Sense, Non-Sense and Civic Sense : By Mukund Mate

Do you enjoy really enjoy driving to work everyday ? What is it that puts you off : the actual drive or the utter lack of driving sense of fellow drivers on your way ? How many times have you waited patiently in a queue ( bank, post office, electricity bill counter, railway ticketing etc ) only to have someone else just jump the queue ? How many times have you experienced some other car just drive into the only parking lot available while you were patiently waiting for it to get vacant ? Such behavior does not seem to make sense. Seemingly educated people put up their worst Civic Sense behavior in public spaces. It seems utter non-sense.

Let me take you to Johannesburg – South Africa. It was a rainy day. Traffic up to this point of the day was super efficient and business like, till it started raining. And then at one of the square junctions, the unthinkable happened. There was a gridlock and the traffic piled up on all four sides of the junction. Upon making a few inquiries, I was amazed at the cause of the gridlock. I assure you that you will be shocked with the reason of the gridlock. The computer controlled traffic signal had broken down at the junction due to the rain. Hence, there were no red or green signals. Car drivers at the junction, did not know who should cross the junction as there was NO green signal. No car driver dared to cross the junction. They all stayed beyond the cross line and caused a traffic jam of a different kind. Then a police officer arrived who had to force the cars to start moving and help clear the backed up traffic. Can such an incident ever happen in any Indian city ?

No, it is not about population problems or corruption or a better system controls and blah blah. In the Johannesburg example, the drivers jolly well could have gone past the junction. But they collectively decided NOT to do so. As, each one was aware that, if all of them started crossing, then there is bound to be a chaos at the junction. Each one of them consciously decided that it is his duty to follow his civic sense. Each one was petrified of being seen as the initiator of the jam. Each one displayed an extremely strong sense of civic responsibility.

What we, in India, are missing a point, is a key differentiator in terms of basic education on the civic sense front. We are all taught that we must brush our teeth. This is inculcated in us as a good habit. We learn to have a bath every day. We do these activities throughout our life later on, because we were taught to do these things in school at a very young age. However, nobody teaches us to inculcate a sense of civic sense.

If you notice, we do not have an education system which lays enough emphasis on our civic sense responsibilities. The lone passing reference to Civics or Social Sciences as a subject, notwithstanding. It is no point teaching the already grown ups, how to have a better civic sense. The change will not come about thru enforcement or thru one-a-blue-moon type drives. However, we must try to have a serious effort in trying to inculcate these civic sense values in our children at a very young age on a sustained basis right from the kinder garden to college level. This can be done, as having a special subject in schools ( something like Civic Sense Science ) right from kinder garden to College levels.

The idea is to constantly hammer the concept of a civic sense in the children. Believe me, the next time you try to ignore a pedestrian, chances are that your daughter will reprimand you for not giving the pedestrian its way. Once you have an entire generation that picks up these values, it will be easy to pass on these values to subsequent generations.

Take the example of people in Singapore, Turkey, South Africa, Dubai, even Sri Lanka. Some of these countries more or less started off their modern journey at the same time as India. But, how can these people have a better civic sense than us. Are they born better than us ? Are they born with a better civic sense ? It is because generations in these countries have grown up seeing a very strong civic sense culture around them. Unfortunately, for us in India, we lack this culture. Our children will do exactly what they see around them. Hence, there is this need for educating an entire upcoming generation on the civic sense to bring about an irreversible change in our future generations.

Its all, about Sense, Non-Sense and Civic Sense.


The author is the Vice President of a manufacturing company and

Consulting Editor, Intellectual Post.

Mukund Mate
An article by:
Mukund Mate

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