By Sean Rose
I am of the view that, before the next general elections are held in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), constitutionally due by March 2021, a ban should be imposed on the use of graffiti of any kind on public places. This month of October 2019 marks the 40th year of political independence for our multi-island state. The celebrations are being held under the theme “With Strength Honor and Dignity – We Stand Resolute at Forty and Beyond.”
Evidence of our political maturity demands that we lift our game and raise the bar in terms of our political behaviour as a people, and, collectively, we ought to redefine the socio-political thread being interwoven in the political culture of our nation. This is imperative for our true advancement as a people. Change calls for new attitudes, and not merely new faces to sit as elected government representatives after every general election cycle.
I was very pleased to hear former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell call recently for an end to the act of besmirching the aesthetic value of our country during general elections. Sir James appeared on BoomFMSVG on Wednesday, October 9th, 2019, where he commented on several matters of relevance to the Vincentian component of our Caribbean civilization.
Many nationals are aware of the fact that the depictions of political party symbols, and, in some instances, smutty language bedaubed in paint are not creative expressions. They are an eyesore that deface and devalue our beautiful country.
To describe our unique execution of what I see has morphed into a visual form of political-warfare, as simply graffiti, would be an injustice to the voluntary artistic expressions done by skilled people in the form of murals etc. Graffiti, I am advised, can be characterized in 8 different types.
Tag; throw-up; blockbuster; wild style; heaven; stencil; poster and sticker. When I checked the samples depicting those formats i saw nothing consistent with the rampant perpetuation of mindless vandalism across our country at election time. The butchered markings plastered on streets and retaining walls remain vivid for the five-year term of each administration and beyond.
They paint an almost permanent image of brutal encounters between butchers at war armed with paintbrushes and ‘free’ paint. Gallons of it. What is worst, the gallons of ‘ free’ paint are either provided by the political parties themselves or party supporters with some money to burn.
In past elections, many of us participated in the sadistic act. I recall in 2005 suggesting to a group of campaign volunteers that we create stencils to ensure the messaging was uniformed and legible. Instead, a mad rush in the midnight hours appeared more attractive to the passionate supporters, eager to paint up the road as a show of support for their party. Nevertheless, I have come
to accept that not even the use of stencils should be tolerated. The entire practise should be banned. Billboards and other forms of campaign messaging are less permanent and more effective.
Some people may even suggest that the act of painting up the streets in a constituency, to reflect the dominance of a political party over its rival(s) is very akin to an animal marking its territory.
I have analyzed the behaviour close enough to conclude that this kind of political warfare can also be referred to as a smear campaign within the broader political campaign.
It threatens to undermine our social fabric through cultism, a wanton disregard for public spaces and property, and also at times privately owned property. After the ballots are counted and the victory parties are held, as a nation we are left with sloppy looking roads littered with slangs and signs that may very well do more to demoralize thousands of unsuspecting nationals.
The way I see it, we should use red paint to repair the roofs of senior citizens and other people who can’t afford to do so.
Let us use the yellow to brighten the lives of homeowners in need of a home makeover. Use the paint productively. Stop defacing our public spaces. That’s the way I see it.