Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cleaning up the mess

I don't usually think much about my apartment building. I've lived in worse: a rat-infested krushchovka in St. Petersburg, another cockroach infested krushchovka in the same city. At this point, I've gotten used to the concept that the common areas of apartment buildings in the former Soviet Union look decrepit and dirty, although the individual units might be very nice.

But this divide between public squalor and private comfort sometimes becomes a little uncomfortable. I was thinking about it yesterday because some animal crapped in the stairwell. No nice way to put that. Perhaps it was one of the cats that visits the stairwell, although cats are usually more discrete in that way.

This is not a tragedy, and in an apartment building in the States, for example, the mess would probably be cleaned up quickly. Probably by the management company that deals with such things. But part of the former Soviet mentality is a reluctance to take responsibility for public goods. So, the small pile still sits on the stairwell. A woman comes from time to time to clean the stairwell, so it will be cleaned up then. But her visits don't seem to conform to any particular schedule. At this point, it's a sort of social experiment. How long we collectively evade responsibility for cleaning up a mess that affects us all? My guess is: pretty long.

(Actually - it was cleaned up a few hours after I wrote the above....)


JTapp said...

It's the old Tragedy of the Commons. That which is owned by everyone is owned by no one.

Eric said...

The former Soviet Union is full of these examples.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing a nice article.