Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday scenes and scenery: watching eyes

watching eyes.jpg
I ride back and forth to work staring at this poster in the BART subway car.

Those of us who were around long before 9/11 retain a sense of strangeness about such warnings. I imagine that those who come after will come to accept (and ignore) them -- just part of the landscape, like weather.

The first posters I saw in daily life that carried this sort of warnings were in South Africa at the end of the apartheid regime. In 1990, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, but democratic, one-person-one-vote, non-racial elections were still three years off. Violence between the black majority and disgruntled whites was still in the air. In every shopping mall and post office there were posters displaying images of deadly mines -- "watch out for this!" I hunted the internet for a picture of these posters, but couldn't find one. Somewhere I have a slide. It might be a service to the historical record to upload such an image. That's how South Africans lived then.

This is how we live now, facing a different sort of possible violence (or not). At least the subway poster has pretty good aesthetics; it's a copy of something that appears on the London Underground. Londoners can have no doubt that this is not just theater served up by a government that wants to keep them afraid. The feared has happened.

Here -- it hasn't. I don't feel particularly afraid of an explosion on mass transit in the Bay Area. We face more immediately believable hazards. BART police very publicly shoot people; there could be a large earthquake anytime.

I don't watch much; I just endure my ride.

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