Have we, the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, no police force, no courts, no Government?
A ridiculous question it might seem, but very relevant in view of the current social deterioration in our country.
Our social reality today is that there is a blatant lack of respect for person, property and institution, clear displays of gross irresponsibility and impatience, but worse of all, there is an unbelievable tolerance to such behaviour and an apparent reluctance to do anything about it. Every manifestation of these symptoms rapidly is put in the cauldron of partisan politics and either officialdom treats it as a political “hot potato” or those in the Opposition, even if they privately frown on the action, at best turn a blind eye hoping to benefit from any political fall-out.
Let me give one glaring example. Any concerned Vincentian citizen must have observed that we are living in a “noisy society” which gets worse by the day. The days when we could market our society as “tranquil”, “peaceful” and almost “idyllic”, have long gone. Today, starting with capital Kingstown, but extending even to rural villages, noise is everywhere. Our roads are populated by blaring, moving discotheques — both the public mini-vans as well as private vehicles. It is as though those driving on the roads are forcing us to listen to whatever music, (if that word might be permitted), that they choose to play. It does not matter what day of the week, time of day, or location, the bombardment never stops.
Speaking of the roads, there is also the open disregard for road traffic regulations and the safety of other road users, particularly pedestrians, chief among them the elderly, physically challenged and children. Sure, mini-bus drivers, at least many of them, are at fault, but as we would say colloquially, “nah dem alone”. Private vehicle drivers, young and not-so-young, are equally at fault.
Illegal parking, on private and public property alike, including that of heavy vehicles and equipment, parking of private vehicles on narrow village roads hardly leaving room for passing traffic, are all features of our increasingly chaotic society. How are we to handle these negative trends?
There is more. Foul language is now the resort by all ages, sexes and classes. Parent, school child, student, teacher, politician, all make ample use publicly and loudly, of the variations of the “[email protected]#$%” and “mother$%#&@” It no longer matters place and time. Even time-honoured institutions and occasions, once considered sacred, are no longer taboo.
There was a time, for instance, when, if a funeral procession was passing, shops would temporarily close their doors out of respect, any music would be turned off, and conversations lowered in tone. That was then, not now. Funerals have now bypassed weddings and rival fetes in terms of alcohol consumption. Hardly a funeral enters a cemetery today without the accompaniment of mobile bars. That is the stage at which we have arrived and seem determined to slide further down the slope.
Where will it all end? The churches will preach more loudly and vehemently condemn the transgressions. The impact of this is hard to assess but clearly we must go beyond it. There is a Noise Act on our law books that is not being enforced by those with responsibility for doing so. Those in political office, and those aspiring to it, may publicly lament the social deterioration, but seem not willing to sacrifice any perceived political support, and are reluctant to join ranks and insist that the law be respected and our hallowed traditions upheld. There is almost no pressure on the worst offenders to shape up or else ….
It is a far from healthy social environment, which helps to spawn even more dangerous behaviour — crime, violence, drug-dealing and prostitution, of both the male and female variety. There is an acceptance of what we used to call “anti-social behaviour”. Today we can no longer use the term “anti-social” because the society accepts the behaviour. Even murderers now slip through the gaping legal cracks.
We may not individually hold ready solutions but as citizens, we can at least speak out in abhorrence of the social deterioration. We can let those with public responsibility know that we will not remain blind, deaf, dumb and not aware, and that cheap political partisanship must not be allowed to undermine our social fabric. We have a Government, a police force and a court system. Each must play its part in helping to save our society and the future of our children.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.