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Ending selfishness really begins with good parenting

Posted: July 27, 2008 12:11 a.m.
Updated: September 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

“Lazy, disrespectful pigs.”

That is among the unkind epithets I reactively mutter to myself whenever I see the trashy after-effects of litterers.

Lacking regard and commitment to their communities, this indolent group includes those who use the earth as their garbage can and floors.

They carelessly dump fast food cups and wrappers along our streets and sidewalks.

They flick cigarettes from autos.

They surreptitiously discard used motor oil in the garbage or gutter, and strew our beaches with beer bottles and dirty diapers.

The byproduct of their inconsiderate acts is real and far-reaching; litter is unsightly, unhealthy, and can linger in the environment for generations. It can also have a detrimental effect on the economy, harm wildlife and discourage tourism.

Regrettably, these careless, self-centered people often raise their children to carry out the same behaviors. So many times I’ve seen parents walking around the market, and at the same time allowing their little ones to straggle behind unmonitored, picking up things (and sometimes breaking them), then dropping them off in distant aisles.

Again, the mess is for “someone else” to deal with.

Several major stores I occasionally shop at in Santa Clarita are loaded with these pathetically apathetic people. You know when they’ve been there: It’s impossible to walk around without dropped shoes, toys, purses, housewares and clothing, getting in the way.

Such slothful people infuriate me. It’s as if the land is their toilet and the rest of us are their Tidy Bowl servants.

Aphorisms to live by

I’m no model human being, but I do respect the environment and sincerely care about other people’s time and energy. My parents helped raise me to be that way.

How well I remember some of their sayings:

“If you use something, put it back.”

“If you make a mess, clean it up.”

“Take care of what you have and what’s around you.”

“Life is a gift.”

“The world doesn’t owe you a dime.”

Of course, just because someone hails from a home teaching thoughtfulness and awareness doesn’t mean they’ll follow the same path.

Similarly, just because someone was raised in a barn doesn’t mean they have to always live like swine. What one absorbs from their parents’ programming is impactful, absolutely. But how one consciously acts as an adult is 100 percent that individual’s own responsibility.

Relative to this topic, writer and educator Eda LeShan once wrote: “Becoming responsible adults is no longer a matter of whether children hang up their pajamas or put dirty towels in the hamper, but whether they care about themselves and others — and whether they see everyday chores as related to how we treat this planet.”

Grassroots method
Considering the year we’re in and how far we’ve come with science and technology, we should be a more psychologically evolved species by now. But sadly, many members of modern mankind ignorantly defile this blessed organic orb they’ve been loaned.

You’d think they would know better.

You’d think society (and that includes our own government) would be doing a more diligent job of protecting neighborhoods, ozone layers, and future populations.

If we are to survive and thrive, we must realize a greater unified respect for flora and fauna, while promoting conscientious cohabitation among the masses.

We should also start seeing some real penalties doled out for those who endanger or sully the environment.

Does anyone ever really get a $500 fine for throwing things out of their car window? Do big industry polluters ever get judgments they CAN’T easily afford?

In addition, we should vote out of office those politicians who disregard “answerability” and ignore the rights and welfare of others, including our own dear Mother Earth.

Last but not least, everyone should avoid contact with that lazy, disrespectful virus going around.
To promote that goal, each person — no matter what the individual’s background, income or usual excuses — must take responsibility for his or her own actions, good and bad, and then mindfully teach children to do the same.

That is the grassroots method for promoting a universal sense of accountability.

That is the way we’re going to clean things up around here.

Oh, I know. It’s an idealist long-shot.

But if more people tried conducting their lives as such, what a healthier, more peaceful and magnificent world this would be.

Diana Sevanian is a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinions, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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