A Lifetime Doing A Little Is A Lot

‘Homework For Men’ Assignment: Litter Pickup

3 min readApr 13, 2021

I am opposed to giving money to bums.

When I was in college, a junkie begged me for five dollars to catch a bus to visit his sister in the hospital. I have sisters. I love them. I bought the story and I paid him five bucks. The next day at the same street corner the same guy told the same story. I know how much bus tickets cost.

I told him to go fuck himself and haven’t given a beggar money since, but my reasoning isn’t purely anecdotal.

When the state funds the essentials and the citizenry funds the vices — handing cash out their window as a form of community service — you destroy a person’s drive. You can do this to children. You can do this to employees. The less you require of people, the less they will do.

People want free shit. We are biologically engineered to seek the maximum amount of resources for a minimum amount of energy expenditure. This has served us well throughout our evolution. It has destroyed us in a civilized society.

The more you give away, the more hands you’ll attract.

I feel the same about trash, and for the same reasons.

I have opposed picking up another man’s trash because it kills his incentive to pick it up himself. It eliminates the shame of his actions and destroys the evidence of his crime.

But two problems aren’t exactly the same.

I can’t force panhandlers to get a job, and I can’t prevent people from littering, but I can fill a bag with trash while I’m out on a walk in my neighborhood.

I try to live by the Categorical Imperative. If everyone else did as I do, there would be no panhandlers on the streets because they wouldn’t find a dollar. And if everyone filled a bag with trash once in a while, they wouldn’t prevent littering but their neighborhoods wouldn’t show it.

Psychology is on our side.

Society is a harsher judge of new graffiti on a clean building than more graffiti on an already defaced facade. A kid dropping a candy wrapper on the grass in a clean park is bolder than one who drops a wrapper in…




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