I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pride in America

I was driving along yesterday, and in front of me was a big pickup truck full of construction equipment. The second detail I noticed about this pickup truck was a cigarette butt being flung out the window into the street.

And the third detail was an 11" x 3" sticker, affixed to the bumper, with a flowing United States flag and the words "Pride in America".

Well yee-ha.

That made me so mad I nearly got out of my car at the next traffic light to check and see if the guy was driving a borrowed car, or if, perhaps, he had been the victim of a prank and he was unaware the sticker was there.

Even a child can tell you that you're not supposed to litter, yet I watch fully grown humans chuck their cigarette butts everywhere on a regular basis, and do you know the rationale behind this behavior?

"There was nowhere to put it." - often with the strong implication that society is doing them wrong by not having ashtrays installed every fifteen feet.

If you ate at Burger King, and then had a big bag of trash to get rid of, would that same argument hold true? Couldn't find a damn garbage can, so the world owes it to me to let me chuck this wherever?

The reasoning is flimsy to begin with, and seems tied the ridiculous concept of "smoker's rights". Smokers feel they have a right to smoke in public, which is essentially pollution. I guess it follows that if I can pollute, then I can litter.

Imagine a pristine city street. Beautifully manicured hedges, immaculate sidewalks with ornate lampposts, shopkeeps who take pride in sweeping the sidewalk in front of their shops each morning, citizens who enjoy this cleanliness and try to maintain it.

What kind of dirtbag would chuck a cigarette butt on the sidewalk here? Well, I promise, someone would.

But initially there is a tension there- wow, it's sure nice and clean here, I feel pressure not to litter.

And now, the broken window theory. This says that where people see a broken window, they are mor likely to follow suit, that is, decay and degredation are self-escalating. The more beat up and dirty somewhere is, the more likely a person is to contribute to it, given the need/inclination to do so.

And now back to my pristine sidewalk. Our perfect jerk has broken the 'clean' barrier, and now a cigarette butt lies there, inviting company. Soon another lout happens along, and from there it escalates until one of our heroic shopkeeps comes out and sweeps the mess all up.

But after the first few butts, the people who followed along were not of the same inclination to litter as our first quality specimen.

If that was you on the sidewalk, would you want to follow in the footsteps of the asshole who littered on the immaculate sidewalk because mommy didn't put an ashtray there for him?

3 Comments:

At February 09, 2006 1:56 PM, Blogger Orionoc said...

Were you the one who told me the story about the bikes at the train station in Japan? Where one person threw some trash in one of the bike's basket and pretty soon it was overflowing with garbage from all others following suit.
Do you suppose thats a genetic behavior that acts somehow as a specific survival mechanism?

 
At February 09, 2006 2:00 PM, Blogger Will Von Wizzlepig said...

Yeah, that was us talking- it's definitely the same behavior. I'm not really sure, but it does seem to be a universal part of human nature. I wonder if it isn't a weeding-out-the-weak feature: if it's broken, or looks like it's on its way there, finish the job, or force it to bounce back.

 
At April 14, 2006 10:21 PM, Blogger Everdusk said...

Ah, there you go; sanitation Darwinism at it's finest.

Now I can litter freely again! If this street wasn't built to withstand a little trash it will never be able to survive anyway. Hell, I'm making it stronger!

 

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