During a recent social gathering, a question was asked: “Do we as a society have good civic sense?” Many jumped up and said “Yes!”, but there were some who answered with an emphatic “No!”
I remembered that I had written an article on the subject some time ago and recollected that I had complained then about some people engaging in a wide range of anti-social behavior. Unfortunately, the situation, as I and many others see it, remains the same today.
Hardly a step away from your house, you will come across loads of rubbish on the street at times only a few feet away from a garbage container provided by the municipality. Only yesterday, I saw a box of Kleenex being thrown out of a luxurious car traveling at high speed. The driver was oblivious to the fact that he was breaking two laws, one was littering and the other was driving well over the speed limit. Only last week a family was tragically wiped out after a 16-year-old boy in a Hummer driving at breakneck speed crashed into several vehicles in Jeddah’s Al-Tahlia Street.
Forget littering and driving and consider noise pollution. You are awakened by a cacophony of sounds. It is either someone repeatedly blowing the horn of his car or neighbors playing music so loud that the next day you suffer from sleep deprivation. And even if it’s not siesta time, the tranquility of a quiet afternoon is shattered by deafening sounds, and, no pun intended, if one complains, it falls on deaf ears!!
And then you have to have patience and curb your frustration if a building is being constructed next to you. The bags of cement, stacks of concrete blocks and piles of scaffolding material will take up half the street. You also have to be careful where you park your car at night, because more material may be delivered while you are asleep and in the morning your car will be blocked and you will not be able to get out. And even though the municipal laws forbid the dumping of building material on the city’s streets, who cares?
And while on the same subject, any empty plot of land is used by people as a dumping ground and is soon filled with discarded air conditioners, refrigerators, tires, toilet seats and you name it. These people have never heard of recycling or to be more precise of protecting the environment.
Not so long ago, people loved to build their houses near mosques. It gave them a sense of spirituality, wellness, community and safety. However, today there are many who would rather be a few streets away. For not only are cars parked blocking your driveway, but the streets are also clogged, and there is a daily gathering of undesirable visitors – the groups of mendicants who come and lay on their carpets and beg for alms.
And if you happen to open your door you will find them hovering around you. No neighborhood watch can keep these people away. I have reported this to the anti-beggary squad but nothing has been done about it.
Now these are just a few examples. Others are smoking despite the posting of no-smoking signs at airports, malls, government offices and a number of other places where smoking is not supposed to be allowed. Some smokers do this just to flaunt the rules while daring anyone to say anything to them about it.
However, while complaining about these anti-social activities exhibited by some people, we should also offer some solutions. First of all, I believe that while laws do exist to outlaw such behavior, there is no mechanism to enforce them. We need a massive public awareness campaign pointing out the hazards of pollution, waste, unsafe driving, etc.
Companies that have contracts with the municipality, traffic department, and the airport should allocate part of their budget to a corporate social responsibility program to enhance good civic sense among people.
We don’t need fancy speeches about the subject, but rather a viable action plan involving schools, neighborhoods and society as a whole.
The summer season is now upon us and many of the fortunate ones are packing their bags and heading to Europe, the United States and other counties. I wonder if they will exhibit the same behavior there whether in the streets or even in the sanctity of their residence as they do here.
I bet the answer is no. Among the reasons is the fact that the law spares no one. — The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org