Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why I don't recycle - a personal statement

I’ve recently noticed that even my progressive right-wing friends are stunned when they find out that I do not recycle. If I get a hold of an empty bottle or some scraps of paper in our house before my wife does - they are immediately sent to the normal garbage bin. I believe that my friends deserve an explanation.

I will use two stories to give some resemblance of reason behind my actions. I believe anyone who reads them will – if not outright agree with my position – but at least understand my rationale.

The first story is apocryphal, and I cannot guarantee its veracity. Lord Keynes, the infamous inventor of the Keynesian economics was a devoted teetotaler, he refused to smoke tobacco products, and he was a fanatical pacifist. The outbreak of the First World War left him outraged with the insanity of mass murder in a useless war. At some point later, he had heard the passionate speech of the British Prime Minister Lloyd George calling on the British citizens to shun the excesses of personal consumption, particularly drinking and smoking, as a sign of support for the nation’s war against Germany. Immediately after hearing this speech, Lord Keynes once and for all abandoned his previous habits, and engaged in heavy drinking and smoking. Surely Lord Keynes understood the health repercussions of these activities – but he could not resist the opportunity to give the middle finger to the establishment. While I am surely no Keynes, and we are not talking about the World War, I must still confess that the urge to give the middle finger to the liberal busy-bodies is a pretty laudable feeling.

The second story features two famous Russian poets, Joseph Brodsky and Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and one famous Russian writer, Sergey Dovlatov. It must be said that Brodsky was a  devoted anti-communist, and before immigration to the West, he was poor, his poems were not published. What is worse, at some point in his life he was exiled to Siberia by the regime because the government did not believe that being a poet qualified as a proper employment if he could not provide a government approved license.

Yevtushenko on the other side was a rather well-known poet, well-treated by the communist regime in spite of his occasional outbursts against the excesses of stalinism. One of his published poems was devoted to the heroism of the Soviet people during the building of a hydro-electric station on the Volga River (if you don't feel a sudden unstoppable urge to puke your guts out after you've read about the subject of his poem - I can bet serious money you never lived in a communist country). It should not surprise anyone that Yevtushenko's unofficial nickname "Euvtuch" was chosen due to an obvious similarity with the word "eunuch" (in Russian these two sound nearly identical).

Needless to say that Brodsky hated Euvtuch with all his soul. The reader should also realize that Brodsky indeed was one of the top nine Russian poets of all times (I believe the other eight are Alexander Pushkin, Michail Lermontov, Joseph MandelshtamSergey Yesenin, Vladimir MayakovskyBoris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva and Anna Akhmatova), and there was no comparison between the two of them – which was well understood by all educated Russians including Yevtushenko and Brodsky.

In 1972, Brodsky was expelled from the USSR, he immigrated to the United States, became a renown poet in his own right and won the Nobel Award in literature. But even this dramatic change of fate did not alter his attitude towards Yevtushenko. At the time, there were rumours that one of the root causes for this hatred was Brodsky’s belief that Yevtushenko was a KGB informant and that he was instrumental in its efforts against the young dissident poet. Whether it is true or not is unknown and unknowable - and at this point is beside the point.

Sergey Dovlatov, another Russian writer who found his fame after immigration to the US, was a close friend of Brodsky. According to Dovlatov, in the end 1980ies he visited Brodsky in the hospital. Brodsky was recovering from a heart attack in the intensive care unit, and his situation was quite serious. Dovlatov tried to cheer up the poet and told him that USSR was reforming itself, and that during the latest Party Congress, Yevtushenko was publicly advocating the abandonment of the system of collective farms and freeing the peasants from communist oppression. Brodsky thought about the news for a moment, and weakly replied – “If he is against the collective farms, then I support them”.

There surely is no doubt that Brodsky, like all progressive Russians, was solidly against the system of forced collective farms, and his retort was in pure jest. But joke or not, his attitude was easy to understand – if communist activists were against something, then it only made sense to support it. And to Brodsky, his arch-rival Yevtushenko was more than a "sell-out" or a "conformist" - to him, Yevtushenko was the epitome of the two-faced oppressive communist regime.

So, how does this all have to do with me? My political views were formed during the last 5 years of Soviet Union, and even today my natural inclination is to support everything that the communists oppose. After I have stayed for more than a decade in the US, my initial reaction to anything that liberals propose follows the same pattern. If liberals support the gay marriage, then I am against it. And don’t even start with Global Warming or recycling. If there is any way I can do to stick my finger in the eye of the left-wing establishment and the liberal busy-bodies – I will gladly do it. You may disagree with me – but who are you to throw rocks at me? Are you without a sin?

And when it comes to “recycling”, the most mind boggling thing is the level of self-righteousness of the left-wing activists, which knows no bounds or limits. The reader may well remember the South Park’s sarcastic episode which poked fun on the smug drivers of Toyota Prius. And indeed, as the cartoonists correctly noted – the real danger to the nation comes not from the pollution smog – but rather from the smug of the liberal busy-bodies, who won’t rest until everyone is forced to give up all of the life’s pleasure.

I am often puzzled how anyone can indeed surrender to the demands of the environmental wackos without any protest, let alone volunteer support for their agenda. It’s one thing if you decide to recycle a plastic bottle of your own volition, and it is quite another when the State coerces you to do it through fines or higher costs, while the smelly activists are pouring scorn at you for not following their orders fast enough. And the recent trends to ban plastic bags in the stores makes me wonder if the liberals have retained any sanity.

Now, that I shared my views on the subject – do you feel that my personal decision not to recycle is based on some logical arguments?


The Keeper Of Odd Knowledge (KOOK) said...

You make some valid points, and here is yet another one. By seperating garbage into different classes you deprive people of jobs, people sort trash at recycling centers, sorting garbage yourself decreases employment. Of course it is government subsidized so I am not sure that it is a positive.

Ludwik Kowalski said...


Please share this link with those who might be interested.

go to WWW.AMAZON.COM and search for Ludwik Kowalski


P.S. The book is waiting for a reviewer

Robert J. Moeller said...

I love your point about Keynes and the impact that his disdain for things like tobacco and his passion for pacifism had on his worldview. So many people who came up with (or promoted) the socio-political and economic systems that are typified the modern era of the last 80 years were greatly impacted by their experiences in WWI (and some in WWII). People wanted to, understandably, find ways to "fix" the human condition so that wars like those would not happen again. But they turned to such ill-fated theories as "the economic man" (the idea that all we need is food, shelter, and a task to do). I don't want to ramble here, but I really appreciated that subtle point you made. There is a commonality in thinking among ideological peers, but also a commonality in worldview and often, experience.

Hyphenated American said...

Dear Kook,

Today the idea of recycling is not based on actual economic analysis - it's just a fig leave designed to make liberals feel better about themselves. So, either the people are forced (more or less at gun point) to recycle at home, or the unionized workers do the separating - in both cases it's insane.

Hyphenated American said...


Very nice to see you here. I am not sure how much Keynes' dietary prefences mattered to his ideas (same goes for his homosexuality), but it's fair to say that he was able to screw up economic theory for at least half a century. It took Hayek many decades to push the worldview back.

P.S. I will respond to your email today. I guess we can have a very interesting discussion about Dostoevsky.

kmbr said...

I love your writings. Such good stuff.

See, the environazis MAKE me want to do really unGREEN things just to spite them too.

I once lived in Germany, and you had to purchase these yellow sacks for your recycling. The Gelb Sacke. Well, I swear it was a competition to see who could have the LEAST waste.

They would routinely have half a gold sack or even a quarter of a sack. I made it a point to always have two, big, full gold sacks out on recycling day. Just to make a statement. That's right, I am American and I consume. (:Deal.

Anonymous said...

Strange, not two days ago I mentioned to someone that I was so sick of hearing the word "green" that I could scream. I go along with being good stewards of our planet and any recycling I may do is more connected to helping to cut back on the mess we are leaving behind than anything else. My parents were products of the depression and I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I am all for donating usable items to the Goodwill or the Salvation Army rather than dumping it in the garbage. When my daughters were little we passed clothing and toys amongst them and friends with either larger/smaller or older/younger children. I take cans (when I think of it) to the grocery store that has a bin for aluminum. It is collected as a fund raiser for an organization that provides glasses for needy children. I send my plastic bags to our local food pantry who uses them for packing groceries for people in need. I guess what this boils down to is that I recycle for what I consider practical reasons rather than a mad desire to be "green". When I read an article about Germany storing recyclables in empty military buildings because there wasn't a market for them, I was struck by the total insanity of the "greenies". Your post makes perfect sense to me. :)