Vandalism and the Act of Rebellion

By Aloysius Chia

There is something interesting to be said about the recent act of vandalism on the roof of a HDB block, sprayed with profanity prominently mentioning a political party.

Though it may be that the culprits could be either naïve or immature, the bold and blatant act caught some people by surprise.

Consider the precariousness in which the graffiti was sprayed. Near the ledge of the roof where the perpetrators could fall off easily, not only were it risky for them to spray the words visibly, there was a certain guarantee, intended or not, that any attempt to erase it will be difficult. (We now know it is not cause a foreign worker cleaned it off shortly after.)

Consider the fact that the message was displayed on a HDB block, a hallmark of government housing and a mark of provision for all.

The graffiti, as it has always been represented in recent history, has always been a sign of subversion. One can almost be sure to be hunted down if it is made on any property.

Such acts, often characterized as the most detestable, will lead to preventive measures that will prevent it from arising again. Whitewashed walls will be painted so they will be white again. Fences will be built to keep it away from trains.

These acts, which are essentially acts of rebellion, are often characterized as wrong and unclean.

Consider other forms of uncleanliness: public protests, long hair in NS and schools, improper attire in schools, certain online media and speech, homosexual acts, bitter professors who critique, these are acts considered the most condemnable by authorities.

They are so bad that they have to be prevented if they don’t fall in line with the status quo.

Laws, regulations, policing, will be taken to build a wall around so that they won’t emerge again, sending a psychological message to all.

Such control has been so effective to the point where sometimes the very act of protest itself, either in the form of speech or physical, have become increasingly associated with disruptions to efficiency.

Even if acts in themselves present no threat whatsoever to an existing order or are simply attempts to critique it, it doesn’t matter. Behaviour must be nipped at its bud before it appears.

Is it any wonder then that resentment keeps finding novel ways to reappear?

The act of vandalism on property is wrong, and the culprits should face the appropriate consequences. They could have been initiated by thoughtlessness and impulsiveness.

But the graffiti is an interesting case. Not only was it sprayed in a risky and remote place, the message was not as absurd or incomprehensible as it would be if it were some mere act of vandalism. It was a political message that could resonate.

This makes one wonder if the vandals and their rebellious acts were so naïve after all.