Who picked the article “Train Painting” (Utne Reader c. Sept/Oct2000) which should’ve been titled what it is – train wrecking? Allan Abel regaled us with tales from the “defacers’ hall of fame,”and that, too, should’ve been called what it is – the hall of SHAME.
The writer thought vandals feel “it unites them with hobo tradition.” Ugh, romanticizing property damage. Times aren’t even less safe now than they were then. In many cases hobos did odd jobs or waited for charity, while taggers admit that when they lack cash, they will steal what they need, meaning what they want. So, poor taggers, they shoplift to feed their addiction? That’s called compounding the crime!
Why should we care about their purported “needs” when they care nothing for ours? They couldn’t care less about the wishes/needs of the rest of society – to see our garages and alleys and favorite manner of transport (trains), as we, the owners, intended them. Too bad for us, I guess, boring old train- and home-owners (read: slow-moving/stationary targets) who can hardly keep pace putting a clean coat on, so quick and prevalent are the defacers. No one “needs” to spray paint.
These immediate-gratification junkies, these immature punks, apparently are to be pitied: they can’t be bothered to put paint on canvas where it belongs, they can’t wait for a gallery to show their so-called “art” — that’s for squares! They claim none of the artists have any control of where it pops up. What they really mean is they do not want to control themselves and we’re supposed to shrug and be okay with that, for them to be too.
One defacer claims to “love trains, because he even bought tickets. Wow, such a regular guy. My nephew loves trains for real, not like these swooned-over criminals. Trevor and I (and all ordinary folk) would never dream of using so much as fingerpaint on them – because they aren’t ours.
An important point Abel totally ignored is that, as every officer knows, graffiti is not only to say “I was here,” but to say “I own this” and “I did this, and you didn’t catch me – SUCKER.” Unlike anything written that is wanted, an autograph perhaps, no normal person is are pleased at finding drivel sprayed or etched on their property, or where they work. These morons don’t always stop at tagging with ordinary paint. They scratch bus windows with sandpaper and damage telephones in subways with padlocks, for example, when their painting spree runs dry. I’ve seen the commuter-rail people cleaning trains for a living (their salaries paid for by the increasingly-expensive tickets we buy, dumb taggers!). I feel their anger and pain – not taggers’ alleged angst.
These wanna-be artists bring to mind unneutered male cats, also unwanted by homeowners. Taggers also yowl a lot about what they consider their turf, marking up what they want for territory.
But impulse does not equal instinct: the human toms have no excuse. They should know better, and they should use all that energy to plant trees or do something – anything – useful. Waahh, too ordinary! Bo-ring! Too bad for intact surfaces or trains and the folk who like it that way!
Shame on taggers, and shame on all their apologists who give them space/credence.
(adapted from a letter to the editor, Utne magazine, 05OCT2000)