Of Somebody Else’s Problem

SEP someone else's problem

Of somebody else’s problem

An SEP (Somebody else’s problem) is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot.

If you are not a fan, which I am of Douglas Adams’s book Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy A Trilogy in four parts then you may not be familiar with how the origin of the phrase….

Someone Else's Problem Field


“Somebody Else’s Problem field, or SEP, is a cheap, easy, and staggeringly useful way of safely protecting something from unwanted eyes. It can run almost indefinitely on a torch (flashlight)/9 volt battery, and is able to do so because it utilises a person’s natural tendency to ignore things they don’t easily accept, like, for example, aliens at a cricket match. Any object around which an S.E.P. is applied will cease to be noticed, because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else’s. An object becomes not so much invisible as unnoticed”

Life,The Universe and Everything Douglas Adam HITCHHIKER’s GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

But here’s the thing somebody else’s problem has a way of coming back and causing quite a stink which one cant ignore……

There used to be this skinny mangy looking dog that would terrorise our trash can and rip out the big black plastic trash bags we left out for the rubbish man to collect. Trash collection day is supposed to be every Thursday morning. Way back when the city fathers ran an efficient service delivery system,  you knew if you left your trash out at 7 in the morning like clockwork by 8 in the morning the garbage truck would have passed and the streets would be empty and it was beautiful.

Now I guess refuse removal services are not on their list of priorities I guess they have more pressing concerns like trying to prevent water borne disease outbreaks reclaiming the CBD from the street vendors who have invaded the city pavements

harare vendors

Of course they say service delivery is poor because rate payers are not paying rates and naturally the rate payers refuse to pay for poor or non-delivered services  and so we have what we have.

You leave the trash outside and sometimes they come and collect, if they don’t you could brave it out and leave the trash outside, until they eventually get round to coming maybe in a week maybe more; or you could carry your trash right back into the yard otherwise stray dogs will come and have a field day; all your rubbish scattered on the driveway for the whole neighborhood to see.

So there was this stray, a mangy dog skinny, kinda crazy eyed and slightly foaming at the mouth, I never made eye contact with it, they sense fear. That’s what I read somewhere. It would to terrorise the whole neighbourhood, and we had to figure out innovative ways of securing and disposing of our trash until the trashman eventually made an appearance.

Whose dog was it? I don’t know it wasn’t my problem.

Notice how I use past tense when I mention the dog, that there was this stray dog, that’s because one day not too long ago, some speeding motorist ran over it, who didnt see it because it wasnt his problem ended its streak of tyranny, didnt even slow down or stop just kept speeding on and before it died, in one final act of defiance, the dog crawled and died right across from my gate. I guess somehow it must have heard me curse as I cleaned up after an episode of its rampant ravaging of the trash “someone do me a favour and put that dog out of my misery

Well, now there it was dead and just outside my gate, too.

dead dog

Somebody should take care of that I thought, but it aint my dog and I didnt run over it. “Its somebody else’s problem” I thought as I walked right past it.

I walked past the dead dog and I did not see it. I did not see it decompose a little each day I didn’t even as much as spare it a thought as it changed into a rotten carcass, stinking up the neighborhood, I didn’t see it but I could smell it, the putrid stench of decay and after a while not even that because it wasn’t my problem, it was somebody else’s problem……. I suppose it eventually decomposed away or whatever. Does this story sound familiar?

There’s a somewhat stinky moral in there somewhere. Half the problems and challenges we are facing these days are that no one steps in because its somebody else’s problem, you walk past a long queue of people waiting to get just a little bit of cash from the bank but that’s not your problem because the central reserve bank is your personal bank, you walk past a child too young to be in the street and you keep walking because its somebody else’s problem, you walk past a group of people being abusive to someone else, and well…. Its somebody else’s problem.

I am not saying we should walk around not minding our own business and butting into everything and anything but maybe we should. The first step is simply stopping and pointing out to someone else, this is a problem what should we do about it?………….

What happens when a generation who wont ask for help because they cannot admit being wrong or that things aren’t working out meets a generation who won’t stop to help because well its not their problem…….

its NOT someone else's problem


Day five of my blog everyday challenge







  1. I understand where you are coming from. Most people (we) at times if not most brush things aside because we believe its someone’s else problem. At times, if not most, there would be utterly nothing that one can do. I believe some persons needs to be held accountable to their problems, that way, we will feel less guilty of someone’s else problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree completely.
      All I am saying is we should not walk around seeing only what we want to see and not seeing what we dont want to see…..
      We need balance and accountability.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Listen, I totally get it. But this one time i made someones problem my problem and that turned out to be so sour. i found myself dragged into worry and depression more than i should have. We need to be wise which problems we make our problems.

    Liked by 1 person

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