Why has Britain turned into a giant rubbish bin?

I am still waiting for my copy of Litter to arrive by mail to the states, so I was excited to see that Dalrymple has a new Telegraph essay that presumably outlines some of the main points of the book. Judging from the abundance of reader comments, mostly in support, few people fail to acknowledge that there is in fact a problem, but they disagree on the extent to which immigration, a lack of personal responsibility or ineffective government services is the cause.

You will always have your head-in-the-sand types, of course. One of the more absurd reader comments said: “I suspect Britain has always been messy; it is just that materials have changed and do not biodegrade.” I wonder: what was the substance of the older materials that allowed them to biodegrade within seconds?

Read it here

18 thoughts on “Why has Britain turned into a giant rubbish bin?

  1. Andrew S

    I received this book yesterday (in the UK) and I’ve almost finished it, so sublime do I find Dalrymple’s writing, although it is not a lengthy publication by any means.

    In fact I have to ration myself as far as Dalrymple’s writing is concerned. Otherwise I would read all of his books in a few weeks and there wouldn’t be anything left for to enjoy!

    The part I enjoyed most was Dalrymple’s explanation for why alienated youth often have the habit of dropping litter just a few feet from litter bins. He points out that they take the existence of the litter bins as an insult rather than something they should be grateful for.

  2. Gavin

    Having attended to sentimentality, it’s interesting to see TD shift his focus to the problem of litter, and good to see him writing in the Telegraph as this should bring him a good deal more exposure.

    I would hate to upset the “twas ever thus”, “it’s not too bad really” crowd, or those privileged to live in areas not affected by the scurge of litter, but what we are talking about is the way the wind is blowing in the UK, and I have to side with Dalrymple again.

    My own personal belief is that psychopaths are far more widespread in society that we would usually feel, if by psychopaths we mean people who simply do not care about those around them – people with no pangs of conscience. Dalrymple is the expert and I wonder if he’d agree with this. (We also seem to see, perhaps, a widespread narcissism as a defiant reaction to under-motivation and under-achievement.)

    What is especially worrying, of course, as Dalrymple points out, is that the government evidently does not care about this matter either. If you berate someone for dropping litter, you are likely to receive at the very least a mouthful of abuse, quite possibly a physical injury also. Where public order breaks down, the state is supposed to step in. Like Dalrymple, I also wrote to my local council about the disgusting state of the council housing in the area. I said “If people can live there for free while the rest of us have to pay, the least they can be expected to do is keep their property clean”. But it turned out the council had no such powers, and sought no such powers, to bring this about. It was content to let the area rot.

    I think the government of the UK is now frightened of the mass of the people. It dare not be seen to enforce any kind of decency, for this would be passing a judgement, which is of course the ultimate sin.

  3. Gavin

    Hi Andrew, I know what you mean about rationing yourself, but his books are compulsive reading! I ended up reading pretty much all of them in a row. Really enjoyed “So Little Done”.

  4. Jonathan Levy

    Perhaps we should distinguish between the lawless people, who are feared by the government, and the law-abiding, who are treated with contempt.

  5. Peter Silverman

    There is a lot people can do to get duty bodies such as councils and the Highways Agency to keep their land free of litter as required by law.

    I have successfully taken duty bodies to court and am encouraging others to do the same. To find out more please go to http://www.cleanhighways.co.uk

    Mr Dalrymple, I would very much welcome your support and advice. Please contact me via my web site or at the tel no. below if you have a moment.

    Peter Silverman
    01895 625770

  6. jaxon

    “My own personal belief is that psychopaths are far more widespread in society that we would usually feel, if by psychopaths we mean people who simply do not care about those around them – people with no pangs of conscience.”

    I met a young lad recently, very intelligent and reasonably agreeable and strangely admirable, I mean I don’t agree with his militant atheism (an Ayn Rand propensity, I’d say, and by no means hostile to having his cherished ideas challenged), but I recognise it, under the circumstances, as a far more constructive way of channelling his intelligence than numerous possible alternatives. Was he the littering kind? I don’t think so, but he had a quite obvious emotional detachment in his demeanour – seemingly true to what Dalrymple noted in his Zero Degrees of Empathy review – when I enquired about his parents, he basically responded dismissively, about them… they were apparently more faithful to the ideals of the ‘sixties’ than marriage. I got the impression that he learnt early on that empathy was a weakness, it would not be properly reciprocated by parents more dedicated to their egos.

  7. mattbg

    “Litter” is a fun book… he probably addresses most of the comments because it’s quite thorough (considering the narrowness of the topic).

  8. Louise

    ‘Like Dalrymple, I also wrote to my local council about the disgusting state of the council housing in the area’

    The article made no reference to ‘council housing.’

  9. Flossie

    I purchased Litter (the book) from Amazon.co.uk. It arrived here in Chicago before two books ordered at the same time from Amazon.com! It’s a wonderful little treatise. Alas, Our Theodore has once again been poorly served by his editors. There are typos and misspellings littered throughout. Most of them seem to be the result of reliance on spell-checking programs rather than human proofreading.

  10. Sue Hall

    I felt empathy when I read Mr Dalrymple’s article, luckily coming across it in a paper I don’t normally read. I run on our local lanes and am exhilerated by the beauty of our countryside and equally saddened by the lack of respect shown to it by people who throw everything from dirty nappies to lager cans out of their car windows (there are no pavements to walk on). As we are a very rural area, with no “lane cleaning service”, I am the only person who picks up litter round here. I do hope that our youngsters can be taught to care again.

  11. Gavin

    Hi Louise. It looks like you misunderstood me. Dalrymple complained to a public authority about standards slipping, so did I. That’s the link (and the only link) I was making.

    “Council housing” is quite a dated term now, but to start going into the details of housing associations wouldn’t have been apposite here.

  12. mattbg

    I genuinely don’t know whether psychopaths can be created or whether they’re born that way. If they’re born that way, it doesn’t seem likely that they would shoot up in numbers in response to changing social norms.

    But, what I do think has happened is that it is far more acceptable than it used to be to model your own behaviour after that of a psychopath, even if you aren’t one yourself. The Randian pursuit of your own happiness above all other goals, for example, is a pretty widely-accepted thing to do these days and it’d seem compatible that psychopathic characteristics accompany this shift, even if the people themselves aren’t clinical psychopaths.

    The behaviour of celebrities and the notion of what’s funny has also taken a direction toward the psychopathic, and some subset of the population have always aspired to be like celebrities, or to emulate things they have seen others do that they find funny.

  13. Jaxon

    I think that’s well put mattbg – The Master And His Emissary (McGilchrist)may be of interest to you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbUHxC4wiWk

    And if that’s of interest then The Great Partnership by Jonathan Sacks may also be of interest, I’ve not quite finished it but I’m very impressed. Louise might even appreciate it

  14. Louise

    Some good, sensible solutions.  Kinder than my snipers on the rooftops idea.

      But wasn’t Dalrymple addressing the deeper malaise within society that results in mass littering?  Why do people have such little respect for themselves and their compatriots that they deface the landscape in this manner?  As littering is unlawful, litterers are criminals.  Why are they not treated as such?  And why are perfectly sound laws against this practice not enforced?

  15. BNK

    Well, I think this book could strike a chord more so than most Dalrymple titles… I hope the publishers have whopping great promotional images for the shop windows of all major High street book retailers.

  16. Damo

    In Ireland we have littering laws and people get prosecuted for dumping their litter the whole time. Waterford County Council even went as far as hiring a private investigators to catch them. I’m sure the UK has littering laws as well.


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