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One Argentine’s Genius Civic Poop Gesture

June 24th, 2011 | Categoría: Culture


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.

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PDNo Gravatar says:

You’re right. Fatalism sucks, but that’s just the way it is.

‘Men and nations possess or acquire certain qualities in their youth or not at all.’
– Jacob Burckhardt

AngelaNo Gravatar says:

I like the gesture. If you think about it, back in the 70s in the US there was litter everywhere. I remember my father opening the car door to empty his ashtray on the street at a red light. He would never do that today (and he doesn’t smoke anymore.. yay!). Teaching civic responsibility takes time, but it’s definitely possible. More people like your neighbor would help a lot! But I’m not sure how to combat the cynicism. That may be a longer battle.

TezNo Gravatar says:

I agree with Angela: it’s not as if other cities have never had dirty streets, it was a process of education and sanction. I’ve already seen a trend towards more people cleaning up the poo here in the last three years.

I wish wish wish we would have classes on civic responsibility in elementary schools!! Here and everywhere else. Some people just don’t realize things are wrong, or think they shouldn’t worry because everyone else does it so why bother.

Dana FitzNo Gravatar says:

“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.”

The above piece of wisdom needed to be repeated- a powerful insight! Thank you for this and the entire blog post. With this story, many can get a clear picture of how to make (small) changes that will produce more (bigger) changes. I pray eyes and heart will be opened through the reading of this post. Your neighbor is a world-changer!

MaxNo Gravatar says:

That overall way of thinking is (sadly) what I found in common between the present Russian federation and Argentina. Save yourselves.

tangobobNo Gravatar says:

I agree, I used to be really cynical, but I can’t be bothered any more.

CNo Gravatar says:

When we lived back in the real world, the dog parks always had lots of plastic bags that people would leave for everyone else to use. I was always impressed with that .. now, I think every pocket in my wardrobe had a plastic bag in it and we are always smug about the fact that we Always pick up after Pup.
You know, the mounted police pick up after their horses in the park..

JohnNo Gravatar says:

Look! Free bags. Just what I need. Thanks.

John GarganNo Gravatar says:

Nice piece! I agree, change starts in small ways…. I live in London and recently they have brought in a law to fine people £50 that litter the streets with their cigarette butts … London is such a lovely city, but even a grand city such as London has to fight inconsiderate/ socially inept people that litter and do not consider the environment or others! so nothing unique to Argentina … I remember when I was travelling China in 2004 and went to a ancient Glacier y ahi estaban los chinos haciendo asado sobre el glacier!! atrasados a full eh!……. they should fine people on the spot $50 pesos when their dogs shit and they don’t clean up after, haber si ahi aprenden eh! such a shame too, as BsAs is a beautiful city and every tourist I have spoken to, 100% of them, commented on the dog shit situation, they really need to sort that out!

Hilarious! Maybe this new form of social pressure will work…. for one block in the city.

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