Civic pride. You would have heard us mention those two words many times. Whether it was in relation to the appearance of our communities, the scourge of littering or simply the ‘don’t-care attitude’ that some display towards life. In general, we have lamented the lack of civic pride in Antigua and Barbuda and the seemingly downward trend that we are experiencing in this regard.
Not entirely happy with our definition of civic pride, we went in search of something better and found one on the website of Central Goldfields Shire, a local government area located in the Central North Western region of Victoria, Australia. (Google to the rescue again.) The Central Goldfields Shire Council defines civic pride as, “The individual efforts by all of us which collectively leads to an improved sense of community, well being and the outward improvement in the appearance of the municipality.”
In making our lives easier, they provide examples of what civic pride means and we find it generally in line with our thinking so we thought that we would share. According to the Council, civic pride “relates to many different things we can all do:
“It is the way we behave – are we friendly, cheerful, helpful, or courteous?
“It is where we live – are our yards neat, attractive, and well kept?
“It is our participation in the community – are we supportive, caring and respectful of our neighbours?
“It is respect for our surroundings – do we care for the environment by monitoring erosion, replanting native vegetation and protecting wildlife?”
While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a great start at trying to put some understanding to the whole concept of civic pride and why it is important to our bit of paradise. By now, it should be obvious that civic pride is a universal concept. A Council half-way around the world has a remarkably similar desire and understanding of civic pride as we have here in Antigua & Barbuda, and we dare say, the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, here at home, civic pride appears to be a dying concept and our communities reflect that. We witness a decay that is silently being accepted as community residents lock their doors and shutter their windows, all the while becoming less connected and caring.
Be that as it may, there was yet another glimmer of hope in our bit of paradise. Residents of the Osbourne, All Saints area, frustrated by the lack of response from the government to their pleas for assistance in cleaning up the community, took matters into their own hands. They banded together to spruce-up their area. Actually, “spruce up” is likely an understatement as the undertaking was extensive and took the entire day.
Every time we see a community or civic minded group take this sort of initiative, it brings smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts. Memories from July 2001 flood back into our minds. It was a time when the entire nation united to clean up Antigua and Barbuda. For one magnificent day back in 2001, politics took a back seat to collective civic pride. Along with our “through the storm” broadcasts, it remains one of the best and most proud memories for the Observer family; and we are sure, for anyone who participated.
It was dubbed, the “National Clean-Up Day” and was born out of a “Make Antigua Shine” campaign and an OBSERVER sponsored tourism summit in which Antigua-lover and global celebrity Robin Leach challenged the citizens to clean up Antigua to help restore civic pride.” That ultimately lead to 11,000 volunteers working under 100 community-minded groups in the largest volunteer effort in our country’s history, to date.
Although supported by the various government agencies, the entire thing was organised and executed by civilians through the Antigua and Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation. The then Prime Minster, Lester Bird, was invited to pick up the first piece of litter as a symbolic sign of political and government support.
Our very own Serpent manned mission control and coordination and communication flowed through OBSERVER Radio. It was a special day, a resounding success that was to be the genesis for the restoration of a high level of civic pride in our nation. The thought was that once we all saw how shiny Antigua and Barbuda had become, we would all pitch in to keep it clean. There was even an excited proclamation that the National Clean-up Day would become an annual event.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm waned. All the talk of enforcing litter laws and engaging the litter wardens to police the situation across the country became nothing more than talk in a short period of time. We lulled ourselves back into a comatose sleep of indifference. Civic pride took a back seat.
Today, we look around and the shine that was restored in 2001 has long faded. But we are not despondent. Through the actions of various civic-minded groups and communities, we see that there is still hope, so we shall repeat the final paragraph of our March 20, 2001 editorial: “To all who reads this editorial we say this: Remember that the seeds of Freedom’s Tree are planted by patriots. Come on people – show the nation that you care and volunteer to help make Antigua shine!”
We believe that every day should be National Clean-up Day and everyone should volunteer in the effort to make Antigua and Barbuda shine. Let us all reflect on what Antigua & Barbuda means to us and let us all work to rekindle the civic pride of yesteryear.