Monday, May 15, 2006

Some Angry Words about Basic Behavioral Rules

I was planning to post something today about zuccini. But this morning I encountered something that enraged me to no end, and just had to say something about it.

Well, I went on my morning walk by the Tel Aviv beach, and could not believe my eyes. The entire beach - all the way from Tel Aviv to Jaffa - was full of unbelievable amounts of trash. Food, disposable plates and cups, utensils, bags and wrappers. You could barely see the grass. Of course, this must be the aftermath of Lag Ba'Omer, the bonfire holiday. Folks went to the beach, had their bonfires, roasted meat and potatoes and onions, and simply went home, leaving all their crap behind and not even thinking of picking it up.

This kind of behavior drives me nuts.

You know, when we came back to Tel Aviv from Berkeley, it took us a while to realize there was no infrastructure for recycling, save for a few areas for plastic bottles. No easy way to compost in the city, either. We don't live well with that, and when we complain, we're seen as a couple of whinebags. But throwing away your trash, rather than putting it in a plastic bag and disposing of it using the garbage cans is a violation of the most basic rules of behavior each and every one of the beach partyers was taught in kindergarten. It's amazing to think of all these folks who bothered to shower, shave and put on some fragrant skin lotion before going to the party, then ate and drank and littered around like total pigs and couldn't even see the irony of what they were doing.

Some folks might make an argument along the multicultural lines; this is, after all, the Middle East. But I would think that not littering, and using a garbage can, is such a basic norm. I mean, if those folks were presented with an array of the stuff they threw around, they'd be disgusted. I know, because I spent half of my morning walk picking after them. Bottles and bottles of corporate soft drinks. Half eaten nasty looking sausages. Packets of cigarrettes (do smokers realize how vile these things look and smell? surely they don't, otherwise why would they do it?). And pools of vomit everywhere. Overdrinking and vomiting has to be one of the least classy forms of human self-expression. Nevertheless, folks overdrink and vomit. Everyone would agree that the aftermath of the bonfire craziness is hideous and gross. Nevertheless, it is us, humans, Tel Aviv residents, who created it. It is our waste that we now deem gross. Am I the only person who's reflecting on that this morning?

I expect that, if folks gave any thought at all to what they were doing, they thought that the city somehow "owes" them something, and that the garbage workers will zealously pick after them in the morning, whistling a cheerful tune. Well, newsflash, littering filthy people: I talked to the garbage people this morning, and they were not amused by all the crap you left around. Nor were they paid extra this morning for clearing your hideous mess. How nice that we can dehumanize folks working to keep our city clean and just assume that, like androids, they will shovel away, without feeling, all the disgusting crap we leave behind. Yes, the city employs people to clean it. It's great. It does not absolve any of us from the personal responsibilities of cleaning up after ourselves, same as we do in our homes.

The amazing thing was that the usual morning crowd - the folks walking and jogging on the beach - just went on as normal. Our city is defiled, our sea is filthy, but let that not stop our smug yuppie selves from working on our physique this morning. Does no one understand that, on a filthy planet, a neat trim body is completely meaningless?

Because, and here's where this is somehow related to food, everything is connected, folks. Not in the New Agey, cosmic sense of the word. In the most daily and obvious way. The gross plastic plates and bags you leave behind find their way to the shore, where they are eaten by fish, who get sick, and then you eat them, and get sick too. They are eaten by birds who fly above the shore. They emit a smell of decay which influences the animal population on the beach, as well as the air we breathe. You are directly influenced by everything you did last night to rape Mother Earth, and the small strip of Her flesh which we call our city's beach. Funny, tonight the city is planning to hold a giant fireworks event on the beach. We'll all be sitting there, soaking in yesterday's filth, and enjoying the lights on the giant skies, which will numb our brains and hearts and help us forget our disregard for the small piece of Earth we live on. Dammit, shame on us. Shame on us.

What should you do then?

1) If you walk on the Tel Aviv beach this morning, or anywhere, actually, any morning - for heaven's sake, pick up a plastic bag (the littering people left plenty of those lying around) and clean some. You don't have to leave the place sparkling clean. But help a bit. If everyone did that this morning, the beach would be clean in no time.

2) Write a letter to your city, or mine, about the salaries for garbage disposal folks. Their important services are not appreciated as much as they should be, and they don't get extra bonuses for days when the city is filthy. This is no excuse for the citizens' behavior, of course, but it's annoying and should be rectified.

3) If you see folks littering around, don't be afraid that someone will think you a sanctimonious fart if you say something. Speak up. It's your city they're raping and degrading. You have a right and an obligation to say something.

4) Organize some friends and go clean a trail, or a section of your city. You don't have to be a bleeding heart left-wing yuppie to do this. You just need to have a bit of care about where you live.

Mostly, though, you should think. You should let those neurons work and give the minimum amount of thought to where your stuff ends up and what happens to it. Of course, if we all did this, we'd have the infrastructure for recycling, and many well-paid city workers to help us do it efficiently. But even if not, in the very least, our beach would not be a huge junkyard, and we wouldn't put the beautiful words of Nathan Alterman, the "white city" poet, to shame.


Shunra said...

5) For parents, model the behavior you want to see: pick up litter and bring it to the nearest receptacle. Kids notice, internalize, and do it too.

(We've doubled our delittering capacity by procreation. That pleases me to no end...)

Hadar said...

Yesyesyes! Hear hear!

Barbara said...

Ai ya, Hadar!

I cannot stand to see the way people throw things around and make a mess, either.

We have a lot of that in downtown Athens due to very loud, drunken loutish students who throw trash around and act generally disgustingly. They tear up flowers, lawns and break windows, too.

I can't stand it, and am glad that I live in the hills that are too high for drunken people to walk up easily....

Hadar said...

Ai Ya indeed, Barbara!
Truly, not the most becoming showcase for the human race. It's a good thing aliens weren't visiting us this week.