Broken windows at individual level escalate to community crisis

I got a call from a friend who resides in Calabar, Nigeria. As we chatted, I asked, “How is Calabar?”

“Calabar is no longer what she used to be. Crime level has increased”

I was displeased to hear that of Calabar because she was one of the few cities in Nigeria I admired. Calabar was known for its cleanliness and relative safety and of course she is a place to have fun and eat tasty and satiable food. So to hear that crime had risen there was worrisome.

My friend alluded the problem to leadership. When a leader chooses to ignore disorder, he does not know he is gradually making room for crime. Crime also would increase in a place if the leader is of questionable character and encourages some vices.

Questionable character which escalates to indulgence in crime does not happen overnight. It starts with growing up. What traits was he exhibiting as he grew up that were ignored by those who raised him. It also starts with bad habits which may not be perceived as wrong. The bad habit becomes a disorder in an individual’s life. When this is not checked; and with the negative influence of the environment, the individual contributes to the disorder in the community.

Then I asked my friend, “You know Calabar is one of the cleanliest city in Nigeria. Is it still so?”

“Well, if you compare it with other cities in Nigeria, perhaps. However, if you compare Calabar with herself 10 years ago, the standard has dropped.”

One broken window when not fixed encourages the breaking of more windows and then total vandalization of the house. When you open a door to a bad habit; if not shut early, the disorder will make you go contrary to the law code – offence against the community. It can start from the harm you do to yourself and then harm to others.

Imagine this:

I began to eat both healthy and unhealthy foods. The junk food I introduced gradually. It was convenient. I am sure you know what ensued. I became overweight (which of course is relative). I did not bother or should I say I did not worry as no one pointed it out. I guess it was pretty okay in other people’s eyes until I took a picture of me. My face was big and my neck was ‘shorter.’ I did not like ‘the big me’. If I had added more, my neck may have disappeared. Mind you I was the one who decided I was overweight. Seeing the picture set off an alarm. In addition, my blood pressure went up slightly. For healthy reasons, I needed to stop junk food. And you know it is easier to add weight than to lose.

Now my response to that discovery would have determined how I turned out today. I could have ignored it and continued and then I would have become obese and disliked myself. I may not just dislike myself, I may dislike slim girls because they are how I think I should be. It is not their fault but I choose to take it out on them. In that state, I may even eat more and become even more antagonistic and intolerant of others. I would also think that anyone who looked at me has a bad impression of me. I may also choose to read negative meanings into harmless words said to me.

Or I could go to the other extreme, lose weight drastically and become skinny and look sick. Then when friends and family begin to express concern, I choose to envy those who look healthy and then like ‘the big me’ above take it out on others.

Or I could just respond in the right manner, work at maintaining healthy weight and have fun doing so. Having the right disposition to it, I can be tolerant of those on the right and left sides of the balance.

Well, I chose the last scenario and lost 10kg. I am neither overweight nor underweight. My blood pressure is back to normal. I am working at having exercise as a delightful routine.

Our spirit, body and soul are interwoven such that when one part is sick, the others may be affected. “I don’t like my body may affect social attitude (which stems from my heart comprising the spirit and soul)

When a bad habit/attitude is not stopped, it becomes a disorder in your life and spills into the community.

“Leave him; he is a little boy”

“Leave her, she will learn when she grows up”

You hear such when you are in the process of reprimanding a little child. A child who refuses to respond when called is being disrespectful and should be seen as such. The child should be encouraged with rebuke and love to respond when called. A child who is not taught to say ‘thank you’ grows up an ingrate with entitlement mentality.

A child who throws tantrum and is not trained to stop such continues from breaking things in the house when angry to shooting in a road rage. Now, of course, not everyone gets to the point of shooting; but then you know what I mean. Relationships may be damaged and depression may set in. A child without affirmation from friends and family grow up to dislike himself, then he develops hatred which propels him to shoot others and himself.

When one of the windows in a building breaks and is left unrepaired, it figures that other windows will follow suit shortly. When left unrepaired, it is an indication that no one cares. It will only get worse.

A drug addict starts with the first sniff, or first jab; then it becomes a routine. Such a person would need money to maintain the lifestyle. With no money; and desperate to have the jab, may steal or kill.

Disorder and crime are inseparable.

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People take delight in “beating the system” without knowing it is a disorder in their lives that may complicate their lives. Do you evade tax and fares and pat yourself for being ‘smart’. It is only a matter of time, the consequences come knocking. Usually, you will not be prepared.

When a disorder is not addressed, disapproved of; if no one ‘gave a care’, it leads to break down of law and order in a community.

Do not live on auto drive. Always assess yourself to get rid of bad habits. Remember, you do not live just for yourself but for others as well. Yes, you live for the younger generations who will be looking to you to model life for them. Focus on making healthy and positive impact in your community.

To know more about the broken window theory, you can read JQ Wilson and GL Kelling’s publication on the broken windows. You can also read Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell.

I would love to read from you. What do you think? Do you agree that bad habits or disorders in lives of individuals are one of the major reasons for community crimes? What other reasons give rise to community disorders and crimes?

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