“Dat good so” was the comment made by someone with whom I was working. The comment resonated with me for days after because it aptly captured an attitude of our people. The waitress in a restaurant gives you poor service and “Dat good so”. The cleaner continues to mop with black water and “Dat good so”. The hospital spends two hours searching for your file and “Dat good so”. This comment occupied my mind to the extent that I began observing situations and thinking “Dat good so”. So obsessed was I that I have concluded that the newest ailment afflicting our entire society is “Dat good so”.
What could be the possible causes of such an ailment? Some people’s default position is the minimum effort. For others, it is doing whatever they think they can get away with and for many others, they simply do not care. Whatever the motivation, leadership has a responsibility to communicate a different refrain. Leadership must communicate “Dat NOT good so”.
How do we begin to communicate “Dat NOT good so”? Consequence Management is a good place to start and it is not limited to formal organizations. Wherever we operate, it is necessary to communicate that there are consequences to our actions, both negative and positive and “Dat NOT good so”.
Alongside the implementation of consequences it is necessary to re-visit some basic standards of operations. Say the word standard and a popular mental association is the painted stick which masqueraders carry on Carnival Days. This frivolous mental image is supported by our ambiguous response to societal rules at all levels.
On a personal level, we all have to determine the standards by which we operate and hold fast to them. It means making tough decisions, embracing the concept of delayed gratification while ensuring that standards are upheld or consequences felt.
On a societal level, leadership must communicate their dedication to the maintenance of standards. It might be a simple act of honouring agreements. If our leaders cannot honour their agreements then the messages are clear – get away with whatever you can and we’ll wiggle out of it somehow. There seems to be a high tolerance for creating “wiggle room”. It is with little transgressions that we begin the slide into the “Dat good so” syndrome.
Citizens are looking out for the signals which communicate that we share some common values such as trust, good behaviour, fairness, kindness, respect and a host of other adjectives.
The reality is that there is a feeling or sense that these principles have little currency in today’s world.
Maybe the time has come to mount a public campaign to define these “grey” words and work through some common understandings. What I’m suggesting is not sexy and will not provide any immediate returns. It certainly is of little “vote getting” value but it will have a fundamental, lasting impact on future generations.
My mind goes back to my student days at UWI, St. Augustine and the following quote from French Sociologist Émile Durkheim:
“When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”
What we experience on a daily basis is the absence of mores. Even worse, there is no attempt to figure out what those mores could be. No one has communicated to me that these are the morally binding customs of the Trinidadian or these are the habits and manners expected across the board.
Instead we live with the legalistic interpretations about why a particular extradition attempt failed. Or why the act of resignation has put an end to clarifying whether or not a person was guilty. And there are scores of other situations where the standards of behaviour are grey.
The recent spate of road fatalities is an example of the extent to which our laws are becoming unenforceable. There is a collective lamentation about the extent to which the laws of the road are ignored and I see no sustained effort to ensure that the laws are upheld. The person who broke the traffic light probably began by breaking the major road.
Communication is the engine of behaviour change and in order to counteract the attitude of “Dat good so”, there must be behaviours that communicate “Dat NOT good so”.