Some Barbadians are a dirty lot.
In fact, some are downright nasty.
And our propensity to be filthy often leads to inconvenience and heartache for other Barbadians, residents and visitors.
But that is not all.
Some of us can be quite uncaring and discourteous toward our neighbours. The formation of unique organisations to advocate against loud and unwarranted noise and the burning of waste is testimony to this charge.
Unfortunately, nasty practices such as throwing empty food and drink containers through the windows of moving vehicles, dumping unwanted household appliances and rusted metals in our gullies, throwing dead animals into cane fields, on other people’s property or beside the road, have become cultural.
The burning of waste on mornings, high noon or at night with smoke billowing into the air and finding its way into the homes of vulnerable citizens is also cultural.
On any given weekend if one goes into some districts in the island, especially housing areas, or, as we have ascertained, in the City of Bridgetown, one is likely to hear loud street music reaching unholy decibels with suffering neighbours having nowhere to turn. That too has become cultural.
Sadly, law enforcement officials do little or nothing about bringing dirty, indiscriminate, waste-burning, pollution-generating, noise-making occupants of this small island to justice.
And how do we know this?
Check the newspapers, visit the law courts, talk to a magistrate, a judge, a police officer, a police prosecutor, state prosecutor, attorney-at-law, court clerk, writ server, marshal, bailiff, Tom, Dick, Harry, butler, baker or candlestick maker. The story is the same. Hardly anyone, if anyone at all, ever lands in the dock criminally charged for any of these public nuisances although there are laws on our statute books — and not confined to the Highway Act — to deal with them.
There is an irritant called a “warning” which is often used by law enforcement officials to deal with such “minor” matters. Thus, people are advised to turn down their music, which they do while the officer is present, only to return it to decibel hell when the law has departed.
We have seen public instances of people being caught dumping illegally and they are made to remove their waste without criminal prosecution. But theirs is normally a case of compliance with commonsense because of being caught, and not moral acquiescence.
There are many instances too, where two days after the waste has been burnt, law officials will arrive at the home of the perpetrator, inform the individual of the complaint, and warn him or her against further inconsiderate acts. Matter closed.
These scenarios are arguably repeated in Barbados virtually on a daily basis, with respect to dumping, and weekly, with reference to burning waste and the playing of loud music.
That they are not taken as seriously as they should be by law enforcement officials cannot be disputed. If the attempt is made to dispute our charge, then we throw out the challenge to produce the accompanying case file volume and court documents that show comparison to the level of the nuisance and complaints.
Sadly, not taking these situations as seriously as they should be has also become cultural.
But there is another downside.
These cultural practices often lead to disaster.
Our Ministry of Drainage has on numerous occasions highlighted and restated the link between flooding and indiscriminate dumping. Over the years this nasty act has led to homeowners suffering financial loss and inconvenience. We dare say that the possibility of loss of life because of illegal dumping is not a far-fetched occurrence.
There is a belief that to deal with “small” situations or matters in their infancy can often mitigate the occurrence of something more devastating.
There have been reports of disputes arising over the burning of waste and the playing of loud music, in situations where sleep deprived complainants and parents of asthmatics got no requisite alleviation to their problems and desperately took matters into their own hands.
We do not wish a development where mayhem, murder and manslaughter also become cultural.