Thursday, March 31, 2011

Socrates was a Bad Ass



With the warm sun at my back, and good company at my side, I hit the streets to get some new shots of the parts of this place I love: style that make some people uncomfortable. After an extraordinary day, I find myself thinking about Socrates:

Durkheim wrote:
Socrates was a criminal, and his condemnation was no more than just. However, his crime, namely the independence of his thought, rendered a service not only to humanity, but to his country. It served to prepare a new morality and faith which the Athenians needed, since the conditions by which they had lived until then were no longer in harmony with the current conditions of life. Nor is the case of Socrates unique; it is reproduced periodically in history.

Written in 1895 as a critical response to popular belief that 'criminals' were biologically flawed, this essay challenged fashionable assumptions about 'criminals' by saying: Look! Maybe this crime thing is not about people who are flawed; maybe it's more about labeling some people  'bad' and others 'good' for for symbolic reasons. 

Socrates was 'justly' criminalized because the act of teaching students to 'inquire' freely was illegal at the time. This is not to say that his criminalization was morally OK, just that - by the law of the land - it was technically legitimate.



The City of Ottawa Police Services issued a media release about a recent 'sting' operation to nab 'taggers'. Yes, yes, a legitimate pursuit by the laws of the land. And yet I wonder:

Why does this 'sting' operation deserved a news release? Can we expect a similar release on 'jaywalking' stings? More importantly, how is the War on Pets going?

Regardless of their intent, writers challenge us to think about public space differently in a time when there seems to be a trend towards buying into the ideology that a 'secure' city should look boring.  Perhaps the City of Ottawa's 'zero tolerance' approach to graffiti and its mural-free zones are no longer in harmony with the current conditions of the lives of many people who call Ottawa home. Something is just a little too grey and  people are noticing.
As you walk down YOUR streets, I urge you to wonder who gets to scream at you from those billboards?

Who is allowed to speak/write on this wall?


...and then if the Athenian Police were informing the media about Socrates' arrest in a 'freedom of thought' sting operation, where would you stand on this issue?  

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