I was on my way back to Riyadh from a short trip I took by car yesterday and unfortunately had stupidly drank a lovely latte just before getting into the car. Once I realized there was no way I was going to make it home in time I had to stop at a gas station. Now I know, no one expects a gas station bathroom to be clean, that is not what I am going to discuss (honestly because I am trying to block it out of my mind!) but why the hell are we unable to put the damn rubbish in the bins provided?
It makes me so angry to see the filth we are more than happy to live in. I am not just talking about gas stations but any where we congregate, such as communal parks, we get up and leave a halo of dirt around the place we were sitting in. We have no pride in our country, in our land and no sense or belonging or responsibility. And we do not nurture this in our children. The amount of times I see the parent staring at their children as they threw rubbish on the floor, out of the car window, into a fountain and not said anything to them!
Last month I was in Jeddah sitting on the terrace of a beautiful new hotel looking over the red sea. It was stunning! and beside us there was this family, mother father aunts uncles and a little boy. This boy was picking something up (not sure what) off the table and running to the sea and throwing it in. The father was half heartedly saying “Ahmad, don’t do that” then the boy would again, come to the table, pick something up (again, could have been the cutlery)it was too dark to make out and the father didn’t seem bothered enough to look at him while saying “stop that now habeebi, shatir baba stop” while carrying on a conversation with the other adults. I swear he kept doing that over and over.
When we got up to walk along the shore I took a look down and the whole shore line was filthy. The least the hotel could have done was clean up the shore line that runs along the hotel! But we are more than happy to sit and stare at our own filth.
We should teach our children that this is their country, their land and they should treat everywhere like their house. We should give them a sense of belonging and that it is not OK to dirty THEIR country and that it is their responsibility to keep it clean.
We were discussing this with my family and my husband said it would be amazing if they implemented the “Saher” program to catch and fine litterers as well as traffic violations. I pointed out that it would be complicated to fine people because there would be no way of knowing who they are. So he suggested putting their pictures in the news paper, or on a website for all to see. That would be great! cause if we’re not going to do it on our own I guess we have to be shamed into doing it.
We are not the only country who has had to deal with problems like this. Apparently Turkey was appallingly dirty only 5-6 years ago and people who have visited now are amazed at how that has turned around. They equate it to the rise in tourists visiting the country.
Some Fridays we go to lunch at a restaurant and at every place that has a buffet for the children they end up throwing everything on the floor around the buffet. If they have some fruit on a stick the floor is littered with sticks. If they have a sandwich with a tissue wrapped around it that ends up on the floor. And it’s normal! the mothers and nannies stand there like nothing is happening. My daughter thought it was something special, like a ritual, cause she didn’t get why they kept throwing the sticks on the floor after eating the fruits that were on them, so she grabbed my hand while holding the stick in the other hand, pulled me to where the pile of discarded sticks were and said “Mama! Look!” and threw her stick on the floor. I got so upset and she was just confused cause “All of the children are throwing them! why can’t I?”
I read in a book called Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (I Love his books) that they had done a study on people from the north and people from the South of the USA. They found that people from the South are nicer and more patient where as people from the North are not as nice and quick to get angry. They said that the reason for that is that the ancestors of the people from the North were herders, they were concerned with caring for their herd, their family and keeping them safe. They did not rely on anyone else in the community and did not need anyone else. People from the South on the other hand were farmers. They relied on one another, came together as a community to help with the crops. They sold to one another and knew that their survival depended on the community.
So even though the study subjects themselves were neither herders nor farmers, the attributes of their ancestors were still prevalent in this generation. How their great, great, great grandparents lived still effected how they were and how they viewed their community and interacted with them.
We were bedouins, we would depend fiercely on ourselves and on our tribe. Our community was our family and everyone else was an outsider. We were kind and generous but our number one priority was ourselves. We had a sense of family but we were not part of a community, we were warring tribes spread out over vast desserts and never called one place our own. Maybe this had an effect on why we care so little about keeping our country clean.
Or maybe I just went of on a huge tangent because I am so annoyed at the fact that people don’t have the common decency to throw stuff in the bin!l