Sunday, February 22, 2009

Even Oscar Would Be Grouchy

"I love trash! Anything dirty or dingy or dusty..." So sang Oscar the Grouch from a recording we listened to when our kids were young.

Well, I don't love trash.

I grew up in one of the least populous regions of a not-so-crowded country. When I was in college, I can remember traveling back and forth from my hometown on 2-lane highways. At certain times, I could drive one stretch of about 160 miles and count the cars we met on the road with my fingers, having some left over!

Consequently, I have many memories of time spent in mountainous regions with no other human in sight. The only sound was the wind whistling through tall pine trees and the chatter of Blue Jays and squirrels. I recall one such moment when the thought struck me, "I wonder if I am the first human to have walked over this ground. Could it be that this is genuinely a pristine, untouched part of the earth."

Within (literally) a couple of minutes of that glorious and noble idea, I stumbled upon an rusty can. Oh, well. So much for "pristine."

The question that plagues me is, "Why?" Why do we live in a world where people dump trash out their car windows as they drive down the highway? Why do kids drop their empty water bottles, soda cans and candy wrappers on the sidewalk as they trek home from school? Why do construction workers drive onto an undeveloped part of our church property and offload the remnants of that day's job? Why do people load up old furniture, drive into the desert near here, and just dump it? For that matter, why do people walk their dogs and let them poop on neighbors' yards with no thought of picking it up?

Honestly, today's post isn't meant to be a complaining rant about the trashy habits many people have. I'm asking a thoughtful question...


I have a thought or two about this. Before I share it, though...

What do you think?


Heather said...

This is a very hard question to answer without being...vitriolic. I think there are likely different reasons for each group. Some that I have observed are:

People have never had to pick up after anyone else and often have never had to pick up after themselves. (ie. they just assume that's what street cleaners are for.) And with what seems like an epidemic of thoughtlessness, it just never occurs to one that other people might not like to have to see/step over/deal with the mess they've left behind.

I think some people might just be ignorant of the options for getting rid of things like furniture and figure what's the harm in leaving it where no one goes anyway.

And then there are others that are just rude, who don't really care if someone else is put out by their 'offloading' so long as it's not their problem anymore.

Most of this to my mind points to a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be part of a bigger picture, part of community, to be connected to the larger populace in some way as opposed to be the center of your world and therefore not having to give anyone else a second (or even first) thought.

We had some neighbors move in last summer and immediately everyone in our complex started complaining about them. They were loud at all hours, had guests coming and going all the time, taking up the common porches with their often loud conversations well into the night, they all smoked and left their butts where they fell or even went so far as to flicking them over the railing onto the patio below. Any time you said something to them they looked at you like you were being totally unreasonable. It was like they had never lived in a building with other people before, they had no comprehension that what they did had an impact on others...or that it mattered. No one clearly had ever held them accountable before.

Rachel Cotterill said...

It's hard to think of anything to add to Heather's comprehensive thoughts! The short answer is, presumably, laziness and/or thoughtlessness. It would simply never occur to me to throw something on the ground, I'll just wait to find a bin. I struggle to imagine how that can be 'too much trouble' for anyone except the most chronically lazy.

C. Beth said...

I saw the title of this and thought the topic was going to be totally different. Today is the Academy Awards, so I thought perhaps you were going to write about the declining morality in movies...enough to make even Oscar grouchy (our golden friend; not our green, furry friend.)

I haven't read the other responses yet. But I think that we just take our earth for granted--it's always been here and we feel like whatever little changes we make for the worse won't really affect the whole thing. Of course, the cumulative effect is devastating.

And although I'm not a litter-er, I know I am not as conscious of our environment's health as I really should be, so I include myself in that group.

Scriptor Senex said...

My wife puts it down to low self-esteem. I've never quite worked that one out but I thought I'd share it.
As one who is probably too far the other way (excuse me while I adjust that picture - it's 1/32 of an inch up on the left) I have never been able to understand it. My son accuses me of being too lazy to be untidy on the basis - as I keep telling him - that being untidy is hard work. Nothing like a smart mouth is there!

addhumorandfaith said...

I am a reformed "messy" -- and I think being a "messy" has to do with lack of organization and self-esteem and lots of stress and not feeling in control and whatever else in your life keeps you from being totally happy and at peace with yourself.

I have come to realize that I LIKE clean and organized.