This picture was published in The Nation newspaper on June 29, 2016.
My View Of The Picture:
When I was reading the newspaper and saw this photo it didn’t catch my eye but the moment I read the caption under the picture something came to my mind and a story started building in my mind.
In our societies there are different professions in practice. However, out of many professions some are more likable than others. It is a sheer fact that society needs all types of professionals as it would be devastating to ignore any particular profession.
The Janitorial and Garbage Collecting Professions are those type of professions which is not liked by a majority of us and the reason is that they directly deal with the garbage and litter we throw away everyday. We think about and deal with Janitors and garbage collectors in a very strange manner. They are the people who collect the garbage and try to keep the cities, towns, streets and buildings clean, in contrast with us who throw away the garbage either properly or improperly. Janitors are not adored by us compared to other professionals like Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants etc. Again try to understand what I just said. We throw away the garbage and garbage collectors keep the city clean. So now tell me which side serves society better, those who throw away the garbage or those who keep the cities clean? Every one will say that it is the latter. Yet, as they deal with garbage and filth directly, they get low pay. In that way they don’t get similar respect as is given to other professions. Though I can bet if Janitors stopped working in the offices of the more reputed professions then there would be a big mess for these very adored professionals; if garbage collector stopped collecting the garbage from the streets of a city for seven days it would be catastrophic.
In the picture the lady is riding on a bicycle on a road in Bordeaux, France covering her nose due to the smell of garbage that has not been picked up by the garbage collectors for the last seven days. It is not important here whether the Government of France was right or wrong, whether the demands of unions were justifiable or not. The important thing is that if the garbage collectors stopped picking up the garbage then it could be a big mess for a city.
Nothing would happen if engineers stopped building structures for a few days or for a few months. That would be something unfavourable but we could bear it. Whereas, if the Janitorial or garbage collectors stopped working even for a few days, it could be disastrous. I can guess it would be a discomfort similar to what citizens of Bordeaux have faced during the strike of the garbage collectors.
There is no meaningful comparison of different professions when it comes to the discussion about which profession is the best one for society, because every profession has its own dynamics, has different importance and has different purposes. Comparing professions, for example comparing lawyers with engineers, is meaningless because each one is serving society and neither can replace the other. Similarly, there is no profession which is worthy of disdain. Every profession has its own importance.
When people keep their places/cities/countries unclean this depicts that actually their mentally is unclean. In such societies majority of people think that Janitors and garbage collectors are low grade people, that they are filthy because they clean and collect filth. The same majority also think that garbage collectors’ job is to collect the garbage therefore only they should do it. The dreadful attitudes of such judgemental people will not only let down the people associated with cleaning and collecting garbage services but also keep the majority people filthy by not recognizing their contribution to our society.
Cleanliness is that act which is given high priority in every developed society and in every religion. As far as Islamic teachings are concerned we have forgotten that the importance of cleanliness is so high that it is said that cleaning comprises 50% of our religious practice. So it is surprising and sad to me that we are so easily forgetting 50% of our religion because of our ignorance.
Therefore, everyone of us should have realization towards the importance of janitorial and garbage collecting services and understand that it’s not only their responsibility to keep societies clean. All of us need to be more responsible and less unclean.