By Simon Barget
These streets are so full of junk it’s a miracle anything gets moving. These streets are so chock full of stuff that you cannot move for love nor money, you might as well not bother, you might as well stay at home, and it is a wonder that people actually do bother to come out of their houses and walk or drive or cycle whatever mode of transport they go in for, how is it that people manage to do all these things without coming a cropper, without literally being pulled down by the sludge and the mud and the junk metal objects, how is it that somehow people manage to keep themselves moving because they do just about manage, they do just about move?
These streets were designed to keep us going. Now they exert the opposite effect. The streets are worse than our own homes and you’d have a better chance of moving in your houses than moving an inch in the streets which are for all practical purposes impassable and we invested all this cash in the fly-overs, the by-and-underpasses, the lay-bys the pedestrian crossings, the gutters and manholes, we spent years planning and building to be left with repositories for waste and litter and crap and places where hundreds of cars are stationary and lorries are stuck and people just hoot constantly without any hint of a resolution, and yet, these people still leave their houses and go into the streets because they think they can move through all the sludge, they think they’ll have a chance, they think they’ll fare better than the next person.
Sometimes for no good reason the streets are clear. Someone, probably just a do-gooder, a regular hopeful citizen, has spent a good part of his day taking things off the streets and the pavements and placing them in bins, organising, amassing manageable heaps, taking things to the recycling dumps, and then without even remembering how the streets were always and constantly disgusting and clogged and impassable, you drive down a street that is clean and fresh and you can see the tarmac again and the yellow and white lines, and you can see open hallowed space in front of your car and you can move as soon as the traffic light turns green, you can go wherever you want within reason as opposed to the almighty gridlock that remained before someone cleaned up the streets.
And then sometimes the streets are even worse than the usual, they are one level dirtier. And you cannot bemoan it, you cannot get truck by telling yourself or anyone else for that matter that the streets are now absolutely intolerable and that if they get any worse then ‘I’m going to do such and such’ or ‘all hell’s going to break loose’, you cannot find consolation in any of these verbal thrusts and so there is no way to vent, there is certainly no point complaining because there is certainly no one to complain to, after all these years no one has any idea who’s responsible, after all these years no one has come forward to say that they will make it their business to clean it all up.
Sometimes the things on the street aren’t even half bad. Some of the stuff might be desirable. What’s so bad about a table and a chair though it gets in the way? What’s so bad about a 60 inch TV screen? But it’s precisely our uncertainty about the deleteriousness of an object that makes us more remiss about removing it in the first place. I have seen collections of objects that remind me of an art installation. I have seen people stop and stare. But I also believe that the people in my town are struggling to sift the good from the bad, or that they get so used to the object itself that they forget that anything is bad by definition. The greater goal is fluidity and removal of the obstruction; they get hung up on the object even more when it is ‘nice’ and not obviously a hindrance to us getting around.
Perhaps it is the fact that it is nigh on impossible to know where all of this hideousness and mess actually comes from that makes it pointless in adjudging someone responsible for the clean up. Every time someone dedicates themselves to their own street corner near their home, or even better, the one opposite also, they cannot prevent the hordes coming along and flinging their junk within seconds, or even if we deny that we ever fling junk -- we always vehemently deny -- then without a moment’s hesitation I can assure you that that junk will come, bin bags, sewage, desks, animal carcasses, other dead bodies, all of the usual suspects, while everyone’s back is turned while they’re asleep, the muck will come back, the mud, the brackish water, the river of shit, it will return in an instant and the fact that you never saw anyone do it doesn’t make it any less likely nor does it make it worthwhile in investing the time to stop it from happening.
Once there was even an initiative. We set out our sentries and our cameras and we watched under the lamppost by the lamplight and yet nothing was picked up, the rot and the mush came back as if by magic and all we could be certain of is that these streets have been fetid and full, intolerably disgusting for as long as anyone can remember and the reasonable inference is that they will remain so for the time being.
But the state of the streets makes me so sad. Just one look from my window and it matters not a jot how nice and clean it is in my bedroom or lounge, how sweet-smelling and airy, how neat and supremely tidy, how uplifted my mood, and just one glance into any part of the streets and I feel this deep wrenching or it’s as if something has taken me over, something high in the head has gripped me, has dug its claws into me is programming me and then I wonder what the point of getting my house in order is when just one tiny glance at the streets – and not even being on them – turns me sour, one solitary glance affects me so deeply and I feel so powerless in the face of all these streets below and around me and so powerless to do anything about them and then I don’t have any idea how I could ever make any impact, but above all how am I expected to get anywhere when the street below is an impasse, how am I supposed to produce when I can hardly move out from my home?
And now I have come to realise one thing. The very force that keeps us coming out of our houses, at least in my town, is the same one that’s clogging up the streets. I really don’t know how this happens. People would have to be throwing an inordinate amount of trash from their car windows to get even remotely close to producing the level of garbage that our streets bear witness to, and personally I have not seen it, or they would have to be coming into the streets expressly to plonk their car somewhere slap bang down the middle, I mean what would be the point, but somehow somewhere the trash builds up as soon as we even signal our intention of coming out from our houses, how could this be possible, and who is this ill-intentioned group or person who wants to make it even more difficult for us, doing precisely the opposite of what is needed, and where on earth do they get all this stuff in the first place, this endless bilge which they just freely shove out into the streets, there are so many unanswered questions, the main one being: when do they do it, and how do they without anyone noticing, but you cannot live in your castle when the kingdom is lousy and we must learn to implement basic levels of hygiene before we can lead a measured life.