Encouraging good behaviour in public
The talk around town, post-election, is about things that are ‘new’. New President, National Assembly, Speaker, politics, parliamentarians, faces, GECOM, ships, deals, contracts and the list goes on and on. Oh! I almost forgot, a new Commissioner of Police or not quite yet.
It is great to have things that are ‘new’ as they often take the place of things that are either old, past their sell/use-by date (shelf life), damaged beyond repairs or simply an addition to the existing collection. Irrespective of where, when, what or how the new conglomerate gels into a cohesive whole, the overriding outcome points to some form of change.
My anticipation and the expectation of the majority of ‘right minded’ Guyanese would be to see an emergence of better social and economic circumstances for Guyanese as changes are rolled out in the months and years ahead. It is also my wish that sometime soon, we will be in a better position, perhaps in the middle of the 10th Parliament, to establish whether these changes are justified, both qualitatively and quantitatively, as a measure of accountability.
However, complementary to all things ‘new’, would be ‘good behaviour’. Yes, good behaviour in public life would be a starting point to effect theses changes and I would like to share a couple of experiences and to provide a list of basic and acceptable standards as guiding principles. The first is well known to us, the second is from my professional life and the third and final, is a list of a few well known, tried and tested attributes for good behaviour in public life.
First, our parents, who held initial responsibility for fostering respect and manners as well as establishing expectations, limits and consequences as a part of the preparation strategy for any public family outing. We were often given reminders, in so many different ways, as our parents took advantage of teachable moments to reinforce the rules they would have set. As we grew older, smarter, wiser, we learnt how vital these lessons were when it came to our own behaviour in public life.
Secondly, I often say to groups of students prior to departure on a public outing, “When we leave these premises you represent three groups of people: yourself, your families and this community. Do not allow or give anyone reasons to ridicule or judge the last two groups because of your bad or inappropriate behaviour”.
As a reminder, “When your child exhibits good behaviour, be sure to acknowledge it with a ‘thank you.’ Praise for a job well done goes a long way. Positive reinforcement instils pride and motivates children to make good behaviour a habit. …….Applied on a daily basis, these lessons can help your little one develop into a much friendlier companion, guest and citizen at home as well as in public” (Adair, S: 2010 – Encouraging Good Behaviour in Public Life).
Finally, what should we expect of and from those who represent us in public life?
Some may say nothing short of acceptable good behaviour should be the minimum standard. Those of us who may be in our late 30s and moving on, may recall those days when there were less incidences of cursing, swearing, threats, abuse, bullying, coercion, intimidation, social, economic or political pressure, frolicking with minors and/or victims of circumstances.
Our public officials’ behaviour was better in the past, and a return to those acceptable norms is overdue. We need to promote good behaviour in public life by our deeds and actions, which are always open to public scrutiny. For example, the following leadership characteristics of: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; and Honesty, should serve as benchmarks for the promotion of good behaviour by public officials. There are many more qualities that can be included to this list which of course, is not exhaustive. Furthermore, a default in any of these few characteristics would be considered a dereliction of one’s duty to the nation at large.