IT is debatable whether modern civilization, propelled by consistent rural- urban migration, has contributed significantly to the erosion of human values that were in the fairly distant past a matter of course, rather than something that entailed forceful enforcement.
It would be naïve to sweepingly brand all villagers as models of social purity, and all their urban counterparts a cruel, inhumane lot. By and large, however, a safe guess is that they are mixed grills of all manner of characters, but also that it is in towns and cities where manifestations of negative behavioral trends are more manifest.
In the fairly distant past, the sense of fellowship in villages was relatively more manifest than in towns. Adults played a parental role for all children, including those who weren’t their biological offspring.
A grown-up man and woman was mandated to scold and even physically punish a child who exhibited bad manners. Misbehaved adults were also subjected to doses of sanctions, some of which were intentionally embarrassing, such as being tongue-lashed by senior elders at village squares.
They were also compelled to make public confessions and make declarations of pursuing positive behaviour henceforth. There may have been, and there probably still are, now, thanks to penetration of so-called modern civilization traits, relatively few people who disliked and even hated the arrangement.
That may have been anchored on feelings that the system compromised the freedom of individuals; that, for instance, straightening a wayward child was the exclusive responsibility of biological parents.
And criticizing a rabid drunkard who liberally urinated in the open and insulted neighbours as he zig-zagged his way home was unduly meddlesome. “Meddlesome” is also how whoever would attempt to influence young people to dress decently, by getting girls to avoid very short dresses and going about with naked shoulders.
There’s a compelling need for communities, especially at residential neighbourhoods grassroots, to institute systems, or consolidate existing, but not so solid ones, for enforcing good conduct and sanctioning wayward ones.
A critical aspect is to seek explanations for people whose social status is suspicious, and who could be petty thieves and even part of robbery syndicates. Leaders have a critical role to play in this regard, but can only be empowered by collective community support.
That would inject sanity in communities, in which wayward elements would automatically feel they don’t belong and duly reform.