Soula often comes to this part of town to go to the public beaches in the area, a southern city of Greater Attica. She takes a break, before she takes a bus back to her home several kilometers, and cities away. She sits on a bench listening to the water falling like rain, smiles taking in the “Indian summer” sun rays.
My brief conversation with Soula, an older woman who loves swimming in the sea as much as she can, revealed a person very aware of her own well-being (physical and mental health), seeing this specific spot as a ‘respite’ place to relax before her day goes on. She emphasized, “the Mayor is doing a wonderful job, hopefully he will continue for many years to come” hoping that regardless of political party we give credit when it is due. She likes (as I do) the modern designed fountains, the trees (fig trees, acorn trees, daphne herb trees) planted in the area, symbolic to the community, and enhancing the ecosystem.
For years before, this part of the center had trash and small beach-type selling kiosk points that never seemed to be making enough to keep afloat. After many tries, the local Mayor made big changes. He is one of many around the country making changes for those who live in constant crisis (financial, emotional) and even physical crisis (destroyed playgrounds, dirty tagging everywhere, trash even hypodermic needles that threaten the public’s health …. see post on ‘Riding the Crisis’ in HealthyselfHealthyWorld).
Besides repainting parking space lines, adding clothing recycling points by Recycom — whose main webpage indicates “Together we can make a difference” — the Mayor has managed to ‘win the hearts’ of all people whom I talk to, as the idiom says, keep my ear to the ground to listen to the voices of local communities and visitors. It seems that public space, at least what is done to it, affects the perception of all passersby. At least those who really notice the changes. And then there is the position of unlawfulness and vandalism….and this city is no exception.
I recently came across why police would intervene in a public space with the question of ‘What is public space protection order?’ in the U.K. and these “nuisances” include keeping dogs on a leash, no public use of alcohol, and in general as “having a detrimental effect on the quality of life” (Para 1). So what about trash in general and the issue of dirty tagging on public and private buildings? Hmmm. The Urban Dictionary has some interesting quotes and general comments about tagging by both taggers and individual community members (Urb Dict: tagging comments). There are clean-up efforts like ‘Athens Un-tag’ (LIFO article 2018) but in this part of the world and it turns out in most of our cities, the epidemic of vandalistic style graffiti has gone amok. But with the bad, there are amazing graffiti art areas and international as well as local artists like Dreyk the Pirate truly make an effort to beautify otherwise dull and depressing areas. In a past interview with Penna he indicated that yes, if artists don’t get permission and they vandalize it is a problem and reflects negatively even to his very positive street artwork (the law in Greece and in other European countries is similar and involves getting permission as well as taking into account the community ‘value’).
So how about this? Get the popular graffiti artists to help us increase our graffiti literacies which is one of the many in the umbrella of health literacy. Develop some type of App where people take photos and the community and the local governance decides if they should ‘keep’ it or get rid of it….for the sake of peace of mind, community well-being, and finding our own points of respite for all ages and peoples to enjoy. This has been done in hundreds of cities, and all it takes is a bit of organization and local community building…. step by step.