Columns

Upside: Price of ignorance

Graffiti is an ancient art form that in the last century used to be viewed as a blight where these appeared, but not so much anymore.

Nowadays the folks who let loose on walls, buildings, bridges, and streets are called “artists” for their depictions of emotions they are likely unable to articulate otherwise.  Some are now commissioned to use their creativity to blaze up structures along oft-trodden roadways.  And the form of expression has evolved, leading to lucrative careers and worldwide fame as in the case of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat of New York.

Previously associated with youth gangs, graffiti escalated the notoriety of the “crew” whose markings screamed on public surfaces.  Known as “taggers,” they illegally literally sprayed or splashed their names and slogans on mostly-government property.  That was their act of rebellion, their attempt at immortality.  Then they grew up, got jobs, raised families, and found other ways to vent their angst without crossing boundaries.

You would think the urge to tag would fade in adulthood.

Is the age of 27 old enough to have learned the value of an enduring landmark enough to marvel at it, imagine spectacles it witnessed through millennia and leave it be for succeeding generations to appreciate?

Apparently not for a man identified by Rome police as a “fitness instructor and delivery driver resident in Bristol (England) but originally from Bulgaria” who was caught on camera etching his and his girlfriend’s names on the Roman Colosseum a few days ago.

Just like millions of visitors to the Eternal City, Ivan Dimitrov could have taken in the staggering view of the ruins where gladiators battled wild animals, among big-ticket attractions of the time.  Obviously he had never confronted the admonition to “Take only pictures, Leave only footprints” posted at American parks.  Or chose to ignore it to prove his love and devotion?

The tourist was busted by incredulous Californian Ryan Lutz, who chided, “Are you serious, man” while documenting Dimitrov in action then uploaded the video on YouTube.  Because of the viral video, the Carabinieri allegedly traced the offender in five days.

Dimitrov apologized in a letter to Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri for the “damage caused to an asset…(to) the heritage of all humanity.”  He reportedly said he was not aware of the age of the 2,000-year-old amphitheater.  Oh?  Was he in the Italian capital for the Pasta Cabonara and not the antiquities?

 “The boy is the prototype of the foreigner who frivolously believes that anything is allowed in Italy, even the type of act which in their own countries would be severely punished,” Dimitrov’s lawyer aptly described his client.

Will ignorance spare Dimitrov from 5 years in jail and a fine of up to 15,000 euros for what the Italian Culture Minister called an “uncivilized and absurd act” on a protected Unesco World Heritage site?  What’s certain for now is that he has acquired the notoriety that motivated earlier taggers.   But is the price worth it?

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Cherie M. Querol Moreno is PNews Today Executive Editor.