Doorstep responsibility!


It’s a sunny Sunday morning. You are in your living room watching the news, listening to the radio, reading a book, or chatting with your family. On the table in front of you are placed the following: different fruits, sugar cane if you will, chewing gum, wrapped chocolate bars, bottled water. Also on the table is a box of tissue paper or napkins. You indulge in any of the above items on your table and use the tissue paper to clean off your hands, blow your nose, or wipe something. Once you have finished your consumption of these goods, chances are either you get up to clean and put it in the trash or you have house help that cleans for you.

In the latter case, you are assured in the knowledge that someone has removed the unwanted items from your table and placed them in your household garbage bag. The probability that the remnants of all these consumed items is scattered around your well-kept garden is very rare to non-existent. That is of course, unless you have a playful pet whose idea of fun includes trashing your trash (it happens sometimes).


It’s another day of commute in the city. The snail pace crawl these days has become a ritual. But that’s what good radio programs on Sheger 102.1 are for – to fill the space in between the crawls to work and back home every day. Between interesting radio shows and the numerous thoughts that run through my head, sneaking a peek at the commuters next to me and imagining who they are and what their lives are like inspires patience and distraction as I thread through the snail pace traffic. Now we have paused waiting for the rhythmic and most times chaotic flow of cars and fumes through the city.

The driver in front of me is busy cleaning his nose with one napkin. He then throws it out the window. He draws another napkin to wipe again. Then draws on a third to finish the job before he crumbles each one and they are chucked out; finding home on the side of the highway.

On my left side is pick-up truck filled with passengers eagerly grazing away at sugar cane. I can imagine how sweetly soothing it is. They’ve sucked out the juiciness then roll down the window and chuck out the chewed cane out the window.

A little further a thirsty driver has just chugged down bottled water. He then rolls down his window and out goes the plastic bottle.

You know chewing gum gets so boring after the flavor is gone. So another one opens her window and throws it out to the street.

The Reaction Dilemma:

If my perspective is that I am one individual in a city of close to ten million and that my voice does not count, then my reaction to this would be I continue listening to the radio and proceed to meet my day or my night. But the personal perspective that I hold is that I have a voice and it has the potential to resonate among a few or among none. Whichever way, there is no loss in exercising my voice. For at least two of the above scenarios I have presented and experienced, I have rolled down my window and shared my thoughts or honked to get the attention and signaled to alert the driver of his/her behavior. I’ve gotten crazy stares and laughter at my expense, but I feel strongly about taking responsibility to create the environment I desire, literally and figuratively. Therefore, despite the fact that my drop in an ocean towards the effort of assuming collective responsibility does not fetch the desired outcome, the fear of becoming complacent and “business as usual” far outweighs the fear of how minuscule the effort is.

Our accountability:

An issue I have been grappling with lately is the issue of accountability especially in the communal realm. We are often focused on what government has to do in cleaning up the city through its municipal arm, forgetful sometimes that what government is picking up is also “our” trash. How come we are not holding each other accountable for the mess we create at an individual level which is contributing the ill of the whole?


Does responsibility end at the doorstep once our gates have closed behind us?

Is “home” limited to the four walls that surround a concrete kingdom/queendom?

Why do we abide by cleanliness laws when we are in foreign cities but trash our own?

Why have we stopped our tradition of holding each other accountable and hold offence when someone reminds us of our collective responsibility?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences. And if you ever happen by me on the streets of Addis and I’ve chucked trash out the window, then do honk at me. Trust me, I’ll return the favor! J