Becoming a more orderly society

If you ask a group of Bahamians to come to discuss an issue at a meeting at a place at 10 a.m., some will arrive at 10:05 a.m. Others will wander in at 10:10 a.m. The remainder you’ll see sometime between 10:15 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.

When the government shifted to a new vehicle licensing system, long after all the old plates should have been off the streets, quite a few people boldly drove around with vehicles unlicensed. They didn’t care that they were obviously breaking the law.

Take a moment the next time you are at a traffic intersection. Watch when the light turns red. Count the number of people who drive through the red light. Do the same thing at your next intersection. Stopping at red lights is discretionary in the minds of many of our people. There is no concern that they could kill. There is no concern it’s illegal.

We “tip” customs officers so that our companies don’t have to pay legally owed duty; we get building inspectors to pass our structures without inspecting them just because we paid them a “lil somethin” on the side; with a few dollars slid to a hand, prison officers make sure our incarcerated relatives get that “special thing” we sent to them; you get to keep your illegally sourced seafood because a few bags are left for Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers.

Corruption, indiscipline, irresponsibility and a disregard for rules are at the heart of the modern Bahamian mindset. This is especially so in New Providence, where most of the population lives. Order has broken down.

Government cannot fix all these problems, but it can set the tone.

We have laws against driving unlicensed vehicles, running the light and bribing public officers. What has been lacking is the will from leadership to ensure consistent enforcement of the laws and rules intended to help make this place orderly.

If police presence is inconsistent, traffic laws would be broken. If there is no follow-up with the ticketed, people would not pay traffic fines and feel punishment. If investigators don’t aggressively pursue corruption cases, there would be no consequence to taking bribes.

A prime minister has a major role to play here. As leader of the government, it is important that he pressures heads of agencies to enforce and follow the laws and rules in place. It is also important that he removes agency heads who do not. When he and his government search for such leaders, they should always do their best to ensure the people chosen are honest and share the belief that order should be maintained and that rules are enforced and followed.

As individuals, we must do better, too. We can’t keep complaining about crime and deteriorating social conditions when we refuse to follow rules. Abide by the traffic laws. Pay your taxes. Stop bribing public officers to advance your agendas. Help by being part of the solution and teach your children to follow the laws.

When each person does what he or she wants without regard for established guidelines, chaos ensues. We could easily have a more orderly society if more of us committed to the rules.

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