Signs, by the Five Man Electrical Band, is a great song, First released in 1970, it tells the story of a young man who questions authority in the form of signs that want to exclude “long-haired freaky people” and trespassers. The song’s refrain is: “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”
I don’t know many people who are disturbed by signs these days, even though there undoubtedly are many more signs now than there were in 1970. If the young man from Signs were around today, would he still be angry about signs, or would he be more concerned by other issues of liberty and freedom — like drones, or widespread video surveillance, or the wide-ranging governmental regulations of conduct that are far more prevalent than they were four decades ago? Or, because the young man would be in his 60s, would he be focused more on terrorists and public safety issues, and be grateful that the widespread use of security cameras by private businesses helped authorities to promptly identify and apprehend suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing?
Protest issues come, and protest issues go. The world is a different, more complicated place than it was when signs, and Signs, seemed so important.