“Stealing” People’s Trash

So I got distracted from developing a recipe blog here by the following article (by a girl who has fabulous WordPress (http://www NULL.wordpress NULL.org) resources):

One man’s Trash… (http://www NULL.wiphey NULL.com/2006/06/13/one-mans-trash-is-another-mans/)

Is it really “stealing” if you threw it away? I never thought of it like that. If I throw something away, then, by all means, if someone wants it, they are free to come along and grab it! If I am fortunate enough to be able to throw away still-functional objects, I would certainly hope that someone else could get good use out of it. In the best of all possible worlds, one would donate everything to Goodwill, but there’s really no shame in picking a perfectly good bookshelf up off the curb if you drive by and see that someone threw it out. Why should there be?

It is a shame that we are *so spoiled* in our society today that some of us wouldn’t want people to use something we don’t even want! Is it *really* preferable that the stuff we put on the curb goes to a landfill rather than helping someone out? Since we couldn’t be bothered, why shouldn’t someone else fix it up and use it in their own home or sell it to make a little extra money? Do we really begrudge the less fortunate something so simple?

Or perhaps we just don’t want to admit our own laziness, wastefulness, and materialism, and the people who pick up and use our trash remind us of this. I am not perfect, and I am probably just as lazy, wasteful, and materialistic as the next person. We lost a lot of furniture after hurricane Katrina. I would certainly have openly and without shame picked up perfectly good furniture on the side of the road if we had had a bigger car. I wouldn’t have been “discreet” about it. You threw it out, I needed it: it would be that simple. Why should I be ashamed of that?

Some people argue that they don’t want the “homeless element” combing through their trash in their neighborhood, and that’s why they have a problem with it. I have been on both sides of this issue: I have lived in a neighborhood that would be appalled if a homeless person was seen in it, and I have been homeless. Most people aren’t homeless by choice. If we don’t want homeless people in our neighborhoods, then we should donate our time and/or money to programs for free mental healthcare (most homeless people are mentally ill or drug addicted) and decent housing programs. If more people did this, fewer people would be homeless, and we wouldn’t have them desperately searching through our cast off goods for something they can sell so they can eat that day.

This has become one hell of a tangent, but it’s actually pretty rare that I feel so strongly about an issue in our society and actually feel as if I can say something. Most of the time I can’t say anything because I know very little about politics and running governments and what not. In this case it’s simple because I see firsthand every day how spoiled and materialistic our society has become. It really wasn’t that long ago that a village had to share an oven between all of its households, and it was very rare for someone to even own a book. Everyone wore one set of clothing all the time, maybe they had another for special occasions, if they were truly wealthy. So how in the world, only 13 generations later, can we be so caught up in the material, to the point where we can’t even share our trash?!

Think about that next time you see a ten year old child with a cell phone, or a mother with a $4,000 baby stroller. I bet the kind of people who consume in this manner are also the same people who would really hate it if someone came to their neighborhoods on trash day and picked up the sofa that didn’t match the new drapes. Of course, if they could be bothered to donate the stuff to Goodwill, or have a garage sale, they wouldn’t have to look at the icky poor people.

Now, I’m not targeting anyone in specific here. In fact, I happen to know that some people who can comfortably afford to consume “conspicuously” on occasion are actually very conscientious people who also wouldn’t mind someone taking their cast off furniture curbside. I just sometimes get angry that society has taken such a turn for the worse that we are capable of criticizing other people and making generalizations about them when they are in a situation we can’t even understand.

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