Thursday, January 17, 2013


I've got a weird appreciation for graffiti. I don't mean "street art" - though I do recognise the skill and speed requried - or "tagging", which is just untidy. At least when a dog marks his territory I don't have to look at the messy result for weeks afterwards. I mean the random, angry accusations and (in my experience, usually sectarian) vitriol you get on bus shelters and school desks.

The undirected aggression and violent allegations that can only be expressed anonymously, in biro, on a wall for strangers to see, like a caveman form of the internet.

I find anger hilarious. Apoplectic rage caused by a situation you could have avoided but directed at someone (or something) that can't change anything now. Which is odd, considering how impatient I can get myself.

Misspelled invective, obscure and improbable accusations about everything from my parentage and political affiliation to baseless assumptions about my sexual preferences and physical appearance. If nothing else, the creativity on show is impressive, even if the penmanship or artistic ability of the creator is disasterous.

My favourite piece of graffiti however, which I unfortunately saw before I carried a permanently-connected internet-enabled communications device with built-in camera and GPS locator1, was on a bus stop in Belfast. Scrawled in smallish permanent marker block capitals was the immortal (for me) phrase "Higgins is a fool".

I have no idea who this Higgins was, or why he was foolish, but there's something about the lack of offence in the phrase that really sticks with me. Compared to the usual caliber of sectarian profanity you get on bus shelters on the Ormeau Road, the inoffensiveness of that sentence really stood out for me.

But my wife has seen something even better - years ago in England, someone apparently felt so strongly about the issue that they had to deface a wall to spread the important message, "I love my dog".

1 It's amazing how quickly we not only take this incredible borderline magic - which would have been unimaginable in my own lifetime - for granted, but we get frustrated and angry when we're only able to get a 2G signal.

The comic at the top of this post is by Phil Selby of The Rut, and mostly inspired this post when I found a copy of it in my Dropbox.

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