Opinion: ‘Will you follow the civic commandments?’
Toby Wood, of Peterborough Civic Society, writes...
Type the word ‘pride’ into Google and you initially get ‘Pride in London, a home for every part of London’s LGBT+ community’.
Type ‘civic pride’ and you currently are immediately directed to ‘Civic Pride Community Gardening and Litter Picking in Rossendale’. In these contexts the word ‘pride’ conjures up people being loud, colourful, joyous and largely youthful while the word ‘civic’ almost implies steady, unexciting, staid and rather conservative.
Perhaps civic pride and civic responsibility are virtually synonymous, the only difference being that responsibility implies duty or accountability.
So who should have civic pride and how does one acquire it? I suppose the obvious answer is that everyone, to one degree or another, should try to have some pride in where they live.
We are all interdependent.
Imagine a garden.
It’s full of plants, some tall, some short, some flowering, some possessing magnificent spreading, expansive leaves, some shyly hiding round corners, others seemingly impossibly clinging to a wall or fence, some bearing fruit, some looking splendid all the year round, others seemingly dying off for the winter.
In short the garden has as much variety as you can imagine.
All the plants are different and none is more important than any other. Of course some plants may be more favoured than others but that’s often down to personal preference.
The fact that there is a garden at all implies people.
An area of land, however beautiful or remote, can exist quite happily on its own without the intervention of people. But the very word garden implies a certain level of organisation, order and forethought.
And that’s where we humans come in. Seeds need to be sown, then plants nurtured, watered and pruned. Eventually they need to be removed, replanted or even turned into compost to help sustain new growth. Plants need to be watered, fed and cared for.
It stands to reason.
In Peterborough, as with all other communities, we all need to contribute towards making our own ‘garden’ or environment pleasant, agreeable and sustainable.
Of course this can be done in a large number of positive ways by taking an active part of volunteering but arguably the easiest, best and most productive way that we can make a difference is by exercising personal responsibility and by not negatively affecting the local environment.
When I was a primary age child, at Dogsthorpe Infants, Juniors and then All Soul’s Primary School (before it morphed into St Thomas More), one of the biggest sins was to drop litter. We had assemblies about litter, litter patrols, litter monitors, litter detentions.
The world seemed to be awash with waste bins, black plastic bags and rubber gloves and the teachers only seemed happy when the whole school, albeit temporarily, was litter-free.
So perhaps we in Peterborough ought to go ‘back to basics’ in terms of how we all look after our city.
Instead of saying, “what are the council going to do about …” maybe we’re the ones who need to be taking the lead in this thing called civic pride. Perhaps we’re the ones who need to carry round a little card with ‘Ten Civic Commandments’ written at the top.
I’ll make a start – here’s my top ten list.
1. I will always put my rubbish in a bin.
2. I will continue to do as much as I can to keep fit, by walking or cycling.
3. I will not leave my car in an antisocial place eg parked on a pavement or in what should be a pedestrianised area.
4. I will not drive my car faster than I am legally allowed to.
5. I will not sit in a doorway or on the street drinking alcohol.
6. I will occasionally say thank you to the workers I see trying to keep Peterborough clean.
7. I will continue to say well done when the city does something right.
8. I will continue to criticise when I think the city is doing something wrong.
9. I will continue to hope that tomorrow things might just be a little bit better.
10. I shall continue to remember that, as long as Peterborough is my home, I shall try to contribute something towards its wellbeing.