My childhood spanned the 1960s.
I am blessed with a pretty good memory, and I can remember JFK’s assassination (yes, I know where I was), hippies, psychedelia (no, not first-hand, though that would explain some things), cigarette commercials, the first anti-smoking commercials, Laugh-In, miniskirts (I liked miniskirts), micro-miniskirts (I really liked micro-miniskirts), and Chief Iron Eyes Cody.
If you don’t remember Chief Iron Eyes Cody, that is unfortunate, because he was emblematic of one of the better movements to arise in the 1960s and carry through to today. Although President Johnson’s wife Lady Bird took on the task of beautifying America, it was a series of commercials showing a montage of images highlighting the physical rot and decay and pollution located in various parts of the United States that really helped bring the issue home to a lot of Americans, especially impressionable young kids. At the end of each commercial, Chief Iron Eyes Cody stood on a vista overlooking the land, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. He dramatized the hurt and disgust a lot of folks felt when they saw their polluted land. Chief Iron Eyes Cody died in 1999, but the pride most Americans feel in NOT polluting survives into the 21st Century – thanks in no small part to those commercials.
I’ve decided the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia needs to find a Chief Iron Eyes Cody. The other day, I saw a man throw a drink cup and a sandwich wrapper out the window as he drove down the street. I remember seeing that type of thing when I was a kid, and I am sure it still happens occasionally; but, I personally have not witnessed such blatant disregard in the U.S. in enough time that nothing specific comes to mind. Here, in KSA, it is common place.
The sides of roads are lined with garbage. The gutters of streets can look like a trash bin in the mornings, before the little brown people come along and sweep things up by hand. People go out at night and sit in the desert (we call them sandsitters) or in parks or in parking lots or along the sides of roads or streets and enjoy the cool of the evening with friends and family – leaving behind massive amounts of trash when they depart. For a nation that takes such pride in being proud, it is shocking how little the populace seems to care about the pollution of their streets, roads, parks, and deserts.
So, I have become convinced they need a Chief Iron Eyes Cody to stand in archetypal drama and shame them into picking up their litter – just as we Americans had to have done to us some 40 years ago. Can you see the commercial – a Bedouin sheikh sitting astride a camel, atop a sand dune, staring down at the trashed picnic area left behind by revelers from the night before – a single tear rolling down his windburned and wrinkled cheek?
It worked once. I don’t know why it couldn’t work again.