EVER so often, criticisms can be heard from citizens about their disappointment in the pace and quality of development in the society. Nothing is inherently wrong with this type of discontent, given that it can propel persons to participate in or take proactive decisions to bring about the development desired.
Conversely, where opportunities and responsibilities exist to realise these, when they are ignored or flouted they hinder the very desire. For instance, Guyanese bemoan, rightly so, the spate of road accidents and condemn those who are involved. At the same time, even as condemnation is fitting, those who condemn are themselves guilty of not obeying the traffic laws and good practices of the road. Undertaking, driving above the speed limits, and engaging in other acts of discourtesy while using the roads remain daily features.
When the environment is littered with garbage, its unsightly presence and stench attract the ire of citizens. Among those who condemn are the ones who would throw their garbage around rather dispose of it in a bin or keep it on them until it can be properly disposed of. When City Council and other Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) cannot adequately provide services, they are condemned. Again, among those who condemn are those who do not pay their taxes, which the NDCs depend on to do their work.
The physical environment can look chaotic, and negative comparisons made, but to seek to bring orderliness by requiring adherence to some systems such as organised parking would, too, be ignored. Drivers will park in areas clearly marked no parking zones, and private property owners and businesses have taken control of the city’s parapets, determining who can or cannot park in front of their premises. Guyanese have the advantage of not only observing from afar, but also travelling to countries where orderliness in traffic and the physical environment are admired.
Such exposure also allows for comparison with what is happening at home and often condemned. Abroad, Guyanese will not grumble but bid their time waiting in lines, content to observe the prevailing etiquette. The cleanliness of other societies is admired and Guyanese will take their cue in such environments by ensuring proper disposal of their garbage. They also do likewise when using these roads. These practices are, however, not observed at home and it is not unusual to see the return to unacceptable behaviour soon after deplaning. Paying taxes, obeying the laws, and displaying public courtesy are civic responsibilities and important to the development of every society.
Societies would find it difficult to progress when these values are disregarded. The pursuit and maintenance of this help to explain why deterrence is built into laws — such as stiff fines for littering — in order to ensure obedience. It is not a case where Guyanese are incapable of doing the right thing, but there may be need for enforcement such as in increased policing and making the deterrence prohibitive enough to ensure appropriate behaviour.
While some are prepared to uphold their civic responsibilities, where others are not so prepared, strong decisions have to be taken to bring about the needed behavioural change. The clogged drains, garbage thrown around, discourteous drivers, tax defaulters, and other acts of flagrant disregard for laws and proper social conduct not only threaten a nation’s public health, they hinder the type of development the country deserves. This is an area government may find it useful to revisit laws and collaborate with stakeholders.