I had a teacher in high school that I flat out didn’t like. She taught American History or World History, and regardless of the way we look at the world now, those two things are different. The kind of sad part of this whole thing is she left me with something that I think about to this day, and yet I can’t even remember her name. I remember her face and her shrill voice still rings in my ear, but I can’t remember her name. She had a sharp tongue and she wasn’t afraid to use it, and looking back on it, I can’t really blame her. I was always kind of a good kid, I was outgoing and well liked by most teachers, and often times I used that to my advantage. I would talk, I wouldn’t pay attention, and I would just generally disrupt class, but I got away with it because I was a “good kid.” Her class was sort of boring sometimes, lots of lecturing and TONS of reading out of the book. I tell you that as an excuse for why I fell asleep one day during a lecture. I had my head resting on my hand, looking down at my paper, and I could feel my eyes getting heavier, and heavier. The next thing I heard was “Matt Dibble… WAKE UP!” I’m not kidding you when I say I can hear that very clearly my head. I slowly opened my eyes, lifted my head off of my hands and glared at her. “Listen lady, there’s a nice way to do that”
Is what the cool kid in the movie would say. I wasn’t that kid. So I went on for the rest of the class working extremely hard to keep my eyes open.
She made us write a paper and, despite the fact that it was just a paper, it represents so much about my life and my growth as a person. The subject in question was “Should one of America’s roles in the world be to act as Big Brother?” I wrote my paper and in it I took to the task of educating this teacher on how important we were as a country and what a real global powerhouse looked like in the 20th century. How could any country anywhere else in the world possibly figure out their own problems? America! America! America! Pew pew pew!
Nothing new about growing up and changing your mind, and that’s what happened. I’m an “out now” person. Meaning that I believe that our efforts in other parts of the world only help to create more enemies and more terrorists, and line the pockets of corporate and political greed, and that our best course of action would be to get the hell out now. There are outside forces at work on that decision too, we’re actually seeing what it’s like on the far end of the Big Brother scale and with every father, brother, sister, and mother we kill, we create more terrorists.
I was thinking about this change of heart yesterday as I passed this mural painted by Shepard Fairey in downtown Detroit.
The building that it’s painted on is what used to be known as the “Compuware Center” and is now referred to as “1 Campus Martius,” it’s ground zero for most of Quicken Loans employees. In case you aren’t aware, Dan Gilbert’s modus operandi is to buy a building, introduce a somewhat offensive color palette, and then rename it. I’m getting off topic, but I like what Uncle Dan does as a community buildr. He buys and activates space, and then worries about the ancillary issues later. It’s a much different approach than that of speculators like the Ilitches. Good on ya, Danny Boy.
Graffiti has existed since ancient times, when Egyptians, Greeks, and Mesopotamians were writing on walls. Actually, I don’t know that Mesopotamians were doing that… I don’t even know who the Mesopotamians were. Why did I sleep in that damn history class!?
In more modern times, graffiti showed up on the scene as a way for gangs in NYC and LA to “tag” as an alternative to urination in the territory marking department. A tag back then was as simple as spray painting the name of your gang on walls within your hood, sometimes in creative ways. It wasn’t uncommon for rival gangs to enter each other’s territory and mark up walls to prove that they weren’t scared or that they were badder than a rival gang / neighborhood. And since hip hop and the gang culture were so tightly intertwined, graffiti took and with the b boys and began to represent something more than neighborhood rivals.
It’s with this in mind that I’m sitting there looking at that scene playing out in downtown Detroit and my eyes can’t help but drift toward the sea of cubicle windows surrounding that painting. The most corporate of corporate environments has now been “tagged” with a graffiti mural to communicate coolness and creativity. At some point, we changed the way we think about graffiti, like I’ve changed the way I think about global politics and that teacher.