Cry of the soul is act of violence;Opinion

26th February 1999 at 00:00
MANY years ago I found an alarming piece of scrawl in the urinal at school "Mourby must go" it said. I was shocked, partly because I had hitherto thought myself quite popular and secondly because I was sure I recognised the headmaster's handwriting.

Maybe this incident was what left me with a lifelong aversion to graffiti. The statement it makes is often aggressive in intent but the perpetrator is almost always anonymous: ergo violence without the risk.

However, it seems the Pope does not agree with me. His Holiness considers graffiti to be a "cry of the soul against the indifference of society" or so it said in my copy of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's own newspaper, last week. Well all I can say is that the Holy Father obviously never visited the boys' lav in Bournville Junior School. What he would have made of those lost souls who were forever telling a far-from-indifferent society that Jackie is a slag or proclaiming Villa scum and Up the Bules (sic) I cannot imagine.

The Vatican may have a point when it suggests that graffiti is the work of those who do not feel they have a sufficient stake in society - but neither do psychopaths and child molesters and yet we wouldn't dream of condoning their handiwork. The symptom of a malaise must not be indulged just because we feel sorry for the sick. Writing on walls is an ugly and cowardly affair, leaving Jackie no chance to scratch her accuser's eyes out or the Villa Scum to have their say. Graffiti is also highly obtrusive. People can always choose not to read this column but they'd have no choice if I sprayed it all over the school yard.

And this is very much what I told young Tom when I found two Robot Wars figures sketched just above the skirting board last week. Roundly my apprentice vandal was informed that however indifferent he might be I was not and he was given a sponge and bucket of water to remove Road-Block and Killatron from the dado. I'm glad to say they were not there next time I looked. Smug I might have been but I felt this was doing both Tom and society a long-term service. This morning however fresh graffiti has appeared in the downstairs lavatory, three words with a curiously familiar ring to them: Dad must go.

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