left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

The difference between decency and trashing the joint

Updated: 2014-10-11 06:51
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

It is no coincidence that the third kind is a child. The girl in this story could well have received guidance in kindergarten on what is the right thing to do, but her grandmother, with her worldly experience, is conditioned to look after her own interests - even at the expense of public interests. When she was at school, China could be mired so deeply in poverty that public amenities did not include garbage bins.

The difference between decency and trashing the joint

No standing in the way of 'progress' 

The difference between decency and trashing the joint

The bling and hollow ring of ill-gotten gains 

This reminds me of my childhood and what I was taught. I grew up in a small town and had access to both urban and rural living. In the slack season, farmers would go to big cities to collect garbage, which would be used as fertilizer. Back then, most of the garbage from an urban resident was biodegradable, things like rotten vegetables and leftover food. But even then the occasional scraps of glass strewn in rice paddies with other biodegradable garbage would have dire consequences.

Unlike small towns in Western countries, Chinese towns did not have public services like garbage collection until very recently. And some still do not have it. That explains the ubiquitous squalor and the habit of littering in public spaces. When you have clean streets you may hesitate before tossing unwanted stuff into them.

So civic consciousness is not just the responsibility of the individual. First of all, the basic public service of garbage collection has to extend all the way to small towns and rural villages. You cannot expect someone used to big piles of trash outside his door to suddenly change his behavior as soon as he sets foot in a squeaky clean metropolis. Then there is education, which should drum home the point that it is a matter of human decency to respect the environment shared by all of us.

Right now we are living in an age of fast changes when the economy of much of the country is respectably middle class yet the mentality and civic codes lag behind. We'll catch up, but a constant reminder is necessary of the distance we have to go.  


Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page

  • Group a building block for Africa

    An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.