Is Littering a Civil Liberty?

Do I have to apologize up front to any Arab Muslim or Pakistani person I know who might be offended by what I am going to say? What I am going to say might or might not offend someone who is Arab Muslim or Pakistani, but that cannot be a consideration if what I am going to say is based in observed occurrences daily in my neighborhood.  I do not need to remind the reader that we have become temperamental, and telling like it is has been abandoned for saying what we imagine is better said because it is said with better spin. I am sorry ahead of time because I cannot say anything about what should be said in response to observations socially except how they are by me here, perhaps with a bit of viscera present in the content.  Conditions as I see them in my neighborhood have become too impossible for me to remain quiet. Why anyone would remain silent just because he knew some persons from the groups herein stated might be offended, truth withstanding, is beyond me.

I am not saying that what I am going to say I have to say because the people concerned are Pakistani or Arab Muslim, but I am saying that there are a significant number of people who happen to be Arab Muslim and Pakistani in my neighborhood who, not because of some conditioning through endemic poverty or because of a serious lack of education and social disenfranchisement, are among the worst litterers and street polluters I have ever seen anywhere, most specifically in the building complex where I live; and this is even to a greater extent to how much the Chinese residents here in the west end of Brooklyn, a littering itself correlative to how horribly littered Chinese cities are. The observations I speak of here about littering in Chinese neighborhoods I have  made when Bensonhurst Brooklyn on 18th Avenue shifted in demographics from predominantly Italian to predominantly Chinese, and the litter increased correlative to this shift. I do not apologize for saying this.

I have seen not one, not two, not three or five but many more than five, six, seven of each, either Pakistani or Arab Muslim, in my building, or in my building complex and the surrounding neighborhood, leave litter and trash virtually everywhere because anywhere seems acceptable for their contribution to the neighborhood’s increasing pollution. In my building alone I have found, or I have seen being left about, half full coffee cup containers on the front steps of the building, or in the vestibule, or in the hall or on the floor or on the stairs where they sit and smoke and leave their ashes and cigarette butts and half finished food containers. I see too many put their cigarettes out on the hallway floors or in the elevator as they get on with their cigarettes lit. When you say something, they mostly look at you with contempt, but then I am an infidel, am I not–and I am not trying to ad fuel to fire, but they do not look at me as if they have to respect me as a human-being. This is palatable. I mean, we are willing to accept like comments from Jewish persons where the perpetrators are Christian; we are willing to accept these observations from African-American when the perpetrators  are white, no? Hate is hate everywhere in the world hate; ethnocentrism is another universal condition, as is religio-centrism; there are, though, some metaphysical systems in religions that have more barriers for disrespecting other, or prescriptions for respecting or loving other.

I do find Pakistani and Arab Muslim dropping litter in the elevator or the hallways–but not in front of the apartments where they live, as I have the occasion never to see them littering in front of their apartment in my building. I have even seen Pakistani women, more than once, putting their babies’s disposable diapers full of shit in a neighbor’s garden (when she could not find a trash container) or in the city trash receptacle, even when overflowing with litter. I have seen Pakistani or Arab take their empty french fry or other styrofoam container and throw it in the front garden or into the lawns surrounding the building as if it were as natural to do as breathing. Again, I am met with contempt or facial mocking silently when I say something.

I almost cannot restrain myself from saying something anywhere I see what I say I have seen, but the arrogance with which I am met often leaves me speechless bcasuse I know the horrible truth–they would only understand a stick over the head, which is the horror of their former enculturation, a people less designed to live at liberty than under the yoke of a more brutal or at least brutish authority–authoritarian is the only authority they seem willing to accept. Anything less as we have here they mock.

Bath Beach, like Bay Ridge before it, is fast becoming a shit hole of trash and litter and all because we are afraid to tell people what to do and how to do it in America–people seemingly a lot less than yearning to be free have only the litter and trash riddled cities they come from to compare with  how to act or what to be. But then Americans in the poorest sections of our cities and suburbs live in much filthier conditions than I would put up with; but this is just the point–we are not talking about the poorest of the poor, or the least educated of the respective groups. We are talking the norm for where they come from. Most of the people I meet from Arab countries and Pakistan are not the poorest of the poor or the least educated; yet, they throw trash about as if it were normal to do.

How anyone should act, we seem mystified in trying to answer for ourselves. Telling someone that doing as you would in Islamabad or Cairo is not acceptable in New York is beyond us. We do not say anything. Is it all just six of one and a half dozen of another. Is that really what the long term residents of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn are saying? I am sure there are residents of Bushwick who agree with how psychopathically polite we have become–or we assume we have become because not saying something when someone does something we should not be seeing we say nothing.

Freedom is not acting irresponsibly. Everyone literate and intelligent knows that. But it seems that some people, from some systems of government, cannot conceive of liberty any other way than by insisting that they have a right to do as they do when they litter or drop trash or human feces in the street or other person’s gardens. I am amazed–I have to say–whenever I get on a bus not far from where it travelled through one or another destitute areas, and the amount of debris and food trash left on the floor and the seats. There are many Americans who cannot conceive of freedom any other way than by acting irresponsibly, but these are persons mostly found on the margins of society, as undereducated or semi-literate as you can get. I just do not want to see a my once nice and clean neighborhood turn into a Middle Eastern or Central Asian city–God forbid. And I insist that this is not racist or even xenophobic. I do not object to the presence of people, but to their behavior, their former enculturation. There are places in the world where people live with more litter, more gutter pollution, and thereby have a tolerance of pollution, or a predilection for polluting.

Now, is it everyone who does what I say herein I have seen? Of course, it is not. Is littering, though, pervasive? Absolutely. Do many throw more than litter in the streets–yes they do. I see it. I have seen everything I have mentioned herein. I do say something, and they look at me as if I were out of my mind. Maybe I am out of my mind to expect otherwise? But I do see people from the groups herein stated not acting in this reckless and irresponsible way–but I do know how some of the more conservative or reactionary Americans feel when they object to their neighborhoods being turned into sewers just because other people’s experiences in their cities are horrendous. How much pollution and litter and trash the Chinese put up with in China, for instance, goes a long way in explaining how Bensonhurst Brooklyn has increased significantly in its visible street trash and litter since the population has swung from predominantly Italian to predominantly Chinese. Any survey or interview with Sanitation workers, as I have conducted can confirm the shifts. Check the conditions of Bay Ridge over the last 20 years. Nurture becomes nature through habit?

The people I speak to about dumping trash in the street or the halls of the building just do not get it, whether young or old; men, women or children–even when their English is good. I almost got hit the other day by a Pakistani girl throwing out a baby bottle from her mother’s car window after the mother raised her voice to the daughter in indignation, perhaps that the daughter had the effrontery to object when the daughter was most likely told to throw the bottle out of the window, perhaps because it was malfunctioning, and the baby, who was in the front, not the back seat, could not drink from it. Yes, the street is the place. Am I to assume the the general attitudes and intelligence of some peoples is less than what I understand to be civilized–yes it is.

What then must we do?

Seeing what I see, it is no wonder that so many cities around the world are virtual garbage dumps, opened sewers, real shit holes that you would pause to send rats to, that is, until you realize that it just might be paradise for rats and other vermin. Getting the non-Russian Russian speakers on my floor to understand that you have to wash your recycling before putting it in the the recycling bin is an overtime full time job; leaving dairy containers with funky rotting dairy over the weekend in the summer seems to be a hobby of Ashkenazi, Uzbek, and other Central Asians, Armenians or Azerbaijani, some who have since moved, others on other floors, and those I see in Brighton Beach, which is not a Russian-Russian neighborhood, but every other kind of Russian speaker from the republics of the former Soviet Union. I do have a completely different experience with Russian Russians. And there is an ethnic distinction that most Americans lose themselves in trying to figure out. Samarkand is not Moscow; but I imagine that there are places in Moscow a lot worse than more affluent areas of Samarkand. The pollution that even the more affluent in Baku Azerbaijan live with goes a long way to explain what I see Azerbaijani do with trash in the streets of Brighton Beach, and I am not talking about ignorant people.

There is no condition, Samuel Beckett reminded us–yes, Becket reminded us that there is no condition human beings cannot get used to, get used to most easily and quickly by adding to the degradation at hand, and degrading themselves firstly and lastly in perpetuation of simian brother see, simian brother do. The medieval theologians reminded us that humans were the apes of God–I see every day just how much that is true. I do see non-natives act as heinously with respect for custom and culture here as we have understood was the general attitudes around the world during one or another colonialism through history, whether, Persian, Roman, Arab, Turkish, European, et cetera. But non-Natives are not here to colonize and should not be permitted to even delude themselves that they are. We must be clear what American civilization is and stands for.


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