On public space as a sandbox (rather than collectivized, reactionary-controlled property), and random other thoughts

Sep 17, 2007 • Karen

Karen: How do I fix my graphic novel?

Nelson: well, just imagine what it would be like if things *did* change
what would the beginnings of that look like?

Karen: Hm...
Walker Wall [at Pomona] is an aspect of it... anyone can paint it, you don't need permission, though if you're painting hate speech and people know it's you there might be issues... Or the burning parties at Mudd [sophomore year]--there was a fireplace, and we had homework, so we set it on fire. No permission needed.
I remember being so impressed by the graffiti in the bathrooms of the Grinnell library when I visited there--it's extensive, sometimes vulgar, but largely intelligent and conversive.

Nelson: I mean, that's part of it isn't it? permission culture vs. free culture again, to some extent

Karen: Yeah...

Nelson: I mean, sometimes having to get permission is reasonable, e.g. you can't have impromptu PGI conventions
but it shouldn't be hard to get, there shouldn't be mountains of red tape, and above all it should be *possible* to get permission if you take reasonable precautions for safety or noise pollution or whatever
I wouldn't be horribly upset if I couldn't shoot fireworks in my backyard but there were Crackerjack-like shoot sites all over the place
I mean, we've lost something, there once was a time when you could shoot cans with a rifle in your backyard and nobody thought anything of it
but there are shooting ranges etc. in every metropolitan area
why are guns special? why can't you get permission to do far less dangerous things? part of it is the gun lobby is organized, the NRA is scary, and there are a lot of people willing to put up a fight... too many people let things like fireworks or arcades fall to the anti-fun contingent because it doesn't seem important in the grand scheme of things
like, terrorists want to kill us, the environment is tanking, we have no medical or financial safety net, etc. who has time to fight for just good clean fun?
more freedom to just do stuff without permission is the ideal
but even setting the bar for permission at a reasonable height when permission is necessary would make our country a much better place
and killing some bureaucracy would be nice too

Karen: Part of the problem (at least, the part that the article we read focuses on) is that we make these decisions in the name of the "public interest", but some people are more of a part of the "public" than others. "Those damn kids" who play pinball don't count.
Pyros might fit into normal life in other respects, but not enough people know them to make them "count."
I think this is true at Scripps, too...
Stereotype-wise, you have the daddy's little (smart) girls and the activist feminist lesbians. I think the former's interests are more a part of the conception of the Scripps "public" than are the latter.
In both cases, we are strong confident women, to be sure... but in our self-image we are also beautiful, well-groomed, polite, cooperative... and we make sure to photograph as many of our scant minority population as possible so they are represented on the website. :p

Nelson: another part of the problem is that even when the rules are relatively reasonable, enforcement can be plainly unreasonable... e.g. it makes sense for filesharing to be illegal under our current system, but how do you justify the statutory damages? E.g. Danny Clark being prosecuted to the full extent of the law for an innocent mistake with the construction of his fireworks magazine instead of getting a warning to fix it or something more reasonable

Karen: But why do you think the authorities choose to be unreasonable?

Nelson: because they're part of the anti-fun contingent? because they believe in the letter of the law rather than the spirit?
I dunno, it just seems to be part of their psychology to use their power to the hilt rather than exercising restraint
I think a lot of people who end up in power feel like they have to use it or it might go away

Karen: But they don't always believe in the letter of the law... not everyone is dogged in this way. Pyros, black people, activists... power is preferentially used against them. Paris didn't face the letter of the law.

Nelson: that's true

Any thoughts on how to fight "think of the children"ism and the anti-fun contingent? How can we take back public space and just plain basic autonomy? Anyone interested in taking on the escort policy, or the no-more-than-eight-people policy, or the you-must-drink-in-your-room-with-the-door-closed-like-an-alcoholic-and-if-there's-other-people-you-can't-have-any-because-that's-totally-realistic policy (among so many others)?

Class president Ashley Peters had an amazing convocation speech last week (that no one but frosh and choir Scrippsies attended, sigh) that was a call for greater activism on campus, to actually speak up when the administration calls for input--and demand more input opportunities--during the presidential transition. Can we do that?

Or are you all just as swamped with work as I am...?