From 2008, but still relevant
Less than two weeks after a badly needed clean-up of the Sir Sidney Walling Highway, we are appalled to see, already, a pile of litter accumulating along the roadway, particularly in the stretch between the Ace Service Station and the Police Recreation Grounds, where a whole garbage bag spills its unsightly guts for locals and tourists alike to see.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing a jingle on the radio calling all residents to beautification. We’re hearing, sure; but who’s listening? Where are the efforts being concentrated? Or is that they are being confined to specifically defined communities and that the highways are not included?
The Bible says that the wicked love darkness more than light, for their deeds are evil; but what do you call those who seem to love filth more than the cleanliness that is next to godliness?
What kind of person, having seen the level of nastiness that the brush-cutters exposed, did not cringe? And what kind of beast, having also seen the number of black garbage bags the litter-pickers filled, could callously toss a bottle, a can, a KFC container out of a vehicle to start the cycle all over again?
What has happened to our civic pride, Antigua? How can we call ourselves patriots and behave the way we do? We think that this deterioration of the national spirit has its roots in the “me-first” and “me-one” mentality on display all over this island. Everyone is so busy looking out for Number One that we cannot see the big picture, the dereliction that we are creating when we fail to care what our singleness does to the plural.
I, the individual, have to make a living, and I don’t care how my living contributes to the decline in your quality of life. And so I let my animals loose to defecate on your property and to mow down your garden, because I must live. I must live, and so I sell corn, or cane, or barbecue chicken on the public streets and the public be damned when my husks, or peelings, or Styrofoam containers blow about and create an eyesore.
I spend a lot of money on my property, and so my tree trimmings can not be allowed to lie on my lawn; they must be put outside my fence, there to snag every plastic bag and disposable cup bowling merrily downstream.
And I need to get my produce to market, my cement blocks to the worksite, my merchandise to the buyer, and so I have no time to cover my pick-up truck to prevent spillage and litter as I take the corners at 80 mph.
Worse, we train our children to follow in our filthy footsteps. Sure, Junior, unwrap those corn chips, guzzle that soda, and drop the wrapper and bottle right there where the next person waiting for the bus can sit and brush the flies away.
The evidence of our training is proudly displayed along the route to Fort James; at YASCO, at JSC Complex, and along the roadside bordering the SVR Stadium; and in schoolyards and playing fields all across the nation. It’s out of my hands, buddy – quite literally – and in your face.
Those of us who read to learn marvel at countries like Singapore where there is an absence of litter and graffiti and an ever-present sense of order. We know that this status quo obtains, and remains, because there are consequences for doing otherwise.
But here in Antigua, where land and sea make beauty, there is none. Litter Acts, litter wardens? “Bah! Litterbug!” we sneer, like Scrooge. We’ll not only trash the place, but we’ll thrash those who would stop us, too.
When are we going to wake up, people? For a country that is dependent upon tourism and that is aiming to make this destination more attractive to conferences, we are mighty obtuse.
Maybe it’s the dust and dirt blowing in our eyes, but we seem unable to look beyond the moment; to see this island through the eyes of the visitor we hope will visit our restaurants, patronize our shops, tour our countryside.
From the airport road to those roads leading to our historical sites, it’s often a sea of rubbish, refuse, litter, waste, garbage, trash!
We in POWA often wonder exactly what the stakeholders – the taxi associations, the tour operators, the tourism officials, the cruise association – say to our visitors: That we’re having an off day? Or an off year? That the garbage collectors are on strike? Or that we just had a ticker-tape parade for the 20/20 winners and the confetti hasn’t been cleaned up yet?
What do we say to our Caribbean neighbours – the Montserratians, the Kittitians, the Bahamians, the Caymanians – who also can boast sun, sea and sand and who know how to keep the package clean?
And, finally, what do we say to our flag-waving selves: We who have boasted that “we bigger than dem;” and “we better than dem;” and “ah yah me barn;” and that they, the immigrant “they,” are “seeing the best days of dey life?”
In this fool’s paradise, this golden island that we’ve turned into dross, who are we kidding – other than ourselves?