Which word will you choose?
Published May 2003
This project invites members of the public to choose the word that they think will have the most effect on the public at large – humanity or anarchy – and then confront the public directly with this single word via their website or in ‘real life’ action in population centres across the globe. The suggested method of delivery is chalk writing on roads, pavements and walls.
Participants in the Out Of Order Project ranged from those wishing to make a peaceful statement to those actually wishing to disrupt the system that had failed them so badly. This range of feeling/approach was also visible at recent London marches, both against the war in Iraq, and against the threat of globalisation.
For many, there was a clear line that – once they were in a position where they felt they had to take a stand of some kind – clearly put them in one school of thought or the other.
Still, whether we marched peacefully or took direct action, the media mostly ignored or misrepresented our message. It has therefore become necessary to bypass the media; at least in the first instance.
A grass-roots campaign based on a single word was used with pronounced effect by a man called Arthur Stace who, in the early 1950’s, managed to get all of Sydney talking (and hopefully thinking) merely by going out each day and quietly writing the word ‘Eternity’ on pavements across town.
This project intends to expand on this simple concept with a global approach, and at the same time explore which message is the stronger of the two in terms of initial recruitment and overall effectiveness in the field.
– Do you think that capitalism works as a system, but tends to bring out the worst in people if left unchecked?
Then your chosen word would be humanity.
Your role would be to place this one word in front of the public in a considerate yet firm manner – to spread a gentle reminder intended to confront your audience one member at a time and bring to mind a priority that may very well have slipped their mind lately.
– Do you think that capitalism and globalisation has led to the almost total decay of democracy and that a solid clue-by-four is required?
Then your chosen word would be anarchy.
Your role would be to place this word anywhere you damn well please, to inspire other malcontents and to warn those in power that a dangerous groundswell is upon them.
I’ve gone out and done this myself, and it has to be noted that until I actually put pen to pavement, I didn’t quite know what my word was going to be. You may very well experience the same moment of indecision, but once you write one word or the other, you’ll know which side you’re on.
I chose ‘humanity,’ and used that word for the initial road test. On a real road, of course.
My first word was written on a major road just after midnight. It was still there over 18 hours later. Ditto for test runs in areas of high foot traffic. Samples written on walls were all but unscathed, and should last weeks if not months (or at least until the first jobsworth with a scrubbing brush comes along).
Chalk writing on walls, roads and pavements has therefore become my primary weapon of choice and I would recommend this delivery system to any potential participants. It’s quick, inoffensive, and harmless – yet lasts a remarkably long time. (I didn’t waste time with wimpy school chalk. I got hold of that big, chunky playground stuff that they sell in toy stores.)
Given that those on the side of anarchy are likely to be more aggressive about their delivery, those that choose the word ‘humanity’ will probably have to apply a fair amount of creativity to ensure that their message is well-placed and enduring without causing undue scarring. (Obviously, if humanity is a priority, you’re going to be at least a little bit worried about the chap that owns – or the community that shares – the pavement/wall/whatever that you’re writing on.)
– Choose your word
– Decide how you are going to deliver that word to the public
– Make at least one delivery a day
If you plan on ongoing action, then please email me with your choice of word and details of the city you are taking action in (so we can get a comparative coverage list going). If you take a few photos, then do please feel free to send them in so I can share them with the rest of the class.
Finally, if you have your own website, you may also choose to use either of the link tools provided below to show your audience which word you chose and invite them to make a choice of their own.
Note – Genuine anarchists, I know what you’re thinking. Feel free to strip the link out of the code or make your own damn button. Or not.
That’s it for now. Choose a word and get scrawling. Updates will follow.
Copy and paste the code below to grab a humanity button.
[NOTE – code snipped for archive]
Copy and paste the code below to grab an anarchy button.
[NOTE – code snipped for archive]
Photos & Updates
15th May 2003 – Take-up hasn’t been as immediate as it was for The Out Of Order Project, but so far every participant had chosen humanity, making it the clear front-runner. This could very well change when I finally post the project to a few activist forums. The following photos are from activity in London.
One of many high traffic areas in the London Underground, and placement that ensures minimal scuffing. Legible duration: 48 hours.
Targeted, yet fleeting placement. The technique involves grabbing a handful of napkins, taking them away to make every other one read ‘humanity,’ then putting them back in place, ready to be discovered. Legible duration: 8 minutes.
More targeting. This time the message is aimed at readers of books regarding business or law – or, in this case, business and law. Legible duration: undetermined.
Highly targeted, and very, very durable. This sign has been placed down at the site occupied by peace activist Brian Haw (who puts my meagre efforts to shame). Legible duration: indefinite.
If you happen to pass through Westminster anytime soon, drop by and visit. If you want to help out, Brian has an ongoing need for coffee and sandbags.
Watch this page or the main weblog for any updates or developments.