My son told me how students had set a school bus on fire, one he had been using as a traveling aquaponics exhibit and lab. The previous year, the bus had been tagged. We discussed the difference in motivation between tagging and destroying.
Tagging is a way of marking territory. I’m always amazed at how unknowledgeable people are about why young boys act like dogs peeing here and there. It’s as if they never saw the 400 cowboy and Indian movies where the scout looks at three sticks and a feather and mutters, “Kiowa” or “Arapaho” while the clueless cavalry man stares. They act like their house has no property descriptions in the deed.
One of my favorite stories about marking territory is how one of those wonderful people who stalk the Third World helping people realized that for all practical purposes the little shacks these people lived in were permanent and no one was claiming the land they were on. The problem in establishing ownership amounted to a lack of property descriptions; how would we know where one squatter’s property ended and another’s began? The answer lay in the ubiquitous dogs; as one dog stopped barking and another one started, that declared the property line b/c the dogs knew. Clever.
But marking your territory is very different from destroying something. That could be a signal that this is our territory and you can’t put anything here we don’t have a part of – a taste, as the Mafiosi would put it. Or it could be shear destructiveness born out of severe pathology. The pathology may be group or individual, but it should be restricted and controlled if possible, while the markings can be less severely restricted but accepted as part of the territory 🙂 Wisdom lies in knowing where to draw the line, another marker.

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