Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Bone to Pick... Up

The smiling man you see above is the most recognized purveyor of fried chicken in the world. I love fried chicken and just about anything else that can be battered and fried. Who (unless you're a vegetarian) doesn't? Problem is, in this neighborhood people seem to be under the impression that walking down the street eating chicken and simply flinging the stripped bones wherever they may fall is perfectly acceptable behavior. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a dog away from chicken bones? Hell, even I am tempted by the prospect of free fried chicken.

This is indicative of a larger problem in RP and many other neighborhoods. There are a large number of people who don't care if their neighborhood looks like crap. Cheetos bags, juice containers, beer bottles and an endless array of junk. I've seen TV parts in the park. I've seen doll houses in the street. Last week my dog almost got her mouth on an untouched baloney sandwich laying on the sidewalk. A week before that, an entire loaf of bread stuffed in some bushes. What are these people thinking? Forget about the rats and pigeons that feed on the discarded food. Forget about the safety hazard of broken glass in the sand at the beach. Why does it seem that so many people are hell bent on destroying anything of value? Are they all nihilists? Do they like the way their street looks when they look out the window?

If someone can help me understand the impetus behind this behavior, I'd love to hear from you. Until then, I'll be outside picking up the leavings of the day.


Thomas Westgard said...

I share your frustration with littering, and unfortunately, I think I know the answer to your question.

People generally don't destroy things that are their own. Thus, the difference between people who litter and people who don't is that the litterers do not perceive the neighborhood as theirs.

Why would they not perceive it at theirs? I believe it's because they live in a building that belongs to someone else, they went to a school here that was designed and funded by people who think it's okay to make your school as close to violating federal law as possible, and feel excluded from the various power structures that control the public space in the neighborhood.

Now, I will agree that it's really pretty easy to be involved in the power structures, if you care to, but I think the people who feel disenfranchised have had so many bad experiences earlier in life that they've ceased to expect good ones now. It is therefore incumbent on us to reach out to people who feel disenfranchised, and even more importantly, to stop creating them with shitty schools, lack of healthcare, and other social supports.

The reason I say "unfortunately" is that it's a lot more work to fight littering than just to ask people to stop. Remember Rogers Park Respect? Jake's a nice guy, but basically, nothing happened because people litter for reasons that are far more complex than people really care to deal with.

Or at least, that's my take on it.

Michael K said...

Sounds reasonable. I think accountability is also a big factor. Things break down when noone is held responsible for maintaining them. In the few cases I've seen when others have taken people to task when they see people throw stuff on the street, the person will ususally go back and pick it up and maybe they will be embarassed enough to think twice before they do it again.

Another problem is dumpster divers who haul stuff out and don't put it back. Then it gets dragged by cars and blown by the wind and ends up all over the place. I am not going to yell at some homeless guy looking for scraps though. I don't have the heart to do that.

Sheesh said...

Michael, just look at the crap that ends up in our courtyard! And, how many people just walk by it every day? It's sad that the people who live in our building don't even seem to care about how our front yard looks.