Citizen self-esteem

 

Recuerdos de “Un Cariño para mi Ciudad”. Extraída de http://www.panoramio.com/photo/63692506

Man must leave the state of nature in which he follows the whims of his imagination, and join with all other (…) undergoing a legal public external constriction (…) everyone should (…) enter a civil state.

-Immanuel Kant[1]

A few months ago I was driving on a main avenue in Caracas. I had the green light. However, this did not mean anything to another driver who did not respect my turn and crossed the very busy road at 6 p.m. Although the event bothered me, it did not surprised me, since situations like these are fairly common in my city. People give a damn about traffic lights. I just thought: “If that crazy person were in Miami, he/she would have never thought of doing that”.

Why is there such a behavior? The quasi-automatic explanation can be found in the reigning impunity. According to 2011 official reports, out of 867.004 processed cases, 71% were dismissed, 20.5% were filed away because of lack of evidence, and only 8.2% concluded in accusations (p. 19). This means that in 2011 91.8% of the cases brought to justice remained unpunished.

Despite the Venezuelan tendency to redact a regulation for every single event (the Constitution is very prolific with 350 articles, for example), people do not feel obligated to follow the law, simply because no punishment will be found.

Even though impunity can explain anomy, it is also a simplistic way to observe the problem. Without justifying the irresponsible governmental inefficiency that allows impunity to increase, people do not cooperate either. Please note that I am talking about people, and not citizens.

According to Jordi Borja and Zaida Muxi (2000), citizenship is a status that recognizes the same duties and rights for everyone who lives and coexists in the same territory (p.64).

Situations like the one described at the beginning, not only indicate that there is no efficient law enforcement, but that also the inhabitants of this city (regardless of social status) do not comprehend the meaning of citizenship, which is very costly to coexistence and society building.

Here is another clear example. When there’s traffic in freeways in Caracas, some people go into the berm and at the end of it they cut in line, which results in even heavier traffic. In a particular road, several police officers were stationed in order to prevent such behavior. So, 3-4 policemen are being used because some drivers won’t follow basic traffic rules. Taking into account the high personnel deficit in police corps which can go beyond the 300%, it is absurd that these officers are simply watching over some freeloaders, instead of taking care of more urgent situations. Then the same people that cut in line are the ones who complain about how inefficient the police are.

Venezuela has many problems that darken a positive future, i.e. insecurity, inflation, corruption, political prisoners, invasions, poor infrastructure, and an infinite etc. However, the non-citizens inhabitants make things worse. “No one should be more interested in the conditions of his/her environment than the ones who live in it. But this does not always occur” (M. Clavier, 2003, p. 164). If we truly appreciated our city and our fellow citizens, if we had citizen self-esteem, perhaps Caracas would be a kinder city. We might not solve problems out of our reach, but we can be responsible for our own actions in order to enter a civil state, where the law is followed and rights are respected.

Referencess:

Borja, J. y Muxí, Z. (2000): El espacio público, ciudad y ciudadanía. Recuperado el 3 de febrero de 2013 en http://pensarcontemporaneo.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/el-espacio-publico-ciudad-y-ciudadania-jordi-borja.pdf

Clavier, M. (2003): Ciudadanía Activa. En Universidad Metropolitana, Entorno Urbano II. 2001-2007. Maestría en Diseño Urbano. Caracas: Universidad Metropolitana.

República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Ministerio Público, Despacho de la Fiscal General de la República (2012). Informe Anual 2011 a la Asamblea General. Recuperado el 3 de febrero de 2013 en http://www.mp.gob.ve/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c9efb1a0-93db-4320-8c9f-be4d1a49397b&groupId=10136.

Image “Un Cariño para mi Ciudad” of http://www.panoramio.com/photo/63692506


[1] Cited in Bobbio, N. (1989): Estado, Gobierno y Sociedad. México D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica. (pp. 57-58)

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