Art - or just mindless vandalism?
I was discussing here, a couple of weeks ago, my feelings regarding vandalism and graffiti here in Italy. Not, of course, that Italy is any worse than anywhere else in the world, naturally. It is just blessed with some of the most beautiful buildings and works of art which make the vandalism seem more intrusive to the eye.
The Senate Justice Committee has just given first approval to a proposed change in the law with respect to graffiti which should go some way to tackling the problem - if it is actually enforced, that is. The changes are seemingly slight, but will have a noticeable impact on, hopefully, the acts of mindless vandalism that pass themselves off as a form of social comment which assault the eye everywhere in Milano, as well as all of the other cities and towns of Italy. Riccardo De Corato, the Deputy Mayor of Milano, said; "This is a first response to the acts of vandalism that have recently become increasingly serious" after he had signed the provisional document.
For the first time, defacers will be answerable for their actions directly to a Magistrate, without having to go through the often long-winded court procedures as required presently. The Magistrate will have the power to impose limited fines and will also have the power to order a period of 'house arrest' for up to 45 days. In addition, the Magistrate can order the offender to clean up the damage they have caused - in fact, the law specifically decrees that this must be done as; "a pecuniary penalty alone cannot be applied when the person responsible for the offence has not made provision for the repair of the damage" in this clause of the proposed regulation.
This is an interesting clause to examine as it is not setting any ceiling on the cost of the 'cleaning up' of the damaged building, wall, bridge, work of art, fixed or mobile object (such as a bus or a train). With the high proportion of historical buildings and protected works of art around, it is unlikely that such a cleaning up will be confined to a 5 minute scrubbing with some Vim and hot water. In other words, it will be a major cost to the miscreant.
So, what are the proposed penalties? The draft law distinguishes private properties and buildings from objects of historic, artistic or environmental importance. In the case of private property, there will be a fine of up to €2500. The Magistrate may also order the graffiti-ist to stay at home for a period of from 6 to 30 days and the culprit may also be sentenced to a period of community service ranging from 10 to 90 days. If, on the other hand, the defaced object has archaeological, historic or artistic value, the penalties are more severe. The Magistrate may impose a fine of up to €2500, order house arrest for 20 to 45 days, or, alternatively, impose from one to six months’ community service. These sentences will be in addition to the clean-up mentioned before. Let's hope it is passed, is subsequently enforced and has the desired effect of protecting Italy's heritage and beauty.
There is one more issue, however, that this change in law cannot easily address. There have been instances recently where the very rich have been causing damage with gay abandon. In Sardinia, home of some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean as well as being the home to Flavio Briatore's famous nightclub - Billionaire (I suspect not a Lira Billionaire, either!) - where the very rich and famous like to hang out and be seen flaunting their wealth.
The latest in a long line of vandalistic assaults on this beautiful island involves the fifth richest man in the world, Mr Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. He was enjoying life on board his private yacht, the Octopus, a 124 metre (414 feet) number with it's own helicopter pads (yes, it has two of them) in case anyone needs to make a quick getaway, which is also the largest private yacht in the world. He decided to pay a friendly little visit to Cala Luna. It didn't take long for trouble to flare up though. Gaetano Mura said; "Since early morning, the jetskis from the yacht kept coming very close to the beach without a break. Then a landing craft arrived. The front ramp opened and the crew unloaded tables, chairs and torches. Now, there are lots of protected species in the area. The peregrine falcon nests here. Many of us protested". The skipper replied, "We have the permits," and ignored the protests. Well, I suppose Paul Allen has the money and fancies he can do whatever he likes. There isn't any law - or lawmaker - that will have the ability to deal with that kind of vandalism, I suspect. What is the expression now? Ah, yes - "Money Talks".
Octopus - a subtle little number.