December 11, 2013

Writing on the wall

The human desire to leave one's mark is thousands of years old. Generally that mark has been rude and offensive.
Graffiti in its modern form (writing or drawing on a publicly accessible surface) has existed since ancient Rome. We were not the first to think up scrawling drivel on the bathroom stall. Mount Vesuvius' eruption conveniently (for us --not so much for the Pompeians--) preserved all sorts of scribbles in Pompeii showing the Roman equivalent of "for a good time call..."
Wikipedia also notes, "The Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala also contains ancient examples. Viking graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople."
So the laments that society is crumbling because manners have disappeared is a fallacy. We are no more rude than we have ever been. There is just that much more bathroom wall provided by the Internet. We should consider all that is written on Twitter, Tumblr, even Facebook (potentially) as graffiti. Then we wouldn't expect it to be mannerly.

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