Tattoos aren’t my bag, but diversity most certainly is

Extreme body art is not to all tastes, but understanding the reason people get tattoos is important,

Extreme body art is not to all tastes, but understanding the reason people get tattoos is important, says Hannah Colby. Picture: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant � 2006

The theme for this month's article wasn't immediately obvious. I'd spent quite a few days mulling over the topic. But earlier this week, a letter was published in the paper. I missed the original, but I saw the online version.

The letter was short and to the point. Its general theme was that as the human body is 'God's most wonderful creation', it seems a shame to defile it with tattoos.

It was, as I say, a brief letter but its 12 lines were openly critical of men and women who choose to take this course of action. I'm not sure if the author intended his thoughts to be quite so inflammatory, but his letter certainly hit home.

At last check, there were over 100 comments on Facebook and 36 on the EDP website. By contrast, there were 19 comments about criminals jailed in June, four comments about burglaries in Norfolk villages and 48 comments on an attack on a warden in Norwich prison. So clearly, body art is a subject worthy of discussion.

If he did intend to ignite the torch of debate, then I admire the author for his bravery.

I've been on the receiving end of criticism for my written opinion, and it stings (a year on, and I'm still salving my wounds with frequent applications of gin).

MORE: Reader Letter: God's most wonderful creation does not need tattoosIf he didn't, then I hope, for his sake, that he hasn't read some of the reactions to his words. Some of the remarks, justified or not, are quite personal, and while there are some who are ready to leap to his defence, there are more who condemn his opinions in the strongest possible terms.

But one word jumps out from almost every comment: and that word is 'judgemental'.

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There's plenty in the Bible about judgement. Many of those who have been angered by the sentiments of the letter have been quick to point out that it's not very godly to judge those who choose to tattoo His creation. But would the reaction have been less strong if God hadn't been brought into it? I'm inclined to think not. The real issue at stake is the criticism of individual free will.

We're lucky to live in Norwich, for lots of different reasons. But the main cause of celebration should be that we can pretty much be who we want to be, be with who we want to be with and be free to do what we please, when we please and how we please.

There are many places in the world where that simply isn't possible. Blame religion, blame culture, blame governments, blame a lack of education – whatever the cause, it's a fact. But here in our fine city, we have a diverse and vibrant mix of residents who all help to make this place what it is. We should absolutely be thankful for that.

I like to think that we're a pretty smart city, too. We've got universities, art colleges, a Writers' Centre, museums, exhibition centres and cultural events that attract people from all over the world. We've got heritage and history.

We've got a brilliant city now, and we've got a promising future. All said, there are worse places than Norwich to be at this point in time.

MORE: News just in: lots of people have tattoos. Get over it.Within this wonderful melting-pot of cultures will be aspects of life that won't appeal to everyone. Whether it's tattoos, clothes, religious leanings or voting preferences, we can't all agree – and we shouldn't all agree.

Who wants to live in a bland, homogenised society where everyone looks and dresses in the same way, thinks the same thoughts and acts the same way? A city of robots holds no appeal for me.

Tattoos aren't really my thing, but I'd still rather a visible display of body art than a parade of featureless clones. The author of the letter may disagree. But he's entitled to his opinion, as am I; and as all of our fellow residents, tattooed, or religious, or tattooed and religious, are also.

Where there's an opinion, there's thought; and where there's thought, there's consciousness, and spirit, and life.

So before we criticise others for their choices, let's try a little bit harder, from now on, to appreciate what we have here instead. Next time we're walking the streets of Norwich, let's take a moment to look around us. We might not always like what we see.

People will make choices that won't sit well with others. There will be those that judge, and there will be those who are too critical of those who judge without thought or intention to wound.

But let's celebrate the diversity of this city. Let's enjoy all those who make this place that it is. But above all else, let's be grateful that we still have the blessing of free will and individual choice. It's an aspect of life which should never, ever be taken for granted.