Any conversation on civic sense, or the lack thereof, cannot be complete without looking at the relationship between the individual and the society he or she lives in. Because it seems, from personal experience, that we have different standards for ourselves, and the society.
For example, we see people wasting endless litres of water as they wash their cars and/or driveways. And we shake our heads in disgust as we drive by. But at home, we will waste water by running the tap and/or shower, because we are waiting for it to cool or heat up.
Or when a car overtakes us from the left. We will come up with that wondrous hand gesture, which at its core, stand for what the hell? But when we ourselves are in a hurry, then left or right, doesn’t matter.
The examples are endless, but hopefully you get the idea. We live by a different set of rules for ourselves, and different ones for the society we live in. The real issue then, is to understand why we have these different set of rules?
Some say it’s about convenience. Others say it’s about a flagrant disregard for the system. Some believe that it has to do with education, and exposure. Yet others believe its state’s fault, its laissez faire attitude has brought us to this point.
It’s probably a bit of everything. But it’s quite funny to see Pakistanis following every rule in the book when they step out of the country. They stay in lines and in their lanes, wait their turn, don’t urinate or spit in the open, etc.
Why then, can’t we do it in our neck of the woods? I do think that it has a lot to do with the examples we set, both in public and private. What our children see us do at home and out in the street, all other things remaining constant, there is a high likelihood that they may behave in the same manner. That aside, if I see someone breaking a line, then I will wonder, what the hell am I doing in the line anyway? And pretty soon, there will be five lines instead of one. All it takes is one bad apple really. And we’ve got orchards full.
Another important reason is time. Sometimes, doing the right thing takes more time and energy than we are willing to spend. So if that means breaking a signal, driving on the wrong side of the road, or hanging on to that wrapper, if it’s not convenient to do the right thing, we won’t do it.
Also read: If everybody is doing it, why can’t we?
Recently, I was turning onto a one way street, with the traffic moving from right to left. Clearly, I was looking at oncoming traffic from the right to find the right opportunity to turn. The moment came, and I started moving, only to bang straight into a car which was coming from the left, in the opposite direction of the traffic. So I rolled down my window, and asked the lady what the hell was she thinking? And she indignantly replied, you should have been more careful, I do this every day.