Monday, February 14, 2011
Sticking it to the Man
"No tobogganing or snowboarding allowed."
Somebody went to the trouble of painting over the old sign and used a stencil to put up a new message. The new sign is much more appropriate for the park because on this particular hill we see people sledding and snowboarding constantly. I go there regularly on weekends and there are usually between 10 and 50 people using this one to get some thrills and exercise; mostly families with small children of course. Initially I cheered for the artist who decided to get rid of the ridiculous signs but then I noticed that they did not stop there.
The brave freethinker suddenly began to transform into a punk intent on causing trouble. Using that same stencil to spraypaint random walls with the same "Designated snowboard and toboggan hill" message isn't sending a targetted message at ridiculous, ineffective 'safety' precautions but is instead just making a mess that is going to have to get cleaned up. What I began to wonder is whether or not I should have had sympathy for the painter in the first place. Painting those signs, while hilarious, is just going to cause the park to have to paint over them again or replace them entirely. While sending the message that these sorts of precautions are a complete waste of time and money is good, doing so by wasting the time and money of the park staff isn't helping anything. Obviously spraypainting the walls is far beyond that and is just destructive graffiti - a targetted, topical message of rebellion can sometimes be useful but wrecking up the place just to get attention is not. There are plenty of ways to try to deal with the overzealous protection of children our society seems bent on supporting but this isn't an effective one.
I guess like most people I make my snap judgements very much based on who agrees with me. I despise the 'no sledding here' signs and I particularly despise the fact that they are actually a legal necessity for the park. The artist/punk who defaced them obviously agrees with me and did so in a clever way so I feel a kinship with them and support their actions even though normally graffiti just makes me shake my head in disgust. Apparently I am willing to set aside my values in a moment for someone sending a message I agree with. This is clearly pretty much the norm as anyone who has been to a big rally can attest - when someone shares some values with you you are often ready to accept anything they say even if it is not something you otherwise agree with. I don't know that there is much to be done about that though; snap judgements are not going to be perfect and so long as I do take time to reconsider all aspects of a thing before committing to it seriously I am probably doing the best I can.