The above image from the Basildon Memories Facebook page is of the car park next to the Range store in Pitsea. As you can see, it’s being treated as a tip by an anti-social minority. As usual with these situations in land that’s not public space, no-one knows who’s responsible for clearing away the litter, so nothing happens. When nothing happens to clear the trash away, it sends out a signal that anti-social behaviour is implicitly tolerated in this location and the situation continues to deteriorate. As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, it only takes a few anti-social people to drag a neighbourhood down, particularly if their behaviour isn’t challenged or dealt with.
Reading through the comments on the thread about this image on the Basildon Memories Facebook page was an interesting exercise. A lot of them acknowledge that the solution to this kind of anti-social behaviour will only come from a change in people’s mindsets and a sense they have a community they belong to and have a responsibility towards. Before anyone else mentions it, we realise that some of those comments may have a narrow, somewhat reactionary sense of what makes for a successful community. When we encounter people like this, we do our level best to educate them about our progressive vision of what a community should be. What’s important is the desire of people to feel they’re part of neighbourhood where there’s mutual respect and people care for each other and the environment they live in. That’s something that we at South Essex Working Class Action are striving to achieve with our work on the estates.
Understandably, people get angry at the minority who are responsible for treating their neighbourhoods and town centre as a tip with no regard for the consequences. While it’s not a long term workable solution, we can understand why people are so fed up they’re calling for the culprits to be caught and punished in a way that will humiliate them. Placing hope in a proactive councillor who will react as soon as instances like this are reported is also understandable but they’re at the mercy of the council officers who if it’s not council land, will say it’s not their problem and bat it over to someone else to deal with or ignore. It has been said that locals fed up with such littering could band together and organise a community clean up – we did the same for a car park in Stanford-le-Hope a few years back. Three weeks later, the litter was back and no one would have known there had been a clean up. While we understand these solutions can seem attractive, they merely tackle the symptoms of the problem while leaving the root cause of it untouched.
Why are we getting exercised by litter when there’s a world out there to change? Good question. We get exercised by this because it’s about individual and collective responsibility to a neighbourhood – or in this instance, the complete lack of it from a minority of people. This littering is symptomatic of an atomised society where a growing number of people look after number one and refuse to acknowledge they’re part of a community, let alone that they have any responsibility towards it. It can also be argued it’s a sign that the culprits have little in the way of self respect. This selfish individualistic attitude from a minority and a sense they don’t have any real attachment to their neighbourhood is one of the major barriers we face in trying to build a sense of community pride, spirit and solidarity. Without this, there’s no base that can be built on in the quest for more sustainable, fundamental change.
The heart of what South Essex Working Class Action does is facilitating the efforts of residents on the estates to build a sense of community pride, spirit and solidarity. A strong community will do what it can to look after its neighbourhood. Looking at the state of this car park and also of too many estates in the region, it’s all too clear we have a massive task in front of us.