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"If Graffiti Changed Anything, It Would Be Illegal"-Banksy

Updated on August 13, 2012

Banksy Words of Wisdom


Why New Graffiti is Still Illegal

Flashback to ancient Roman times, you are on a pilgrimage and you have just arrived at the Parthenon in Greece or maybe you have just walked into the city of Rome. Do you know what you would see? Graffiti, everywhere. Scratched into the columns, stony buildings and any surface that could have a significant meaning to travelers. For centuries people have wanted to leave their mark and they have.

Now come up to the 1960s. Graffiti has just exploded in Philadelphia because of one man, "Cornbread", who has painted a full sized aircraft and half of the animals in the Philadelphia zoo. The graffiti revolution is about to begin.

The New York Scene-Circa 1980s
In the 1980s, New York exploded with Graffiti. Teenagers, young people and children, eager to be noticed and to defy authority bombed trains with their nicknames. Tagging everything in sight with Magic Markers and spray paint, graffiti overtook New York's subway system. Before the decade was out, however, the authorities found new ways to clean trains quickly and efficiently and also were effected more serious punishments for graffiti.
Many people were disgusted and remain disgusted with this type of vandalism, but some art gallery directors saw this as an opportunity and for a small time graffiti littered the galleries of New York. The artists were snatched off the streets, told to paint on canvas, were used, abused and sent back to their homes with a bit more money than they had before. The graffiti scene, however, stayed strong, but not in the galleries.

The Present
Graffiti artists now days are nothing short of activists and promoters of change. Sure, there is still gang graffiti used in turf wars and vandalism, but most graffiti, especially large scale pieces in large cities have a different idea behind them.
World renowned graffiti artist Banksy is one of those people. His satirical and humorous stencil work litters most of the United Kingdom and on occasion, comes to the United States. Banksy used the phrase, "If Graffiti Changed Anything, It Would Be Illegal" for which this article is named. And I think he's right. These artists, the activists and changers, are trying desperately to make the middle class world we live in see some of the horrors that we ignore on a daily basis. Tyrannical laws, inhibiting freedoms and the horrors of capitalism are being addressed and because graffiti is considered a low art form or vandalism, it's ignored.
Did you know, if you live in anything the size of a minor city or larger, you are on film almost every waking minute of your life? Every time you use the internet, a credit card, your cell phone or any electronic media you are being tracked. Does that sound like freedom to anyone? Homeless people die of exposure everyday in the streets, but the U.S. is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Just not opportunity for homeless/poor people apparently.
These are the kind of issues graffiti artists are trying to address. I say "graffiti artist" because I don't mean people who destroy public property for amusement, I mean people who paint messages on our walls to help us because we are blind to the problems.

What's Wrong with This Picture
According to, the average cost per taxpayer is about $1-3 a year to clean up graffiti. So taking the midway at $2 a person with a population of 311,591,917 people, that is approximately $623 BILLION DOLLARS! Do you know what we could do with $623 billion dollars???!!! Cleaning up gang graffiti is one thing, but with all that money, we could probably get rid of gangs and homelessness, not to mention a whole bucket of other things in a year alone.
What I'm trying to say here is that a good majority of graffiti is activism (which is legal I might add) and it should not be looked at as a crime. With all the money the U.S. spends silencing people's opinions and views, a lot of other things could be helped. If homelessness were cleared up with that money a great majority of activist graffiti would clear up. If some issues in legal structure and ridiculous politics were cleared up, a great majority of activist graffiti would disappear.

Fix the Problem, not what makes you realize the problem is present.


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