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Dostoyevsky

Garbage is a necessary phenomenon of modern life! We consume, we dispose. However the nature of garbage has changed. When I was a child more than half a century ago, most garbage was food waste, not much of it, but it was fed to the chickens or put on the compost heap for the garden. “Dig for victory” had ended with the defeat of the German Nazis, but it was now Dig for survival as my grandfather took me to his allotment every day and taught me many a secret about growing prize vegetables.


Nowadays a turnip from a local farmer is wrapped in plastic, a chicken is inside a plastic box I can hardly open without a sharp knife, and tea is inside a foil packet within a cardboard box. Beer, cider, lemonade is inside throwaway bottles, and we seem to think that crushing a coke can makes it invisible!

But not only are there lots of waste product and packaging there are lots of people who think that discarding it anywhere and everywhere is OK. It isn’t!

Take a walk in the countryside anywhere in the world and you will find cans, bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, sweet papers, takeaway food packaging, and …. TVs, fridges, mattresses, tyres, wire, assorted metalwork and car parts! I have even found furniture such as chairs and sofas in roadside hedges.

What is going on, why do people do this when local councils have weekly garbage collections and throwing things away in the street or the woods is clearly an antisocial and polluting form of behaviour?

I believe that Dostoyevsky has the answer, he wrote about it in Crime and Punishment. But first consider the issue of personal values or morality. My upbringing gave me a belief in having a strong work ethic, respect for others, being honest and truthful, a sense of belonging to a community. These didn’t just come from my parents, I was surrounded by it from my teachers, neighbours, shopkeepers, bus conductors, school friends, grandparents………… In other words all of these things were cultural norms, it was just the way things were. So now ask yourself, is this generally how young people are brought up and socialised today where so little comes from parents and teachers and so much comes from the Twittersphere and Facebook. A Freudian would say that the Superego has lost control and that the Ego has been weakened as the executive over the Id.

In Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Raskolnikov an impoverished ex-student who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. He attacks the pawnbroker but fails to kill her before fleeing. Dostoyevsky then develops the theme of “guilt” where Raskolnikov is tortured by his dreams and daytime thoughts of what he has done. He considers confessing but initially rejects this as he knows that he could never be found anyway. However his anguish and guilt at what he has done (Superego? Values?) eventually become so crushing that he confesses to the crime.

Freud

People who dump trash do not seem to suffer the anguish of Raskolnikov, they feel no shame or guilt, they fear no exposure or being caught. If you observe them littering and comment you are likely to be abused so we look the other way.

Salute the ID for the Superego is dead and buried!

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