Everyone has a neighbour that’s a little odd, a bit crazy even, or just plain annoying.
I am that neighbour.
While my husband is everyone’s dream version of the good neighbour – kind, friendly, always helpful and understanding – I am the neighbour that moans about the deplorable state of the council’s street cleaning services, snaps at drivers who take up more than one parking space so that only two cars can park in a three-car parking bay.
I am the neighbour who makes no secret of wanting to slip out at night and cut down another neighbour’s infernal palm tree, whose foliage always end up littering the street outside our house after a spot of wind and rain.
I am the neighbour who stomps around in mud-splattered wooden clogs outside my house, armed with a litter picker and a bin bag, doing the job that the council evidently couldn’t be bothered to do.
Yes, I’m the loony neighbour, and I don’t give a damn.
To tell you the truth, litter picking is a rather gratifying activity, therapeutic even, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
So much so, that my ambition is to raise a local army of fellow litter pickers who share my devotion to clean streets. We’ll descend onto the neighbourhood with fury and vengeance, and no one will dare throw another cigarette butt or chocolate wrapping on the ground.
Even if you don’t share my passion for litter picking, consider the following. People’s disregard for the cleanliness of our streets, parks and other public spaces is symptomatic of a much deeper issue: our disregard for the world around us, and our failure to recognise our own intrinsic part in that world. I believe this disconnect stems in part from our obsession with personal property, individualism and a secret wish to have and do better than those around us. Greed disconnects us from each other and nature.
Politicians pay lip service to actions aimed at stemming climate change, but they continue to worship at the altar of the neoliberal god of free market capitalism, conveniently ignoring the soon irreparable damage that their obsession with economic growth wreaks on the natural world.
While Britain’s governing elite remains caught up in one of the most unsavoury leadership contests I’ve ever witnessed, my nine-year-old lies awake at night worrying about the future of the planet, her future. She wonders if she’ll grow old enough to be a mother, let alone grandmother because she knows that unless the leaders of her country get over themselves and start taking honest and meaningful action to stem global warming, she may not have the beautiful future her parents and grandparents did.
Inspired by my daughter’s commitment to the planet, I recently joined the Green Party, the only political force in Britain today that is genuinely and wholeheartedly committed to fighting climate change, and which recognises the interconnectedness of a healthy planet, human welfare and democracy.
In the weeks leading up the EU elections, friends warned me that a vote for the Green Party was a wasted vote. I am glad I didn’t listen to them, for the Greens ended up doing remarkably well, more than doubling their number of seats since the last election.
Change is possible, and as the Dutch historian Rutger Bregman recently pointed out, what seems at first radical, fringe and a bit loony, will sooner or later become accepted by the mainstream. History shows that change never starts in the centre, but always on the fringes.
So, don’t dismiss your loony neighbour just yet.