Saturday, September 04, 2010

Litter and American drama

All my life, or at least for as long as I can remember, I've hated litter. A piece of scrap paper blew out of the car as I was driving along the road this week and I can't tell you how mortified I was. I'm still beating myself up about it. I guess that was an accident but in general terms it is the very small amount of effort that people don't put in that annoys me. Our Nailsea Millennium Park after a summer's day looks like a thousand people have been whisked off without warning.

In The Wire Baltimore is litter-strewn. The cops, relaxing with a beer after a long day, throw their empty cans onto a flat roof. The camera tracks away to show the cans of many years piled high. They behave the way everyone behaves in Baltimore. How did it get like this?

I have also enjoyed watching Mad Men but am proceeding slowly through this as Mrs Mustard enjoys it too and so we are watching no more than one or two a week. We are half-way through Series 2. It is the story of the birth of the advertising industry. Mad Men are ad men in the 1960s with all the racism, sexism and smoking that went with it.

In this week's episode a family went on a picnic. At the end they tipped their paper plates, unfinished food, old cans and bottles on to the beautiful, pristine grass slope and drove off. America's lovely open spaces spoilt by people. America - so big the litter won't matter. It was shocking. Upsetting even. We developed this behaviour and fifty years on it is still in the system, even in a densely populated country like the UK.

I don't know if people were really like that in the USA in the early 1960s but the metaphor was clear; these are the people who dirtied up America.

Gotta do better.

1 comment:

Alex Hobson said...

In her wonderful novel about theological college life, "Angels and Men", Catherine Fox makes a wonderful observation about how being middle class means that you're more likely to commit murder than willingly drop litter!