most others.

The same can be said for tatoos.

The only difference is: you can turn off reality TV, but you basically can't undo a tattoo.

So why do people disfigure their bodies, either more or less permanently (with tattoos) or at least temporarily (with various metal studs and loops through nose, ears, and even eyebrows, cheeks and lips)?

How come they either dislike or despise their own bodies so much?

On discussing this with a few friends, it turns out that while I consider tatoos and studs/loops as mutilation, some suggest that these could be seen in the same light as the use of perfume or cream - a sort of enhancement rather than a disfigurement. Particularly as perfumes, creams, lipstick et al can be at least mildly disliked by some people....

That is true. But I remain unpersuaded. It is far easier to stop using a particular perfume (and it has fewer after-effects!) than taking out a stud or loop, or undoing a tattoo.

Anyway, according to the survey, other things (wider acceptance of gays and lesbians, cable news talk and opinion shows, and the growing number of people with money in the stock market) also divide Americans relatively strongly.

All of which makes for interesting discussion about politically incorrect and therefore generally undiscussed topics.

Prabhu Guptara