It doesn’t take much these days to turn a pleasantly innocuous conversation about this and that into a full fledged, one-sided rant about the political state of things. Feckless, corrupt politicians. Lazy, ill mannered civil servants. Union members. Oh god don’t get me started on union members!
It’s enough to make you stop and wonder what kind of discussions go on at gatherings of these maligned groups. Do they bitch about the misinformed and self-interested voters whose concerns go no further than the front walks outside their houses? Of the sense of entitlement that occurs with every exchange at a fare box or Ministry of Transportation counter? I pay your salary, so I want this done yesterday! And, oh god, don’t get me started on members of other unions.
I thought these thoughts as I sat beside yet another pile of garbage on the subway this past weekend on route to my favourite little brunch spot. Somebody had simply left behind a couple empty bottles and a balled up paper bag on a seat for others to deal with. It’s not like trash cans and recycling bins are in scarce supply at subways stations here. They haven’t been removed as possible terrorist bomb depositories as has been done at times in cities like London and Paris. One need not go too far out of one’s way in order to rid oneself of one’s refuse while riding the subway in Toronto.
Then, having bummed myself a post-goat’s cheese crepe cigarette, I stood outside, huddled under a tiny awning along with 6 others, in a vain attempt to stay dry. To a smoker, including yours truly, upon finishing we flicked our butts out onto the sidewalk and street for someone else to deal with. This stopped me up. What we had done was no less an act of littering than the cretinous boars who left their garbage on the subway. Yet, judging from an early morning walk along my strip of College Street on any given morning, this is routine practice for smokers. We witness it so often, butts tossed from doorways and car windows, that it seems completely natural to walk on concrete littered with discarded ends of cigarettes.
Other places aren’t so indifferent to the habit. Cities as dissimilar as Tokyo and Dublin deem the careless tossing of finished cigarettes as an infraction, punishable by sizeable fines. Arguments can be made about the practical enforcement of such bylaws but it at least pronounces to the wider public that such behaviour is no longer socially acceptable.
The bigger issue here, however, is the disengagement with the rest of society that is on display. Personal convenience trumps consideration of others. Wherever I am, wherever I go, it is my personal space to do with it what I will. I litter therefore I am.
It is an attitude I would trace back to the time when we stopped calling ourselves citizens and choose instead to be thought of as ‘customers’ or ‘stakeholders’. The corporatization of the public sphere. I cough up my fare, I can leave my garbage behind. With all those taxes I hand over on a pack of smokes, we can obviously pay somebody to clean the streets up after me. Especially those lazy unionized city workers. That’s why they make the big bucks. To clean up after me.
— scoldingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat