x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Today, patriotism starts by cleaning up after the party

Living in the UAE carries many privileges, but there are also responsibilities.

Have you ever woken up to a mess after you've thrown a really big, fun party? I'm sure the answer is yes because once all the guests leave, the host is always too tired to clean up. The thing about throwing a party is that it's always a lot of fun when it's happening, but the next day is inevitable.

Now, think about that scenario on a countrywide scale. We just celebrated our 41st year. As a young nation that has come a long way, both citizens and residents have so much to be proud of and celebrate. And each year, the celebrations get bigger and better.

Out come the patriotic displays in the colours of the UAE flag, with everything from coloured wigs to streamers. Shops decorate their stores and give special discounts; people put up large flags at their homes and decorate their cars; some go as far as wearing their national pride on their fingernails, shirts and shaylas.

All of this has been great, but the aftermath of celebrations can get to me. Each year, authorities tell people that they shouldn't overdo it. Don't bang on people's windows as they drive, don't spray their cars, don't overdecorate your car so that the plates can't be seen, don't stick body parts out of moving cars, don't litter, don't harass people. Pretty simple. But I recall two years ago, partygoers were spray painting peoples' homes.

The warnings aren't always taken seriously and, every year, just as the celebrations get larger, so does the mess.

Last year, I saw a status update from a friend at 8am the day after National Day, which said: "Who wants to help me clean up our neighbourhood?" I jumped out of bed and told her I'd join her. So we bought some supplies and met halfway on Jumeirah Road, where most of the chaos took place.

What we found was that many others who care about the country had started their own clean-ups in their own neighbourhoods and cities.

Others slowly joined us as we spread the word through social media. Our friends, and even just passersby in cars, joined us - and told their families and friends. About 300 young people turned out at Jumeirah Road that day, and the event even made the news.

The message we meant to get across was that you can have a good time, but think about what you are doing to our home. Some irresponsible people think that because we have municipal blue-collar cleaners, they can do what they want and someone else will clean up after them. This is an attitude that many people have nowadays. If people can pay someone else to do things for them, many will not consider their actions.

Places that sell National Day items should start by telling people to party responsibly. Authorities give warnings, and will go as far as fining or arresting people who don't obey the rules. But there is only so much that someone else can do to instil personal responsibility. On a celebratory occasion such as National Day, that is all the more true.

Each of us has a responsibility to give back. We're lucky to live in this country and to have the blessings that we have. Perhaps everyone should recognise their privileges, and act accordingly.

 

Aida Al Busaidy is a social affairs columnist and former co-host of a Dubai television show

OnTwitter: @AidaAlB