The battle against Argentina’s poop-filled streets is ugly and ongoing.
It’s also a metaphor for the society’s inability to clean up other kinds of criminal and political trash.
But I was absolutely delighted – even inspired – the other night when I came across this genius gesture of civic responsibility.
Tired of constantly cleaning up the poop on his front lawn, my neighbor came up with a brilliant solution. He decided to help his thoughtless neighbors help themselves – to a bag, that is.
The idea is simple: offer people free bags to clean up after their dogs. Thoughtless people need a hand once in a while.
People who let their dogs crap on your lawn aren’t always beasts or malevolent souls. Sometimes they’re just lazy and inconsiderate.
It’s precisely these people that my neighbor had in mind when he decided to offer free plastic bags to those who might otherwise not clean up after their dogs.
Has my neighbor’s thoughtful gesture worked? I don’t know. I haven’t been able to ask him about it yet. (I’ll update this post once I’ve heard from him.)
Argentina has many exceptionally wonderful attributes. And, like all places, it also has some downsides. For me, one of the very worst of these is cynicism.
Cynicism corrodes the culture and prevents people from standing up to corruption, injustice, abuse of power and even smaller civic transgressions.
When people become accustomed to injustice, they too often lose all hope that they can combat it.
When confronted with the evils of life, too often people begin to feign offense but then quickly retreat and do nothing, saying, “Son todos corruptos. Es un país de mierda. Somos así.”
This kind of fatalistic thinking is pervasive. It’s also depressing, counterproductive and entirely unnecessary.
But with this tiny gesture, my neighbor has fought back. He’s creatively acted to make his little part of the world a better place. In effect, he’s said to the world, “Hey, things don’t have to be this way. We can do better.”
It’s a minor move, a simple, hopeful act. But it’s also a powerful one.
And who knows, maybe at the end of the day it will actually make a difference.