What not to do in Public

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Kitty Joseph

Iread the 19th Septem­ber ar­ti­cle, ‘Know your Laws’, about the re­quire­ments for ap­ply­ing for a per­mit to march. Once any marchers are legally as­sem­bled, I won­der how many could com­mit pos­si­ble breaches of the law while on the route? I have in mind two par­tic­u­lar as­pects: drop­ping of lit­ter and pee­ing in public.

I hope that the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force would cor­rect me if I am wrong but are these two bad habits not still out­lawed? Why do so many Lu­cians per­sist in dis­pos­ing of garbage other than in pur­pose-built re­cep­ta­cles? Why do so many men stop at the side of the road or next to a build­ing, ex­pose their penis and uri­nate with­out any re­gard to other peo­ple nearby? Both cre­ate mess and smell. Both demon­strate on the part of the of­fender a fla­grant dis­re­spect for fel­low cit­i­zens and for the beauty of our is­land.

When did any­one last see a tourist drop lit­ter? I know that many visi­tors strug­gle to find a trash can while ex­plor­ing our is­land but the “for­eign” way is to take one’s garbage home (or back to the ho­tel) and dis­pose of it prop­erly. Just look at the dif­fer­ence be­tween lo­cals and ex-pats af­ter a beach party: the for­mer leave pack­ag­ing and bot­tles while the lat­ter leave only foot­prints and left-over food (but no bones!) for stray dogs.

Re­cently I was walk­ing along the high­way, re­turn­ing home from the su­per­mar­ket. A man was in front of me, sip­ping juice from a car­ton that I had seen him pur­chase in the store. When he had fin­ished his drink, he tossed the car­ton aside. I called out to get his at­ten­tion and asked him why he had thrown his rub­bish onto the ground. He im­me­di­ately apol­o­gised, bent down and picked up the car­ton, and then gave me an ex­pla­na­tion that amazed me: “Sorry,” he de­clared, “I now live in Ger­many and of course I would not do that there but when I am back home in Saint Lu­cia . . .” He did not com­plete the sen­tence but was ob­vi­ously sug­gest­ing that it is ac­cept­able to drop lit­ter here. Why did he think that? Is it be­cause lit­ter laws are no longer en­forced? Is it be­cause he saw so many lo­cals throw­ing garbage into the street and along the road­side with­out be­ing chal­lenged and with­out even feel­ing guilty?

Wasn’t there a time, decades ago, when those who were wit­nessed by a po­lice of­fi­cer to drop lit­ter were ar­rested, taken be­fore the courts and fined? And were their iden­ti­ties not pub­lished in the news­pa­pers of the era? Name and shame them! It seemed to be an ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent.

I have never seen a full­grown woman uri­nate in public here; des­per­ate chil­dren, yes, but not on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Of course women can be caught short but, un­like some men in the same cir­cum­stance, we are more in­clined to re­spect our­selves and oth­ers, and any fe­male whose blad­der is fit to burst would hide her­self from plain view. Men, why do so many of you not care? I won’t ac­cuse you of brazenly flaunt­ing the act but turn­ing your back to pass­ing pedes­tri­ans, driv­ers and pas­sen­gers, or pee­ing di­rectly op­po­site a per­son’s house when they are on their bal­cony, does not con­sti­tute an ef­fort to hide your­self. Do you have no shame?

The public uri­na­tion prob­lem is not con­fined to Saint Lu­cia; it hap­pens all over the world although I sus­pect that it is rare in Sin­ga­pore where so­ci­ety frowns upon such in­de­cency and where the risk of ar­rest and a fine is high. I ad­mire a so­lu­tion that has proven suc­cess­ful in Ham­burg, Ger­many and that has been in­tro­duced in San Fran­cisco: a urine-re­sis­tant paint has been ap­plied to walls com­monly tar­geted by men who pee in public. The paint has a built-in weapon against those who “point and shoot”: it cre­ates a sur­face that vi­o­lently re­pels all wa­ter-based and some oil­based liq­uids. The re­sult is that liq­uids splash back so that the man ends up with his own urine bounc­ing back onto his pants and legs. Sweet jus­tice! That should stop any man pee­ing against that wall again. Alas, I fear that it will not com­pletely solve the prob­lem of public uri­na­tion as some per­pe­tra­tors will sim­ply find else­where to re­lieve them­selves.

The paint so­lu­tion is not ap­pro­pri­ate for Saint Lu­cia given that most men pee into grass or bush. What all trans­gres­sors need is ed­u­ca­tion and in­struc­tion that this is not the cor­rect way to con­duct one­self in public. Per­son­ally, I favour cre­at­ing folk­lore and telling lit­tle boys that if they ever ex­pose their ‘cock­olock’ out­side the home or bath­room, ‘la jab­lesse’ will cut it off. It may even work on grown men with small minds.

Why do so many Lu­cian men do this in public?

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