Monday, May 18, 2009

A Good Piece About Civic-Mindedness ("Trash Outreach")

In an article in today's NYT (here), Sabrina Tavernise reports that a group of Pakistani youth (late teens, early 20's) has organized in Lahore to meet once a week and pick up trash.

Tavernise says that the Pakistani youth have in mind, specifically, setting an example to inspire others to change their behavior ("they talked with local shopkeepers, in a kind of trash outreach, asking them to walk their garbage to the trash bin. Those connections ... were actually the point of the cleaning — setting an example for others to follow").

This is great -- young people organizing to do concrete things that build a sense of community and positively affect known and unknown neighbors. I think it's an example of what political philosphers mean by "civic-mindedness."

Tavernise does not specifically say that the trash cleaning movement is tied to a religious group (nor, however, does she disclaim such a connection). Here's an excerpt:

The students were inspired by the recent success of the lawyers’ movement, which used a national protest to press the government to reinstate the country’s chief justice, and their rush of public consciousness was irrepressible.

“Everybody keeps blaming the government, but no one actually does anything,” said Shoaib Ahmed, 21, one of the organizers. “So we thought, why don’t we?”

So they got on Facebook and invited all their friends to a Sunday trash picking. Trash, Mr. Ahmed said, “is this most basic thing. It’s not controversial, and you can easily do it.” ...

“The youth of Pakistan wants to change things,” said Shahram Azhar, the lead singer for Laal, a Pakistani rock band, reflecting an attitude that is typical of this rebellious younger generation.

“The reason the Taliban is ruling Swat,” he said referring to a valley north of Islamabad where Islamic extremists took control this year, “is because they are organized. We need to organize, too.”

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