EVERY Guyanese wants to live in a perfect society and this is all well and good, because as human beings we deserve to and are capable of making it possible. Oftentimes, Guyanese compare, and seek after, societies considered to be having better standards of living and their people courteous and orderly. Even as comparisons are understandably made and some condemnations are in order, the absence of recognition of our roles and requisite systems being put in place to bring about this state is frankly a responsibility we have to shoulder.
Recognition and acknowledgement of failings ought not to be seen as belittling, but necessary engagements in self-critique to address human frailties as a pre-requisite for growth and development. There are two sore issues where citizens — irrespective of politics– are united in daily concern. These are the constant road accidents and our physical environment. There is unanimity that the number of road accidents and the causalities from them make road usage a stressful encounter for the law-abiding within our midst. Yet, there will continue to be persons who use the roadways without regard for the traffic laws and fellow road-users. Such attitude may speak to the daredevil nature in some of us, disregard for law (i.e. traffic regulations), and absence of courtesy for others.
Road causalities will not be reduced unless strong penalties are put in place, inclusive of swift justice to serve as a deterrent. Every life is precious and if others do not want to treat theirs as such, they have no right to deny others the right to life and limb. The continuous attention to the callous use of our roads is being done in the hope that courtesy will manifest among road users and the traffic laws will be obeyed, or stringent measures will be put in place to halt what is evidently becoming cause for grave concern.
As we bemoan the state of our physical environment, there continues to be trash strewn around; drains clogged with food boxes, bottles and so forth; yards and parapets overgrown with weeds; risk of mosquito infestation and communicable diseases. Poor environmental practices aid in creating the unsightly environment we rightly bemoan and condemn, yet these bad practices continue. In other societies, such acts carry heavy penalties with the aim of serving as deterrents.
Guyanese will leave these shores and visit other countries and instantly comply with maintaining the environment and observing the laws. This in part is due to their loved ones nudging them to do likewise, awareness that they will face the consequence of the law should they deviate, or impressed by the orderliness, courtesy and aesthetics, feel compelled to act accordingly. Conversely, as soon as they return to these shores, they fall back into bad practices. What ought not to be lost sight of in such societies is the sense of responsibility borne by citizens and visitors to conform to the rules/laws, lest they suffer the consequences. In short, these societies don’t leave it up to the people to act in a certain manner; laws are put in place to ensure conformity.
No society, be it its systems or people, functions in an orderly manner and engage in productive activities without the inputs of its people in shouldering their civic responsibilities. It is also true that while human beings can be self-serving, cruel to the other, and disregard conditions in society necessary for the good of the collective, laws are put in place to curb such tendencies.
And even as governments and corporate entities exercise their responsibilities such as in making laws and the provision of social services and community supports, citizens too have their responsibilities. These responsibilities, outside of paying taxes, require obeying the laws, treating each other with courtesy, and taking pride in one’s surroundings and the use of the public good. At the same time, it should be said that there exists a tendency in our culture, on the part of all three groups and in all areas of our welfare, to focus more on building with little attention given to enforcement and maintenance. Where these are not being given equal priority, things will fall apart and could create dire consequences for the people and prove to be cost-prohibitive. The perfect society we rightly yearn for, the responsibility rests with us as citizens to create by our actions as individuals, government and corporate entities.