Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Freedom to express one's self

Okay, so this was originally purely going to be a blog with my vacation snaps on. Well, that was until I realised what blogging truly meant. Since commencing my blog at the beginning of June, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to read blogs written by many many others (refer to the sidebar for some of my favourites). The one thing that has completely taken me by surprise is how many people have so eloquently expressed themselves in their blogs and posts. Albeit, the design and layout of the blog itself, or the interesting and varied topics that people blog about.

I have laughed at some, felt sad about some. Some I have agreed with and others have made me angry. But each one is priceless in the fact that it has allowed an individual to express one's self, to express one's opinions. It has also provided a medium that allows people from all over the globe to communicate with each other and to share their thoughts and passions.

In my neighbourhood, people just don't take the time to talk to each other. We all leave our front door's in the morning and walk to our cars, occasionally taking the time to look up and acknowledge each other in passing. We work all day and then return home in the evening, and close the front door for another day. Where has community gone?

I remember when I was a child, playing around the street or the park with all the neighbourhood children, wilst all of the parents stood in the front gardens or back gardens talking and laughing. I also remember fondly when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 (I was only 5yrs old), it was an occasion where the whole of England became one big street party. There has been nothing like it since.

Not that I am trying to say that the Blog world is a street party, but it has provided a community. A community where people share thoughts, ideas and opinions. A community where people are free to speak openly. A community where people encourage each other. It is this freedom of speech that I strongly applaud.

So, this leads me nicely into the purpose of this post. A few months ago I was introduced to the works of an artist. Not any ordinary artist but a graffiti artist. His "name" is Banksy. The reason that I was so attracted by Banksy's work was the principle he holds and his desire to express himself. In his book, aptly named "Wall and Piece" he says about graffiti:

"They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society; but graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three types of people; politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers.

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their messages in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back"

Please look at a small sample of his work below:

"18 minutes, Chalk Farm, London 2006"

"If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then
rats are the ultimate role model."

Brighton Beach, England 2004

Shoreditch, London, England 2004

"Does my bomb look big in this?"

"So little to say..."

So, this is one guy's way of expressing himself, his way of being an individual. But what really struck me was his "Manifesto". It is one of the most moving and emotional passages I have ever read. It is one of those pieces of writing that since reading, has never left my heart:


An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diphtheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated. It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again; they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Source: Imperial War museum

As mentioned in an earlier post of my trip to Poland, I spent an afternoon in Auschwitz Concentration Camp near Krakow. It was one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my life. After reading the quote from Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO's diary in Banksy's Manifesto, it reminded me what individuality and freedom of speech is all about.

....and on that note, I have finally convinced my father to start a blog to show his work. He, along with my wonderful mother, have been kind and loving parents to my sisters and myself. My father is also a very talented artist who has never really promoted his work - hopefully until now. Please feel free to view some of his fine work at - Portraits & Landscapes. As a proud son, I truly hope that this medium will provide him with the confidence and recognition that he and his work truly deserves.

Once again, I applaud the blogging world for providing a medium to allow us all to express ourselves.


Graham x


no more said...

Blogging - what goes on behind closed doors. Diary access granted to all.

Community is gone because of technology - which has turned the past generation inward to be self absorbed. The types of technologies out there prevent interaction and socialization. Even sitting on the computer - it gives us something to do. Back in the day we didn't have these distractions, we had to actually talk to neighbors and that gossip was our form of entertainment.

Cellphones, blackberries, mp3's and ipods, computers, video games, tv...all keep people from interacting with a 'live' person

AZZITIZZ said...

And so say all of us!!

Unknown said...

I love your blog! Its so interesting!
It really is becoming a part of my life too, but I do equate it to talking to myself sometimes!
I have not posted as much as you, but I enjoy it. Keep up the great work!
Fraggle D

Unknown said...

Love your blog, its so interesting! Keep up the great work!
Fraggle D

Lorelai236 said...

In Washington DC, we have a spray paint artist named Cool Disco Dan. He doesn't draw much but he does leave his signature all over the Metro line.

Anonymous said...

I think you're totally right. People are dying to express themselves, and I was surprise of the number of real artists (writers, cartoonists etc.) in the blogosphere. There are a lot of talented people here, and their voice is important.

Hope you can add some travel art to this world too ! ;)

Sebastian said...

You sure said it! I started my blog as a way to express my thoughts and emotions - I never really intended it for others, but more as an outlet for myself.

Those people I have met through my blog (including you!) are just awesome and I couldn't imagine another way I could have met and shared so much with others so far away from me.

thanks for writing such a wonderful blog!!



Livingsword said...


Io like you was surprised by the sense of community derived from the blogging community.

I grew up in several very small towns, they had a notion of community but much of it was negative. Now I live in the big city and there is little sense of community.

Later in life I have found myself in a predicament that I would never have believed, in a place I would have abhorred. I have found myself as part of a community that is vibrant, and dynamic, with genuine caring and expression. It is a place that is not popular with some in this world, when I name it many will pour the wrong meaning into it, perhaps repeat with bad memories, I do no have these. I have only the best of experiences with my fellow human beings… at Church. I don’t go for community but that is a wonderful “add on”.

I am not preaching just listening and sharing my life as I see it, which is what I think the point is.

Paper Fan Club said...

Graham: thanks for sharing another very thought-provoking post. Brilliant. Indeed, what has happened to that sense of community that we grew up with? It's funny to think that now, the only true communities we know are faceless and nameless places to belong.

Unknown said...

Hiya folks,

Muse, Thanks for your comments...I am sooo sorry to hear about the issues with your apartment ceiling collapsing :( My thoughts are with you and Mia the cat at the moment. I hope things get sorted for you very soon.

Azzitizz, thanks for your kind comments and all the great encouragement :D

Fraggledragon, welcome to the blogging world and thank you for your nice words. I look forward to reading your blog too!!

Lorelai, interesting...I will search the net and see if I can find anything about him.

Heyyy Zhu :),you are so right. So much talent, that may never have been seen. I will definitely be adding more travel stuff this space :D (Oh! I loved the post of your business trip...great photos too!!)

Sebs, thanks mate!! I have just read your latest have such a fine way of expressing things...a "must read" for everybody!!!

Livingsword, I agree the Church can hold a great community spirit. Keep up your great blog, it is a pleasure to visit and read.

Paper fan club, thanks for the nice comment. It does make you wonder what is happening to the world.

Epoch [z] said...

Funny thing... I was just reading through your post earlier today and now here I am commenting on something that is quite inspiring. I get where you're coming from when you talk about the community. It's like that over here in America. You work, give the occassional (if any) greeting to the neighbor, come home and sleep. Then do it all over again.

Blogging has become something that brings people (ALL people) together. Young and old alike. Thanks for the post, because what you say is true. Actualized community has gone to hell on a modernized jack.

~Epoch [z]

someGirl said...

Graham, thanks for stopping by... So, here I am, taking you up on your offer to read your post about community and graffiti and [coincidently] I have the following to offer: My younger brother is a graffiti artist here in California, he does some amazing stuff. Years ago, when we all knew that art was his path, we just assumed he would do the ‘typical’ aspiring-artist-thing [whatever that is!] but he quickly rejected that route. His reason for doing so was that he wasn’t happy with the ‘artist community” and its’ pretentiousness. He felt he had to fit and mold himself and his art into a preconceived idea....He’s taken to the street as a personal crusade against that idea, against that community.

I feel that communities haven’t ceased to exist... We’ve all just ceased our search to be a part of one. In his search to be an individual, I fear my brother might have given up a group to which he shared a commonality....Graffiti art is a solitary activity [for obvious reasons!] but than again so is blogging ....yet he and I can safely say we have friends ‘out there.’ .......I guess ‘community’ has gotten redefined.

Practically Dutch said...

Thankyou for introducing me to your blog - however i am a little offended tht my blog isnt on your 'blogs i am reading' list haha.

The pictures you have of your travels are awesome, they capture the moment perfectly.. a kinda wish you were here feel!

I will be sure to keep reading!

Unknown said...

Hi epoch [z]! To start, I would love to take this opportunity to say how much I like your user name. It sounds really cool. To top it, your blog is great too! Thank you for your kind comment and I would like to raise my glass in a toast to the blogging community. Best wishes :)

Somegirl, thanks for your comments and insight. I think you are right, perhaps community isn’t dead and we have just kinda lost our desire to find it.

Rachel, thanks for your comment and consider yourself well and truly added xx
Oh! Before I forget, good luck with reformatting your blog!!! I look forward to seeing the finished article.

Thanks again everybody for your kind comments, best wishes ~ Graham

cathy said...

I finally got to read your post on my third visit here.I was here this morning before you came to mine.
I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said.

Deadpoolite said...

Hi Graham! It was about bloody time I visited your blog again, this damn visit was long overdue I must admit (good thing my mask is red then you cant see me blush with shame, lol). My timing couldnt be more right it seems since this particular blog entry was well worth it.

It is actually quite ironic if you think about it, never before did we have so many ways to communicate with eachother but then again never before were we so alone... (OK where is my best Merc nobel prize...what there is no such prize... oh there bloody should have been one... heh).

Blogging is a good means to an end and if anything else you can be more open about sides of yourself you wouldnt easily display to a head to head meeting with someone in fear of rejection or misunderstanding.

Loved the art and comments on the graphitti artist by the way!

Ok, ok I officially award you with an honourary place in my Merc's Hit list!!! No, no, no stop cowering in fear and writing your will it isnt an actual "hit list" (well not yet anyway, but you never know where my ambition will lead me eventually, lol), just a merry bunch of blogging links I tend to visit.

Guess what, I cheerfully include you in that lot now:)

Ok, enough talk! Time for some much needed nourishment (oh the poetry of the moment, oh the hunger...)

Till next time, take care!

Deadpoolite said...

Heh, the "demon of the press" hit my previous comment... you are part of the "Known blogging accomplices" list not the "Merc's hit list". It is all in the details, heh.

I must be more hungry than I thought...

DP out!

Marjie said...

quite a freedom of speech isn't it? hand it to europe to be bold and intruiging. i think much of the expressions that were shown trully got people's attention. was there something done about it? well, i guess when it comes down to it, the only thing that matters was that they were heard...or seen.


Choc Mint Girl said...

Hey, Graham! I'm supposed to comment on this post, but...just need to tell you now that I've Tagged You!! I know, I know...but you have to...he he...thanks!!

Raspberry Grace said...

On a more sombre note (sorry), with reference to the part of your post about the concentration camps, I remember once listening to a soldier talk who had liberated one of the camps (I forget which, but possibly Bergen Belsen), he talked of how he walked into a hut and saw two children sitting there playing.. as he approached he realised they were in fact sitting upon a very decomposed corpse, literally playing among the spilling out entrails as if it were a perfectly normal thing, because this had BECOME normality for them.

I've never forgotten that.

On a lighter note, you should watch Life Is Beautiful(if you've not already), I guarantee it will make you cry, just like "It's a wonderful life"

God bless, rasp xx

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