Responsible Behavior Is Part Of Civic Duty

20 December 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Jeddah dwellers are keenly aware that this is a vacation week for schools across the Kingdom. The Jeddah/Makkah region is normally a major draw among the Kingdom's premier cities during such breaks when families in towns and villages make a beeline for the larger cosmopolitan cities and those near the sea are usually the ones in greater demand.

With its geographical location by the Red Sea and the relaxed and diverse nature of its inhabitants, Jeddah is a premier magnet for thousands of Saudis who make their journey to this city. A resident will quickly notice such mass migration by changes in the patterns on the roads and in public places, such as shopping malls.

On the roads, the unfamiliarity of the city streets leads a lot of visitors to commit some major traffic violations such as driving on the wrong side of the road or driving extremely slow or fast on our freeways. Perhaps the lack of a massive road network in their towns and villages does provide a challenge for some of these motorists, a lot of whom have driven to the city with their families.

That naturally contributes to traffic jams that are an ongoing convenience which, unfortunately, are expected to continue. Officials have been promising progress in this area for many years, but most of it was just talk. In some parts of the city, traffic has become much worse.

Residents as well as visitors increasingly show a lack of respect with regard to proper roadside manners. As the city gets crowded, drivers often block pedestrians by leaving their cars on the sidewalk forcing people to walk in the street. Where are the authorities who should be monitoring such blatant violations? The Saher cameras are not able to capture such abuse.

Then there is the flagrant disregard for public cleanliness. Litter including empty soda cans is flung out of the windows of speeding vehicles onto sidewalks or is strewn along the street as people wander about the city. Paper or plastic items are thrown just about everywhere except in the nearest garbage can.

Some people persist in habits that make this city dirty. Very few do it because they don't know better. It's more the fact that there is someone in blue coveralls around the corner who will soon pick up the mess. The general laziness of people is why trash is not bagged and put in appropriate containers.

Islam like all of the leading religions stresses the importance of cleanliness in our manner of living. That means following those practices that contribute to a clean society. While a father can preach to his children the importance of keeping the neighborhood and city clean, he must lead by example. A father who carelessly dumps trash out of his car window while driving and without giving it a second thought is often observed by his offspring, who in turn one day will do the same. An employer or a fellow worker not committed to this civic duty can inadvertently influence others who will one day develop the same bad habits.

We cannot expect the authorities to continue picking up the mess we carelessly leave behind. The authorities in recent times have put a lot of effort into cleaning up the city. But the response from residents and tourists alike does not augur well for the creation of a cleaner environment.

It is indeed the lack of respect for our surroundings and the absence of a collective will that has created this mountain of dirt out of a molehill. And it will not disappear unless we discipline ourselves in accordance with our faith and are kind to our neighbors and our environment by upholding the doctrine of cleanliness in every act we perform.

Civic sense must be taught early in the home and in primary schools. Only when the message is understood by one and all can we expect to see a change for the better. But until then, we will always need those industrious men in blue coveralls.

The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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