Saturday, March 17, 2012

Keeping Clean

Cym's recent post on garbage made me remember something I've thought about before: it's weird how humans are the only "neat" creatures. Like, if you leave a dog in a house with plenty of food and water, he'll trash it in no time. He just can't imagine caring about protecting "things," keeping them neat, because for animals, things don't matter (they do know enough not to shit where they sleep, though). Humans go to all these lengths to clean and keep neat and tidy and not damage things. When company comes over, we clean extra hard, to impress them.

But we live in our house, and don't feel like we live in the public sphere. We live in the house, so we keep it neat. But no one feels any ownership in public. That's the city's problem, not mine. The government's. It's like Thoreau spoke of about voting, that weakest mode of civic involvement. Here, we pay our taxes, and therefore the job of keeping the park neat is dumped into the lap of the city council or whatever. Most people probably go their whole lives without even thinking about the issue, it's completely off the radar. Like sewage, water treatment, garbage collection; someone else does that, not my problem, I pay my taxes and fees, and that's enough.

But what happens if no one's paying attention. You  know, who guards the guards, who watches the watchers? We turn the responsibilities over to others and forget about it, but what if they don't do their job? Will they do their job, 100%, if they aren't monitored? Or will they take our money, do a half assed job, good enough to remain under the radar, but not really what we're paying them for? This, incidentally, is why regulations are needed, but of course, again, it still falls to the citizens to ensure the regulators aren't corrupt or negligent. The buck stops here, with the people. You and me, friend.

But we've been duped into a false divide: that between private land and public land. We take care of our homes and yards (in theory); most people don't live in trash and filth if they can avoid it (as for the ones that do, that is something I just don't understand at all). But that is because it's ours. We own it, and know the responsibility falls only to us; no one's going to come clean it up if we don't. But we now don't think of public land as ours, we think of it as the government's. When the money is tight, your state may shut down parks, bar entry. I've written in to newspapers and to politicians about this in the past; who the fuck are they to keep me out of land that is in part owned by me? Let them take their rangers and fee collectors out, but I'm still going in, facilities or not. But they say I can't, it's closed. Most people don't bat an eye at such a thing, because to them, isn't the people's park, it's government property.

What a frightening disconnect, that public land isn't even thought of as being partially ours anymore! What it means is that we no longer feel we have a stake in the government, it is a foreign entity divorced entirely from our control. We go about our little lives, as battered by city, state and federal laws as peasants of old were, as if it were as out of our hands as the weather. So fully trapped in this system of living hand to mouth, mounting debts in the form of mortgages and car loans that most people are too busy working all day, then trying to just freakin relax in the evening, that we can't be bothered to even think about it. Not to mention raising kids, which is a further diversion (if surely a worthwhile one).

Of course, as I've often thought with regard to the Pro Life anti abortion issue, what kind of world are we raising these kids to live in? The way I see it, things are going to eventually get so bad that people will be forced to act. Sad to say, but there's a lot of guns in this country, and a people who are still spoonfed and still fully believe in the ideals of freedom and liberty, even though in practice they don't live it. I know that if people really knew what was going on with the Federal Reserve and the money system, the bailouts, the deal with the IRS, and the total sellout of our government, the Second American Revolution would start... tomorrow. The handwringing and economic despair we feel right now would turn quickly into rage. It's an ugly future that we seem to be hurrying into.

This is long, but well worth watching

Maybe that's what it will take. But maybe it can be averted if we didn't simply simmer in our anger and powerlessness and remember that we do have power. Public land is public, and hey, guess what, you and I are the public! That's my park, that's your library, that's our government! We can do more than vote, than pay our taxes. We can remember that we are more than just a Republic, but also a Democracy. Yes, we have representative government, but in the end-- power to the people.


  1. I've been on both sides of the "the gubbment has no right to keep me out of public land" thing and, overall, I'm with you. This is a sorry situation and something bad is going to come of it. Actually, bad things have already come of it, but I think we haven't seen anything yet.

    With that said, I'm gonna muddy the water a little. I sometimes volunteer with a group that - among other things - helps the Forest Service build and maintain these large exclosure fences that keep elk from eating young aspen trees (usually to death.) I posted about it on my blog a while back if anyone's interested.

    Anyway, despite the many plainly posted signs clearly explaining exactly what the fences are for and begging people to leave them alone for the sake of the trees, people are always screwing with them. Sometimes it's hunters, but mostly it's just people pissed off about that Forest Service fence preventing them from walking around in those trees. I understand the thinking in an Ed Abbey "fences are bad" sort of way, but the thing is, in this case, the fences really should be left alone and the government is right. Because people cut the fences the aspen trees die off and sometimes the elk they let in can't find their way back out again and die slow and miserable deaths without water. It's the saddest and stupidest thing.

    [I won't get into why there are so many elk that we are forced to do this - that's another sad and stupid story.]

  2. Well, I agree, it's not all black and white. I've been involved with building fences to keep ATVers out of areas, but the people themselves are still allowed on foot or horse... but yeah, I get it. Still, even your example is for a good reason, which benefits me as a partial owner of that land, by keeping it healthy. I think it's ridiculous for them to say, well, we don't have enough money to pay the fee collectors, law enforcement, and the rest, so now you can't go on this state park anymore. I say, fuck that. Alright, now I'm on my own out there, no services, no help, no regulation enforcers, but okay. I'm still allowed out there! Or should be!

    1. This is one of those gray issues that unfortunately tends to polarize people to one side or the other. Like I said, I've been on both sides of this particular thing and, all things considered, I'm with you.

      I think that most of the time these extreme responses by the government (ie the ATV/elk fences, total park closures, etc) are just symptoms of much deeper problems having to do with education, trust issues, and/or upside down priorities.

  3. Takes soap and water, for to keep it clean! Enjoy: