Lack of civility


PROBABLY few Guyanese, if any, did not pay attention to United States 2016 presidential elections. If persons did not directly follow events, they would have been indirectly informed by others. One of the most memorable soundbites of the campaign was in First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

In apparent response to the verbal attacks President Barack Obama was facing, she told the world that the family’s coping mechanism is built around the motto: “When they go low, we go high.” This statement became an international hit and probably one of the most profound in defining acceptable political behaviour. The Obamas left the White House with the president’s job approval rating at 53 per cent, having won the 2012 election with 51 percent of the votes.

Thursday’s crass behaviour of the opposition in and outside of the Pegasus Hotel was by any standards the lowest of human behaviour. Video footage of presidential hopeful Irfaan Ali blocking the path of a minister’s vehicle and summoning his followers to “do as they please, since there was no government and no minister,” reveals the true nature of some of our leaders of today.

It can only be hoped that there would be appreciation for the fact that being an opposition leader or MP does not mean one has to be crass, disrespectful of the other, show no regard for authority, or engage in the abuse of authority and privilege. Were our children behaving in like manner as those MPs and supporters of the opposition they would have been punished, and deservedly so. In this media age, adults should remember that when they behave like rascals they are not only failing themselves, but their children, family and society.

In the midst of the mob on Thursday was also a Pentecostal ‘Bishop’ Juan Edghill who no doubt must have read the scriptures which speak about obeying authorities and the general biblical guide of civility and good manners. The less-than-desirable behaviour from him not for the first time; one would recall his defiance of the Speaker’s order for him to take his seat and he was later suspended for misconduct. Being in opposition does not mean the party or its members have to oppose for the sake of opposing. Being in the government does not mean that the group or its members have to ignore the voice of the opposition. Being on either side of the House does not grant licence to be unbecoming.

When persons holding offices of esteem behave undignified, their decisions and actions impact children, including theirs, in deciphering right and wrong behaviours. In this school or university of life, this creates confusion in the minds.

Some will emulate and others reject, setting in train clashes of influences, re-defining new ‘norms’ and ‘ethics,’ invariably contributing to lowering standards in society by making unacceptable behaviour, acceptable. Of concern too is the seeming or determined behaviour of being unable to separate ‘not liking’ the leaders to respecting their offices and right to discharge their responsibilities.

Public and influential office holders play very significant roles in society and it would help should they reflect on their importance and live up to society’s expectations of them. They are not only there to serve the public good, but to also be role models for others. And where civility is losing its pre-eminence in society, our children suffer, given that they can only be what they learn, see and are exposed to.