Almost every other morning I see a gentleman driving through the colony where I reside, probably on his way to his office or work place. The size of his car and his get-up tells me that he is man of good position. He stops for a while, downs the power driven window of his SUV, pulls out a fair sized garbage filled carry bag and throws it in the green belt along the main road of the colony, while holding an oversized cell phone to his ears. I tried to challenge him once for his misadventure, but he not only showed immense anger on my intervention, but also reminded me that “Yeh jagah Kisi ke baap ki jageer nahi hai”. His scornful stare dampened my courage to challenge him again as he sped away flashing a triumphant smile. Many other people like him are finding it convenient to bring the garbage packs from their homes and throw it in the green belt alongside the colony. Even a couple of highbrows from the colony itself do it quite often than not. With exceptions, the story of lack of civic sense is same all across valley.
We often see people throwing packs of waste, wrappers, empty water bottles and fruit peelings out of their cars on roads, in the streets and everywhere convenient to them. Bigger volumes of garbage find way into the rivers and streams wherever available. The same situation is encountered at our prized picnic spots, be it the parks, the meadows, the river banks, the hill side, the streams, the springs and everywhere around. People enjoy the picnic and throw the leftover food and the waste at the most a little away, or leave it there if they intend to move to another place.
During marriage season, the situation is all the more worse. Huge amounts of leftover food from the mega feasts, heaps of plastic disposable articles, mounds of packing wrappers can been seen scattered in and around the localities after the ceremonies are over. The adjoining roads and the streets are littered and dirtied emitting foul smell after street animals arrive to claim their share. We leave it to the municipality sweepers to clean the mess. When the same sweeper knocks at our door for collection of his monthly dues, we bombard him with complaints and, many refuse to pay on one or the other pretext. Most of the times we blame the government for all the mess we actually create. It is easy to pin everything on the government or the authorities, but people never question themselves or their own civic sense. Roads are not dirty because nobody cleaned it, but because somebody dirtied them in the first place. It is pity that people are so irresponsible with the disposal of the day to day waste. During Id-ul-Zuha, one could see people shamelessly throwing the waste of sacrificed animals into Jhelum.
Civic sense, conspicuous by its absence in and around our society is a matter that needs to be widely discussed and debated and addressed individually as well as collectively. Unfortunately most of us do not care much for it and this attitude is prevalent across all sections of society. People today are so preoccupied with and acutely driven towards their personal goals that their commitments towards a healthy society have taken a back seat. Civic sense as an ethics has become a matter of least concern, rather an undesired feature.
A broad-based trait and prevalently seen in foreign countries, civic sense is the foundation of social ethics defining societies and nations. We badly find ourselves deficient of this trait which marks our inconsideration towards the development of a healthy society. Lack of it is harmful in the long run and detrimental to our own existence. We as a society generally do not care about keeping our roads, streets and other public utilities clean. This shows our disrespect to the basic ethics of social and civic considerations.
However, that is not all about our society. We also fail badly when it comes to abiding law and showing respect to fellow citizens, particularly on the roads, and maintaining proper decorum at public places or showing any social discipline at public service centres. A strong civic sense has a potential of creating prosperous and progressive nation. And lack of it makes people insensitive and arrogant resulting in developing a sick society. A high degree of civic discipline is predominant in such societies which are considered rich and prosperous in today’s scenario.
Consequently our society is plagued by arrogance, bigotry, intolerance and to top it the traffic rage, which are most common manifestation of lack of civic sense. We are unfortunately becoming less and less tolerant of each other’s existence, values, culture and backgrounds. Living around together as a society has virtually become difficult as people have no considerations for fellow city dwellers.
The most prominent display of social indiscipline is at display on the roads and in the current state of public transport. The situation is depressing when we see people jumping over one another to board a cab even if the cab is capable of accommodating all. Boarding a public transport cab on arrival at the local railway stations is a herculean task and a sensitive person is put to shame on seeing people madly running, jostling and pushing one another in order to be the first to board the vehicle. Imagine the plight of women commuters in such a situation. Same is the case when we are driving along the city roads, unmindful that there are others too who have to attend their own businesses of same urgency as that of our own, may be sometimes even more important. We show no regard to lane driving and no respect to traffic signal. We ensure that nobody takes us over and if anybody does try, we give him a contemptuous stare to carry a message that he would have to face the consequences had we not been in a hurry. We always feel that all other persons are bad drivers and have owned their vehicles by virtue of bank loans or bad business. The attitude often results in mess and chaos on the roads and we keep on cursing all except ourselves. We have no one to blame but ourselves for this condition.
In addition to being deficient in civic sense and social discipline, we are also generally high on the level of arrogant tendencies. Conceit, whether we practice it publicly or just inside our own mind is what most of us are ill of. Exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation, or power, egotism, conceit, grandiosity, and self-importance are general manifestations of the trait called arrogance which prevails in abundance all around. Our inner desires to get others to see us as special, perfect or flawless keeps our attention away from our own imperfections, weaknesses and faults, thereby keeping our self-esteem artificially inflated.
We need to inculcate in ourselves the importance of civic sense and social discipline because civic sense is a school of thought in itself for a better and healthy life. It is belief in hygiene, respect for other members of society, and humane behaviour and social responsibility which has a potential of building us big. The practice of cleanliness and discipline has to move outside of home to the entire surroundings, streets, roads and all public places. We may not be born with default self discipline; we need to develop it, and we must know, teach and be taught about its importance in our lives so as to make a difference to the society as well as the quality of our own lives.