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Worrying indicators

Aug 17,2017 - Last updated at Aug 17,2017

Society's progress is measured, in part, by the quality of people's public conduct. Judging from this  angle, our society's performance leaves much to be desired.

Over the years, of course, much has improved. And this should always be recognised and appreciated.

In these  service-providing institutions that have adopted clear, orderly systems of service provision, for example, we find people's conduct extremely satisfactory.

We see a lot of orderly behaviour — because of the systems put in place — in banks, hotels, restaurants, the Motor-Vehicle Department, the Social Security Corporation, phone companies etc.

Generally, where there is a strict system in place, there is good conduct. 

In a bank where clients are expected to pick numbers and wait to be served, violations are almost zero. Everyone sits and waits for their number to be called.

This is a case where smart solutions, no matter how simple, work. However, it is also a case where the system and its monitoring go together.

These numbers on the small pieces of paper have done miracles and they have proved to be much better than queues.

Despite that, problems occur, either when there are no clear systems, or when people find ways to get around or to get away with violating  the systems, especially in the absence of strict monitoring and strict law enforcement.

Such problems occur in a variety of settings where — despite signs, warnings, appeals to conscience, etc. — many people (though by no means all) commit violations, some of which are stark and dangerous.

Littering in public is one of such cases.  So is smoking in places where it is prohibited; cheating in exams; plagiarism in writing assignments or conducting research; festive firing; smearing others in social or even formal media; car theft; motoring; etc.

Where conduct is generally unmonitored or unsupervised, a lot of stark violations happen.

This has been the case in our society for so many decades. Formerly, in fact, two individual traits used to curb negative or deviant behaviour in public: "politeness" (al adab or al khajal) and "shame" (al 'ayb). Now that many individuals and groups in our society seem to have lost both notions, disorderly conducts escalated.

It is this escalation that is both unfortunate and worrying.

It is "unfortunate", because our society is expected to move forward and not backward.

It is "worrying", because the spread and escalation of unruly behaviour reflects negatively — at times tragically — on the lives and livelihoods of people.

Take two examples of this negative escalation.

The first example is motoring. Once upon a time, we used to complain of an uncomfortable, even chaotic, traffic situation. 

Now we suffer not only from a visible increase in fatal accidents, but also from "terror" on the roads. Some motorists have moved from rude and reckless behaviour to blatant harassment, even terrorisation, of other motorists or pedestrians, without the slightest regard to anyone or anything.

This is bad.

The second example is the so-called wasta (the negative intervention on behalf of someone; nepotism; favouritism).

Once upon a time, some individuals used to intervene — often in tactful or "polite" ways — in order to help some undeserving individuals (their relatives, friends, neighbours, associates). In extreme cases, they used to "pull strings" for them.

At present, wasta has escalated into outright manipulation and blackmail. Not only has the number of individuals intervening on behalf of others dramatically increased, but also their methods of intervention have worsened: outright blackmail, character assassination, etc.

Many of those in our institutions who attempt to maintain standards, uphold the law, and stop violations, find themselves subject to attack and blackmail by those who intervene aggressively and shamelessly on behalf of relatives and buddies. 

Some of those practising such violations are, in fact, individuals who themselves are expected to uphold the law and maintain fair standards.

Smart solutions are needed to curb such unacceptable behaviour.

In the case of the traffic, cameras seem to be making an impact and they seem to be the smart solution that we have been waiting for. We have to wait and see.

In the case of the wasta and other maladies, we are still waiting for smart solutions, as nothing we are doing — except remaining steadfast in the face of the storm at all expense — seems to work.

 

Yes, there are some truly worrying indicators of escalation of subversive conduct in our society that we need to firmly and collectively address.

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Comments

Well said, and very true.
However the solution is quite simple. Things like the erosion of politeness and shame and a sense of justice are certainly at the root of the problems, But what is at the root of the erosion of these sentiments? These are moral/religious sentiments. The further we move from religion, the further they disappear. While smart solutions are a viable quick fix, they do not remove the root of the problem. The true solution to most of these problems would be a re-education of the population in Islam. As the Propher (SAW) said - he had not been sent except to perfect good manners. These universaland

THIS IS A FINE AND WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE THAT NEEDS A PUBLIC DEBATE FROM THE GOVERNMENTAL LEVEL TO ALL THE CITIZENS.

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