- A rude decoration inscribed on rocks or walls
You tagged your name a thousand times,
Your mates think you’re so cool.
You sprayed buildings and trains,
Carved your name in glass,
You rule this area.
You are the king of graffiti.
Graffiti is everywhere, isn’t it? In our cities and our towns, walls and subways are decorated with “tags” (or names) of the people responsible, usually done with a spray can, something that could not be described as “art,” although many attempt to. It’s not freedom of expression either, nor is it generally the making of a political statement – that would be legible! It’s just a mess.
Other forms of graffiti include tagging glass with sharp objects so that that a permanent inscription is made. Graffiti is quick and easy to do, just point the can and spray, although it’s not everywhere, is it? You would think if you could do this in a matter of seconds, that it would be on all buildings, given its prevalence in urban environments, but it isn’t.
Have a think about the most likely places you would see graffiti. Trains, public toilets, car parks, public elevators, disused buildings, or run down housing estates perhaps, but you almost never see it on buildings of beauty, or new buildings. Why do you think that is?
Perhaps they don’t get an opportunity to graffiti them, perhaps the security is too high around them, perhaps people who tag don’t go into areas of beauty; perhaps they have a respect for the builders who spent so long putting up the new building; perhaps they appreciate fine architecture; perhaps they are afraid of being fined, or maybe they just tag where other people have done it before.
There could be many reasons why people who spray graffiti choose certain buildings and not others, but one thing is for sure, if you walk around areas that are disused or run-down in any way you are sure to see it everywhere.
If you walk into areas where there is a lot of graffiti, have you ever noticed how you feel? Maybe a little uneasy, a little afraid? Or if you travel on a bus with the windows all scratched and tags everywhere, how do you feel? I feel angry and a little fearful.
Angry at the destruction of things which obviously took time and effort to create, and fearful that if the people who did this cared so little for the property of others, what might they do to me?
What would happen if I asked them to stop? Why do I get the feeling that whoever was responsible not only doesn’t care what other people think of them, or show the slightest respect for others, or property, but also may use violence if challenged?
“I don’t care about anyone, I don’t care about anything.
I’ll do what I want, if I want when I want,
If I want to spray that wall,
or tag the glass, what’s it gotta do with you?”
Since ancient times, Man has felt the need to make a statement to let everyone know he was here. From ancient stone age carvings to school children carving their names into their desks, young lovers carving their names into trees, and people carving their names into buses and trains and spraying their names in huge letters for everyone to see. So, is this part of man’s desire to leave a mark, or is it just vandalism (wilful wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others).
Just last week, my girlfriend and I went to visit some stone age carvings. Although we were impressed by the primitive stick man, bird, and an elk, we couldn’t help wondering what we have felt if these had been sprayed on the rocks by some spotty teenager. I am sure that I would have just thought it was a mess, and complained bitterly about the state of society, instead of admiring it as a “work of art.” But let’s get back to our main discussion!
Let me ask you a question. If you are a vandal (which anyone spraying graffiti really should be called), what do you think about when you are vandalising buildings and public areas? Do you think what you’re doing is wrong? Do you think: “If I spray this paint everywhere, this place won’t look nice anymore,” or do you not think anything? Do you just do it because you want to, to impress your friends, or to leave a mark, or to perhaps make some kind of statement? Maybe you’re just a frustrated artist who can’t afford canvas and brushes. Maybe you are anti-establishment or anti-authority? Maybe you like the mess you make, and find it aesthetically pleasing, or maybe you’re just plain
- Hostile to or disruptive of normal standards of social behaviour
I think if we were sensible, we would define the “normal” standard of social behaviour as just being kind to one another, and not engaging in acts that make the world a worse place to live in. On first examination, graffiti may not seem to fit this definition, as it evidently has nothing to do with kindness, and isn’t killing people, and “normal” behaviour may be seen as conforming to society, which I for one would not suggest as being good for the system! So is graffiti non-conformist? Yes, but not in a way that furthers the progress of Mankind.
I would like you to think about the type of person who vandalises property (and if you are in fact a vandal, maybe you would like to think of the type of person you are too). What image comes to mind? Does the image of a well educated person come to mind, or the image of someone who shows respect for his fellow inhabitants on the earth, or someone who has a good job, or does community work?
On the contrary, your first image is more likely to be a person with a low standard of education. Someone who has had a troubled social background, who may or may not have come into contact with authorities at some point in their life, is probably young, male, and has no respect for others. Someone who may also relish in the fact that people are afraid of him when they see him vandalising property.
All around the world, whether educated or non educated, young males are full of testosterone, full of bravado (a swaggering show of courage), with a need to impress their peers. So they show off; to gain status and respect from within their group, and rival groups. They are not so concerned with the wider population. They live in their own worlds, dissociated psychologically from an adult world of responsibility, and ultimately what they see as boredom. They live for excitement, for thrills. They rarely think about the consequences. How often do we see groups of young men tragically killed in a car accident where they have been involved in a race?
I remember all the stupid things I did in my youth, but the one thing I never did was spray permanent mess onto buildings. Not because I was such a well behaved child, or because I cared for the rest of my fellow human beings, or the buildings, but because my peers were never involved in it. I didn’t know one person who was a vandal. Maybe if someone I knew and respected did it, I might have too.
So if you think about it, although I was brought up well, came from an educated family was taught to respect people and property, it was not the reason I didn’t spray graffiti.
In my youth I got into trouble with the police whilst drunk and disorderly, drove cars at high speeds with friends in them whilst over the alcohol limit, and went around in big groups shouting in the street making older people afraid.
I cared little for things to do with the adult world. This was my world, and as far as I was concerned, the only world that mattered. I am not saying I was involved in crime, but if I was to see myself now I would say I was highly antisocial, but then again it was kind of cool to be anti-social when I was young.
Children are easily influenced, especially by older children who rebel against their parents and society. They are someone to look up to, someone to emulate, someone to respect., who is not a parent; but it is a shame that instead of directing that rebellion at something worthwhile, they just vandalise property. Maybe because the young mind isn’t fully formed and able to deal with things at a rational level, they use vandalism as a way of venting their frustrations.
Perhaps those involved are just “bad” and should be locked up for the good of society? I’m sure that may be the opinion of anyone who has had their walls tagged a thousand times, or the people who have to clean it off public buildings and public transport every day. One thing I am sure of is that people who graffiti in this way wouldn’t like it if you did it to their property.
If you are a vandal, imagine the fun and satisfaction of vandalising a public bus, or carving your name into the glass of a public telephone box, or spraying your tag on someone’s door. You are cool; you gain respect from your peers; but then you come home and find that someone has sprayed their tags all over your house, and they have scratched their names into the glass of your car, how do you feel? Not so cool now I expect? Probably angry.
You promise to get the people responsible for this! Isn’t it a little paradoxical don’t you think? Like the mafia hit man who swears revenge for his brother being killed in a mafia hit! No one likes to be the victim. So why continually do it?
It takes a lot of work and effort to create brickwork, and it takes time to paint it, but it only it takes a second to ruin it.
In the same way as glass takes a long time to make. First someone specifies the size and thickness, then it is manufactured, then fitted to the train, then finally the train is ready for service, and the first day it is in service, someone ruins the glass forever, by carving their name into it to be cool!
Destruction isn’t cool; it just shows that the person involved was using their mind incorrectly. If you know that this process takes this amount of time, but are still insistent on ruining it for others, you are anti-social.
The strange thing is, you want the bus and the train so you can get around, and would complain if the service was removed, but you just can’t sit and relax and appreciate the work that went into creating it for you, can you? That’s right. It was created for you, to make your life easier, paid for by all the other people in your city and you just can’t wait to destroy it.
This is a plea to all people insistent on graffiti. If you want to make a mess of something please buy your own train or bus and destroy it to your hearts delight. Oh, and be sure to etch all the windows in your house and spray graffiti in your bathroom while you’re at it! But of course, being anti-social isn’t like that. You have to affect other people around you. You can’t be anti-social on your own.
Unfavourable social background, lack of good parenting, boredom, lack of education. They could all be factors in allowing a young person to be more easily influenced than someone with a more favourable background, but no one is born anti-social. All babies are cute and cuddly. They don’t have an anti-social bone in their body.
It is only through a lack of love that the seed takes root. The feeling that you aren’t loved, makes you unable to show love; you start to hate other people more, and if you can’t take it out on them, you take it out on property. When you start to feel love, the need to be anti-social decreases, no matter what your background or education. True love can never be destructive.
Love the environment you live in, even if it is made of concrete. Plant trees and flowers; enjoy natural beauty in your grey urban environment. The worse you feel about the place you live, the more likely you are to hate it, and want to destroy it, thereby making it worse for everyone. You are not the only person who has to live there. Life is hard enough in an urban environment without making it more unliveable by creating such a visual mess.
Let me ask you a question. If you lived by a beautiful ocean, would you want to spray green and red paint over the trees and the beach huts, or would you just want to appreciate the natural beauty? Even if our lives are hard and we have no money, we still need to see beauty every day to appreciate the life we have on this planet. I know that most of you will say it’s hard to find beauty in a city, or in a grey housing estate, or on overcrowded public transport. Graffiti just makes this task harder. That’s all.