Now that both the Blair government and the opposition want to "crack down" on "graffiti", some people say that "graffiti is crime", others say it is "art". So what is "graffiti"?
"Graffiti" is the name given to writings, drawings, paintings or scribblings on walls, pavements, monuments and other surfaces of public or private property, which became very common in the second half of the 20th century and can be seen around today.
These graffiti vary from names and swear words written by children for no better reason than that they have learnt to write and feel like writing something, to political slogans, to elaborately drawn pictures, which can indeed be seen as "works of art".
But all this is irrelevant.
What makes a "graffito" a crime is not its content or artistic quality, but the fact that in most cases "graffiti" are written or painted on an item of property that belongs not to the author of the "graffiti", but to somebody else, and this somebody else had not given to the "graffiti" writer permission to use his property for the purpose of "graffiti".
But in those cases where somebody wants to write or paint something on one's own property, then, if such writing does not cause any damage to any body else, then it is not a crime.
So the crime is not that of writing or painting "graffiti", but of "trespass and/or damage to property". And this is not different from splashing a bucket of paint on somebody's wall or throwing a brick through somebody's window.
Trespass and damage to property have always been crimes and civil wrongs. It was just that the Socialist politicians who composed the British governments in the 20th century were hostile to private property. They were committing crimes against private property themselves and were encouraging illegal occupation and use of property. Examples are the Rent Acts, "squatters' rights", strikes and sit-ins in the course of "industrial disputes" and various protests. Indeed, abolition of all private property was the avowed aim of the 20th century Socialists. And in that context "graffiti" was seen as "self-expression of the masses", which was to be encouraged and condoned. Politicians themselves had no respect for property and they promoted disrespect for property among the Public. And in that way they were failing in the basic duty of government to protect private and public property and to instill respect for property, both public and private, among the people.
Today, that the mess created by politicians has come to light in all its ugliness, they are taking "stances" of being "tough on crime". But stances are not enough. To succeed in establishing law and order they will need to change their own view of government and of the Society and to re-educate the Public. All traces of Socialism need to go and all "politics" needs to be removed from government.
Now that Tony Blair has understood the need to "play by the rules", the task has become to establish these "rules" both for the government and for the people.
It is not a matter of being "tough" or "soft". It is a matter of understanding and performing the duties of government. Posing and posturing is not part of the duties of government. Protection of public and private property is. This duty should be performed honestly and effectively, not used as part of "election campaigns".
And what about all those "working-class kids" who have no other way of "expressing themselves" than by painting "graffiti"? Should not "the Society" do "something" about "their plight" and "their needs"?
"All those working-class kids" can stop being "working class", use their time to acquire knowledge, earn money when they are old enough, buy their own property and, if they still feel like painting graffiti, do it inside their own property, and nobody will be able to prevent them. Just as nobody can prevent them from getting rid of all the nonsense stuffed into their heads by political demagogues.
Graffiti is not a crime - trespass and damage to property are. And the failure by politicians, educators, "sociologists" and journalists to understand this fact is just another proof of their incompetence. But the greatest of all crimes is the crime of abuse of government powers - the crime of politics.