I'm not sure if I am witnessing a real change of attitude and approach to certain social problems in Barbados. What I have noticed over the past few weeks is a tendency to an unstated policy of public shaming. The Nation has been running a series of 'Centrepiece' articles entitled 'Danger Zone', by Toni Yarde, focusing on many irregularities and misdeeds on the roads (see report). Many of the paper's readers would have witnessed similar incidents and perhaps scratched their heads about what to do to reduce the risks that they faced due to such actions, or what to do to try to deal with the drivers concerned. In some of my own instances, I have tried to deal with a tail gater, or a red light runner, in a direct way, noting a number and trying to alert the police. I have never had any indication of follow up. I have even seen police officers ignore red light runners going past them at junctions and blithely carrying on as if nothing wrong had happened. So, what can ordinary citizens really do?
Well, the Nation has started to show prominently in the printed editions the cars and their licence plates of all the miscreants they feature in their stories; the pictures do not appear to feature in the online reports. At the very least, the drivers, or owners, or employers, or friends, or associates, of the drivers, will be alerted to the alleged misdeeds. The pictures are not date and time stamped, so in some cases there could be some dispute about who was driving, especially when a rental car is involved. However, this practice may produce a spontaneous correction of behaviour when people are confronted with "Man, I saw your car in the paper while you were running red light!" The reason this practice strikes me is that it was not so long ago that the paper blotted out the licence plate of vehicles involved in a road accident, where there was no allegation of who might have been wrong in the incident. I wonder about the change and I wonder if and when the paper's editors may come clean and say what they are really aiming to do.
I've known such public shaming tactics to work well in some countries and it's interesting that as Greece tries to deal with its pressing economic and financial problems, one of the reports on the BBC today is about how a good number of doctors have been named and shame for tax evasion.
For all the talk of Barbados being a country built on rules and law and order, most people know that their widespread non-observance is a daily truth. Let's see how this self-inspection in the mirror plays out in coming weeks.
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