1) Personally I think those supposedly “defaced” bus-shelters look a whole lot better for the stylish and bright graffiti that has gone up on them, and I suggest that councillor John Lamb, instead of responding with the usual clichés and insults, ought to offer thanks to the taggers responsible for taking the time to contribute – at their own expense and with no small risk – towards the aesthetic of this town.
Given that writing on the walls is a creative function literally as old as human history, we might ask why is it that the act is condemned throughout the modern West? – several reasons spring to mind. Demographically, most graffiti is sprayed by working-class adolescents i.e. people who have few opportunities to express themselves and who are utterly excluded from decision-making regarding the look of our shared environment. Graffiti represents a self-determined effort to engage artistically with public space, to decorate and embellish the world, to proclaim an identity; but these involved citizens are young and poor and too brash so they’re criminals.
Denying people the right to write on their walls, and hunting those brave enough to do so, furthermore sends subliminally an important authoritarian message: that “public space” isn’t actually public in any meaningful sense. Distant governors decide how a town shall look; companies and corporations then bid to be allowed to splatter their own tacky names and tasteless slogans all over everyone’s eyeballs, while the local residents may react to the space around them only as hushed spectators in a spectacularly dull museum. As a corollary of this, the good men and women on the council, insisting this world remain as dreary and tame and predictable as themselves, may indulge their habit of wasting taxpayers’ money with endless silly “anti-graffiti” squads and hotlines to protect those same taxpayers from the dreadful threat of colourful words.
2) I was delighted to see on Saturday that a group of kindly Christians had set up in Southend High Street with a sign that read: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” With all due lack of respect, I would say that the only “fools” are those who decide to gratuitously, publicly, insult people who do not share their fairy-tale beliefs.