that is the question that I argued within myself this very morning, standing in line at the Starbuck’s counter in the Von’s store. On the floor in front of me was a crumpled receipt and there began the argument between my two brains.
I wrote a blog recently called the The Battle of the Brains in which I described the conflict of my left and right hemispheres. This is a very similar battle that wages in my skull, but it’s more of an emotional fight that isn’t quite as half and half. This debate comes from an ongoing question of what’s right and what’s wrong, when to be responsible and when to teach a lesson, and how many synonyms can I come up with for ‘battle’ in one paragraph.
So here’s how the conversation in my head starts:
<looks down at paper>
“wh-wh-wha-what’s this? Who dropped this? Why couldn’t they pick it up?”* That’s the angry man side. Then the side of me that is always trying to find the good in people, tries to find that possibility. “Maybe a mom gave a baby the receipt and the baby crumpled up the paper and then dropped it. That’s what kids do.”* Now that argument is usually ruled out, because a) it’s pretty lame, and really it’s only good for kids under about 3 that can be excused for not picking up after themselves b) if it wasn’t a baby in its mother’s arms, what are the chances that she saw it and could have picked it up? Or dad, no sexism here.
And so it goes. The race is on while question after question races around in my head. Why do people think it’s ok to just throw stuff on the floor? Why hasn’t someone else picked this up? Why should I pick it up? Why shouldn’t I? Why are we so lazy? Isn’t it this very laziness that causes global warming? Wouldn’t a cleaner environment lead to cleaner heads and cleaner hearts? Doesn’t this sense of ‘I’m better than everyone else so who cares where I throw my stuff’ contribute to the continuation of war?
And that’s just four minutes of my day.
And I did pick it up.
*These are not said out loud.
One of my great interests, one could say passions, is the subject of thinking. Over the last ten years I have studied cognitive behavioral therapy and I’m fascinated by how we think. And I’m starting a series of exploring why we think the way we do. It will be intermittent when I think of another one to write about. But Part II is tomorrow if you enjoy part one. If not, come back Wednesday.
Today I’d like to introduce the topic of littering, and specifically, why do we think it’s ok. Now of course, everyone doesn’t think it’s ok, but it’s such a part of our culture that it falls into the category of “we.” Now to being with I consulted the internet to see if there was any information on the history or origin of litter. Wiki.answers.com posted the best answer as “I think it started when plastic was invented but in 1515 – Strafford-upon-Avon court records show that Shakespeare’s father was fined for ‘depositing filth in a public street’. It doesn’t say what kind of filth was deposited in the street so we don’t know if it came out of him. But the answer about plastic is fair if you take into consideration the reasoning that litter begins when the item that’s thrown down is not biodegradable. Everything else thrown down before that disappeared so it didn’t matter. At least that seems to be the logic there.
The answer also goes on to surmise that litter originated during the Industrial Revolution as higher concentrations of people moved to the cities and there was more waste. This makes sense as well, especially when you take into consideration that there was mud in the streets and horses dumping their wastes right there in public. We figured if the horses could drop their wastes on the streets then why can’t we? And the horses probably thought the same thing of each other; “you’re not gonna hold it, neither am I.”
I like this, because it brings up a point about human nature: entitlement. One guy thinks, “hey, the horse can do it so can I.” Then the next guy thinks, “hey you’re gonna throw your trash so can I.” And then we’re off. Why should anyone pick up their garbage or wait until they reach a place to dispose of it if the next guy’s gonna throw his? It doesn’t matter cause it’s already dirty.
And it all comes down to lazy. It’s much easier to toss that cigarette out the window then have to pull that ash try out of the car, walk to the garbage, dump it, and then have to walk all the way back to the car. That gum wrapper in my pocket is causing so much weight it is creating undue strain on my back and joints. Somebody might be able to take this soda can to the recycling and get money for it.
Do you know when I think the history of littering began? When they used to carry the royalty in those little beds on the shoulders of four men. And one of the royalty threw a chicken bone onto the street. And there was no meat on it and some poor sucker thought “if they can throw something of no value onto the street so can I.” And so it began.
There is a great episode of the sitcom from the 1970’s, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In this particular episode, a young man is being given a chance to become a photo-journalist (although he doesn’t really want to do it) at the TV station. There is a big fire and he’s sent out to capture it. He comes back with film of an ant farm and says, “I wanted to show that right near this destruction, life goes on.”
I thought of that when I took this picture this morning.
This is at the entrance to the Grand Prix this weekend. I couldn’t get past this point to take my usual walk around the harbor and through the oh-so-cute Shoreline Village without a ticket. So today as I watch them hilariously try to get the temporary stairs down, smelled the poop of the port-o-potties, and stepped aside as they sprayed every manner of pavement, I thought of that line-“I wanted to show that right near the destruction, life goes on.”
Once again, downtown Long Beach, and the shorefront marina area in particular, is my sleepy little quiet beachfront town. Of course, government just wants their big event, and if the money pays for stuff that we locals enjoy, then that’s cool. The cynic in me thinks not, and I could question whether it really is economically that feasible as it is inconvenient for many as there are months that go into the construction of all things necessary, but that would take work.
But I’ll leave that to others to bitch about. How much the race gets in the way, rar rar rar rar.
I’m just glad to have my walk back.