At birth most of us are born with five senses, exceptional few with sixth sense but none is born with civic Sense. Though we have the ability to speak but words and languages are taught to us by the adults. Similarly civic sense too has to be taught and inculcated.
With the exception of a couple of lessons in school or at home, not much attention is given to civic behaviour of the child. Faced by tough academic challenges and expectations to excel in exams , both teachers and parents are unable to devote much time to educate the children about the importance of civic sense and how it could make a difference to the country as well as contribute to the betterment of their own lives. While preparation for examinations is afforded priority, value formation, character building, and focusing on building ethnical standards in children regrettably are not given adequate emphasis in our school curriculum. Robert Fulghum wrote a book titled All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten where in he said, “ ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School”.
Civic sense is nothing but social ethics or the unspoken norms of society. It is not just about keeping the roads, streets and public property clean but also has to do with abiding with law, respecting others point of view maintaining decorum in public places. Individualism, vandalism, intolerance, racism, road rage etc. are all examples of lack of civic sense. People are becoming less and less tolerant of each other, of other’s cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs and behaviour.
Disregard for the law is a primary cause for lacking civic sense. The current state of public transport, for example, is disheartening. There are spit marks, urine, vulgar graffiti, random garbage and overflowing sewers at every nook and corner. No one is to be blamed but ourselves for this condition. We put the waste or wrappers in the bin lying in kitchen and teach our children to do so but overlook when the child throws it on the road. We should realize that teaching civic sense is as important as warning him against fire. Latter harms him directly whereas lack of knowledge of civic sense can or rather has proved catastrophic for society.
Roads are not dirty because nobody cleaned it, but they are strewn with garbage because we threw the muck in the first place. As human beings such dirt and grime is not acceptable to us but it still exists around us because we accuse everybody for it and wanting someone to remove it. Dengu- a disease which has proved fatal for many and has spread across the country was caused by the absence of hygiene. The boundary wall of our colony was being used as open urinal. It used to stink so much that even the ‘safai karamchari’ used to avoid sweeping it. When requests failed, the residents of our society got pictures of God’s painted on the boundary wall of our colony. From open urinal it soon became a sight of pleasure with clean swept side walk.
People today are so driven towards their personal goals that civic sense as an ethic has become a low priority, almost a nuisance to those who disregard it as unnecessary evil. This attitude could be harmful for the society in the long run.
This situation was not always true; we were never as uncivil as we are today. Why this deterioration in civic sense? Self containment could be the plausible reason. We do not bother about needs of others. Civility is conspicuous by its absence. Right from the beginning since man started living as socialized being; efforts have been made to instil civic sense either through stories or religion. All ancient civilizations had taken upon them the responsibility of maintaining moral values in society. There might have been different value systems, yet a common factor which brought them on the same platform was propagating moral teachings through storytelling. Jataka tales were a major source for inculcating in people a deep sense of moral values and spread the message of kindness, compassion, generosity, non-violence, self-sacrifice, charity etc.
The Holy Quran along with other teachings advocated civic sense. “O people, Surely we have created you from a male and female, and made you tribes and families that you might know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you with Allah is he who is best in conduct.” [Quran, 49:13]
Valmiki, also known as adi kavi or first poet, exemplified the dos and don’ts of life in the Ramayana, a tale portraying Lord Rama as a model for Hindu virtue. Even today, moral lessons from the Ramayana are adopted by millions as a reference for day-to-day living. Gandhi often compared democracy with Ramrajya, a society with no divide between the rich and the poor and where all religions are treated equally.
Civic virtues have historically been taught as a matter of chief concern. Constitutions of many nations became important in defining the public virtue of republics and monarchies too though latter emphasized more on martial courage than civic virtue of honesty.
In the west concern for civic virtue started with the oldest republics of Athens and Rome. Socrates and Plato were quite concerned about defining the virtues of civic sense; Aristotle viewed citizenship as consisting, not of political rights, but rather of political duties. Citizens were expected to put their private lives and interests aside and serve the country in accordance with duties defined by law.
Rome had number of philosophers such as Cicero, and historians as Tacitus, Sallust, Plutarch and Livy. They tended to blame the loss of liberty on the perceived lack of civic virtue in their contemporaries, contrasting them with idealistic examples of virtue drawn from Roman history
Renaissance scholars tried to gather as many texts of antiquity as they could find, especially in monasteries, from Constantinople, and from the Muslim world. Aided by the rediscovery of the virtue ethics and metaphysics of Aristotle by Avicenna and Averroes, Thomas Aquinas fused Aristotle’s cardinal virtues with Christianity in his Summa Theologica.
Humanists wanted to reinstate the ancient ideal of civic virtue through education. Instead of punishing sinners, it was believed that sin could be prevented by raising virtuous children. Important aspects of civic virtue were: civic communication- listening to others point of views and offering yours without arguments, civilized behaviour- proper mode of dressing, proper use of language and discharging civic responsibility and using civic authority prudently. Parental authority too was included in civic virtue.
Civic virtue was very popular during the Enlightenment but it had changed dramatically. Parental authority began to wane. Freedom became popular.
Civic virtue also became a matter of public interest and discussion during the 18th century. Laws had to be obeyed for the sake of conscience, rather than fear of the ruler’s wrath. In his Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Antient Republicks, the English historian Edward Wortley Montagu sought to describe “the principal causes of that degeneracy of manners, which reduced those once brave and free people into the most abject slavery. Conservatism emphasized family values and obedience to the father and the state. Civic virtues focused on individual behaviour and responsibility there in. I recall the oath we took as girl guides in school which read as this
On my honour I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
To help other people at all times; and to obey the Girls guide Law;
There were many books which were advocating the concept of civic virtue like McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers, a series of primary school textbooks whose compiler, William Holmes McGuffey, deliberately sought out patriotic and religious sentiments to instil these values in the children who read them. William Bennett, produced The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, an anthology of literary materials in an attempt to teach the children to treat the neighbourhood, the society and public property as something meant to be maintained well because the author felt that what we are teaching them was just to keep themselves, their things and their homes in order. With this limiting attitude, it is no wonder that parks, cinemas, roads are/ were all littered, because they did not belong to anyone. Parents, teachers and authors can do to a lot curb this downswing. By setting good examples to their children, parents can easily inculcate good habits in their children. Don’t litter, don’t spit pan, Pull the flush, Stop pilfering, and don’t break signals. Even if you are the only car at a crossing, and there is no cop around, stop at the red light, Queuing at bus stands, ticketing counters, bank counters etc Give up your seat to an old man or lady.. One of the most maddening problems in urban India is honking. Quite often, it is out of habit and not a necessity. Drivers must be made aware of the noise pollution. Generate awareness wherever you can. Let the kids see you putting garbage in trash bins instead of throwing it on the street and they will follow suit. I recently read a news item that a school has decided to take a step towards inculcating civic sense in students and spreading the word through interactive programmes. The students are being sensitized to various civic issues through talks and activities. They are also being taught waste management in the city. They are being encouraged to collect the extra food from their own kitchens that is edible but untouched and would have been otherwise thrown out and giving to the needy and feeding the hungry.
All of us want our children to be successful, but not many make the effort to turn them into good human beings. We must teach our children to respect our planet and do his or her bit for nature. They are simple but essentials means which can encourage our children to save the planet and we must remember to practice what we preach.
If we do not teach our children about social issues, they may not be able to take an appropriate decision when confronted by that issue in society. For example, you need to teach your child about the ill effects of drugs and addiction, what sort of people smoke them and what effect it could have on his life. In fact, you need to inform him that his peers could introduce it to him at school! This knowledge will help him take an appropriate decision if ever confronted by this situation.
There are a lot of social problems like female infanticide, alcoholism, drug abuse, and superstitious beliefs etc. which are still a huge problem in India. It is vital that more and more people be made aware of these issues so that we can fight them as a united country. Social awareness also makes the individual more mature and considerate when it comes to making important decisions. We must lay emphasis on credence to this feature for proper and holistic growth.
Good parenting could be a strong foundation from where each one of us could start building national culture of civic sense and sensibility and making the future citizens of the country aware of the importance of social ethic or societal norms which should not just be followed but should become a way of life. Smooth functioning societies owe a lot of credit to the right amount of civic behaviour among its people. While it is widely accepted that value formation is an essential pre-requisite in nation building, regrettably, adequate, priority has not been given to this important aspect of ‘value formation’ when addressing issues relating to national development. With the degeneration of ethical values and the tragic deterioration of standards of our social, economic and political life, the need for a new model of values which will provide a basis and firm foundation for national development has emerged dominantly.
The need of the hour therefore is to effectively address the problem discouraging behaviour that is detrimental to the country as a whole by instilling a set of values that can lead to creating the ‘right’ mindset in people spread across the country which is an essential prerequisite in building our nation. We should not only make a promise to self that, “I will not only do the right thing but I will also stop others from doing something wrong. We need a sense of ownership, belonging and pride in our country. Values must be reinforced by various means foremost among them being one’s ability to be a living example.
Presently a whole generation is in the danger of becoming trapped within a false value system chasing after a ‘materialistic world.’ Becoming rich fast and amassing wealth seem to be the ‘core’ of all things. In the pursuit of ‘material success’, ethics and values have been relegated to the list of forgotten things. Lust has overcome love; selfishness has superseded generosity, apathy for sympathy, negative and destructive thought for positive constructive thought.
Aristotle said ‘He who is unable to live in society or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or god’ The alarming increase in the crime rate, incidence of violence and the abuses against women and children has even baffled law makers and law enforcing authorities.
Escalation of crime in a country occurs due to numerous factors, one of the chief and the most basic being the lack of religious, cultural and moral values in a society and the other is the lack of education. The positive transformation of society as a whole is therefore an essential prerequisite to national development and this can only be achieved by appropriate value formation.
The essence in value formation is restoring a sense of appreciation for the right and wrong and choosing right from wrong. The importance of education to defend the cultural and historical values and to make our children inheritors of a secure future on the other hand cannot be overemphasized.
Few years back when Tsunami hit Japan and there was complete power failure in Japan, the world was shocked by the tragedy but was also marvelled at the conduct of the people affected. When the city was plunged in darkness. People left the shops, leaving the merchandize on counters. No one took advantage of the darkness. There was no looting or ransacking of stores. No wonder Tokyo is among the most affluent, progressive, safe and orderly cities in the world.
Political ethics and democratic behaviour are concepts alien to most political parties operating in our country today. Sadly enough those concepts have not even found a place in their theory, leave alone the practice. The norms of responsibility and decency must be manifestly and abundantly demonstrated by action, upholding the principles of integrity and transparency. This is the biggest challenge for our leaders today. Walter Lippman maintained “Leaders are the custodians of a nation’s ideals permanent hopes of faith which make a nation out of mere aggregation of individuals” while John Gardner asserted that “Leaders have a significant role in creating the state of mind that is society.”
Civic sense does not come from just enforcement but from a “sense of belonging” which creates pride and a sense of ownership. It is our duty to make every citizen accountable. Law can not be enforced on many things. As a society we have to address this problem in pro-active way and need to build that sense of accountability. A well planned and coherent education system with effective training strategies, and concentrated efforts we will be able to instil values among our younger generation until it becomes second nature in our children. Value formation as a determinant of behaviour is an important phenomenon that cannot be ignored or overlooked.
Source: (www.linkedin.com by Neelmani Bhatia)