“Graffiti Girl”

4 02 2009

Yesterday, I awoke to breakfast news programs on all channels touting a story from the courts in which an 18 year old was sentenced to three years gaol, for her first-time offence in writing a single tag on the side of a cafe wall.

“I think (the sentence) was absolutely ridiculous for my first charge and for something so small,” Back told The Daily Telegraph after being released on bail pending an appeal.

“But I’ll never do anything like it again. I would clean it off, I’ll apologise, I’ll do anything. I was shocked and scared.

“Jail is a big step. I’ve been sitting in that place (the cells) too long and it’s absolutely horrible, it’s disgusting. It definitely taught me a lesson.”

The words, “I’ll never do anything like it again,” found themselves repeated ad infinitum as the show hosts ran polls for their viewers asking whether mandatory prison sentences should be provided to anyone caught committing the horrendous act of graffiti.  All these polls returned a extremely high ‘Yes’ vote.  The whole thing appalled me as some kind of macabre parade.  Thankfully such polls don’t count for anything, but the news programs have certainly found a new way to beat society’s favourite whipping boy, teenagers.  Whether it’s speeding hoons, gatecrashers, underage drinking or selfish teenagers that should be drafted into the army or made to perform charity work in the final years of their high school education, these people love to find new ways of blaming and controlling the new generation so that they may regulate them more to the extent of throwing them in prison.  It never ceases to amaze me that these people cannot imagine for a moment that just maybe, the behaviour’s shown in teenagers are a direct result of all the regulations we already place upon them.  Let’s face it, even arbitrary distinctions such as minimum ages to purchase alcohol, have sex and the difficulties associated with getting a license force teenagers to act more like children than young adults, which explains the new phenomena of children refusing to move out of home. Their life is controlled, regulated and measured by their parents and old men (and to be politically correct, women) sitting in Canberra, or their respective state parliament.

Teenagers are bored.  Between the ages of 13 and 17.99 there is barely nothing a kid can do that is legal.  There are no recreational services that cater to this age group, just laws that restrict and make arbitrary distinctions, such as the age of consent.  What they do have legal access to is a library and the local skate park, oh and sport.  That’s it.  Couple this with the many flaws in the way schooling is conducted in this country and these people, (and I say people) are bored.  Boredom inevitably leads to activities and behaviours that arouse some excitement, and since everything is illegal, it’s likely to be something also illegal — unless of course they have unlimited access to the internet or other video games (which are also regularly decried by conservative minorities) causing them to become the ‘lazy, inactive teens’ whom make headlines and are also denounced as assisting the rise in obesity.  Unless teenagers are carrying guns or slapping lettuce on burgers out the back of McDonalds, they’re not tolerated.  To be seen and not to be heard.

To bring this back to the article,so many people are taking the words, ‘I’ll never do it again,’ as reason enough to introduce mandatory gaoling of all these terrible offenders.  But this will not solve the problem, and as always when force is used it will simply create more.  My reasons for saying this is in gaoling teenagers between 14-17.99, the age where they usually get involved in tagging, will only serve to expose these young adults to criminal ways of life and the brutality of the prison system when they haven’t really done anything seriously damaging.  They will be exposed to harder criminals and may adopt their behaviours, mannerisms and will even graduate into harder crimes.  To add to this, graffiti, and tagging in particular, may see an increase in popularity as it becomes a symbol of rebellion against the established order, and it will be far more frequent.  It would be far better to ‘deal’ with these people by allowing them to restore the ‘damage’ they have done by paying compensation, even if they don’t care about how much they have to pay.  Who cares about their reasons for defacing private property, so long as the wall is returned to its blank state?

Yet there is more to add to the equation.  Those leading the charge to gaol these people are neglecting the distinction between graffiti art and the simply act of ‘tagging’.  Graffiti art in its purest form can only really exist in an urban environment and those who have the energy to put the effort into their work and the ability to reach the hard-to-reach areas, are practising an art form.  It could even be argued that street art adds to the urban environment and are only enriched as they stand out against the drab, grey city landscape, justifying it’s image.  A good graffiti artist can use their art to spread a message, be it political or personal or simply to play with colours against a background against a slate grey, red brick and coal black canvas.  Tagging, is a different act all together, and the simple explanation is that it involves people scribbling their ‘gang’ signature on anything as a kind of, ‘x was here,’ expression.  Unlike graffiti art, which takes time, commitment, agility and practice, tagging is the sign of kids who think they’re hardcore because they’re, ‘in a gang’.  Usually, such gangs are nothing more than a group of friends who are ‘hardcore’, doing nothing more than trash-talk with other ‘gangs’ and the occasional backing up of each other if one ‘member’ ever stumbles into a fight.  To their credit though, such groups often do provide a support group for kids who don’t fit in or don’t live up to the standards pushed upon them by education ministers and other politicians.

This is all leaving out the debate of property and whether the property being defaced is legit, but I shan’t go into that.  Graffiti is an artform and tagging is evidently an act of vandalism, but those kids should never be gaoled for it as it would only serve to turn the ‘hardcore’ into actual criminals.

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4 responses

4 02 2009
Rorshak (1313)

That is a ridiculous sentence. I’m not surprised though. I expect the state’s (in)justice system to do that shit.

Your article here actually reminds me of one Doug Stanhope’s routines. “No wonder your kid’s smearing dog shit on car handles, he’s bored out of his tit.”

5 02 2009
Darian W

Excellent post. Teens learn anti-social behavior from the elders who oppress them.

6 02 2009
EthanLeeVita

Reminds me of Brian Sorgatz saying that teenagers are the new niggers…you wouldn’t believe some of the ageist comments and attitudes I’ve had to face myself.

15 03 2009
spextral

‘tassright! fight the power! ahem.
…peace out.

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