Dot writes: I’m prompted by Jeremy’s comment on my last post to pose a question: what would make people behave better in common spaces? I have wordily ranted before about how cross it makes me when people throw junk into rivers, or graffiti public buildings, or don’t clean up after their dogs, or leave broken glass and rubbish on beaches or in parks (or anywhere else for that matter). I find it particularly frustrating now I have a small, curious child, who can be guaranteed to find and fiddle with anything remotely filthy and/or sharp in his vicinity and so has to be denied many minor opportunities to escape his buggy and explore the outside world. But, quite apart from what makes people think it’s OK to do these things in the first place, how could they be stopped?
There’s certainly a sense, perhaps even more acute in Ireland than in the UK, that if a place isn’t your personal property then you have no interest in keeping it pleasant. If you do have a decent space of your own you stay in it, and if you don’t you go to a green area and get drunk and smash things. There are exceptions: Killiney Hill Park, for example, always seems to be pretty clean and well-kept, though when we went there with Hugh the other day he immediately found an abandoned bottle-top (choking hazard! germs!). (He does have unusual powers.) I’ve seen it argued that if a place is regularly cleaned people start to think of it as a clean place and behave much better; they are more likely to behave badly in places they perceive as uncared-for. Killiney Hill Park would seem to bear this out. I doubt the efficacy of measures like fines for dog-fouling, though they might achieve more if they were (perceived to be) enforced. But, above these piece-meal efforts, don’t we need to give people a much more general sense that public spaces are common property and that it is in their own interest both to enjoy and to preserve them? How on earth do you do that?