How you can help save Gotham

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 13,

Dear Fellow Gotham Residents,

Our City is dying. And many of us are dying in our cars. Something must be done.

A lot of us have been waiting for Superman, Batman, Iron-Man and the other superheroes to rescue us and bring order back to our streets, communities and our lives, but no one has arrived. I fear they may never come, and we will be left entirely to our own devices.

Daily we live with extremely challenging situations like traffic, lack of transportation, lawlessness, pollution, crime, etc. The problems plaguing Gotham City seem intractable.

There is growing frustration. Many people are resigned to thinking that no lasting solutions will be found and our lives will just gradually deteriorate and we will be doomed to live the rest of our traumatized lives in this hellhole.

Okay. Let me tell it to you straight. No superhero will show up to help us solve this mess we’re in. Let’s be truthful and admit these problems were caused by all of us, and we have the responsibility to fix it. I suggest we don our superhero hearts and mindsets and seek doable solutions that will make our lives better.

Yes, we must act. But I warn you not to entertain illusions of power so great that all we need to do is snap our fingers and things will magically get done.

Instead, let trust in our own power, however small, to affect things and encourage the collective power of communal action.

Here are a few suggestions on how we can make our lives easier and restore some sanity back into our urban lives. They may not directly affect the problems I listed above but they will ease tensions, create a better atmosphere and, when followed by everyone, make our city friendlier, more beautiful, safer and more livable. Furthermore, they are all doable by each one of us individually. We do not need any push or assistance from anyone else to do them.

I divided the task into two big headings. One is about being a good neighbor; the other is about having a developed sense of civic duty.

On being a good neighbor:

1) Manage your residential spaces so that you do not create inconveniences that can heighten tensions in your neighborhood. Instead, behave in such a way that will enhance contact, friendships and cooperation. One way is to clean the space in front of your residence. Pick up trash. Beautify your frontage, or your neighborhood with flowering plants. Make your surroundings appealing and pleasant to look at.

2) Control the noise you create. Do not use your karaoke system during the early or late hours. Better yet, DO NOT DO KARAOKE at home. Go to a karaoke bar. Be sparing when you use your car horn. Also, train your dogs not to bark, especially at night when they can deprive your neighbors of good sleep. Lastly, speak softly when walking and talking in the street.

3) If you live in a village, or a condo, organize carpooling to work, school and office. It saves money, eases traffic, and promotes neighborliness.

4) Try not to create unnecessary garbage. Do not accept plastic bags or containers from the grocery. Bring your own bag so you don’t add to the landfill. This coming Christmas, try not to use wrapping paper; use old newspapers to wrap presents instead. If you receive gifts wrapped in Christmas wrapping, save the paper for reuse next year.

5) Do not buy a car unless you have a real parking space or garage for it. Parking your cars in the street creates traffic and an eyesore.

6) Learn to walk or bike short distances. Avoid tricycle rides or any form of transport when you can. You save money, get to exercise and lessen the number of noisy and polluting vehicles in the street.

7) Keep the canals and gutters outside your gate clean so that rainwater flows into the drain and does not create conditions for flooding or dengue.

8) Greet your neighbors on their birthday, Christmas, New Year’s day, etc. when you see them.

The following are other suggestions you may wish to add to your list of civic duties.

1) When something is not right in your street or barangay, write a letter to your local officials. They should know what is wrong so they can fix it. And while you are at it, it is always more effective if you have your neighbors sign it, too.

2) Get to know the tanods who walk your streets. Give them a sense of appreciation when they do their jobs well, and complain if their behavior is wanting.

3) Register and vote in every election.

4) Do not fall into a spiral of helplessness and pessimism about conditions in the country. Instead, ask what you can personally do to change things and actually do them. When you put your personal power into action, it will inspire you to do greater, bolder things.

5) Get yourself informed with real facts, not hearsay. Do not readily believe everything you read in papers and hear on the radio. A lot of that is spin. Ask questions. Develop critical thinking.

6) Volunteer for disaster relief and community preparedness. When you do, you will learn to look at your community in a different way. You will begin to see its strengths and vulnerabilities.

Things get done when people go beyond complaining and blaming. Often, we must act like everything depends on us. If there are enough people who feel this way, our city, our country and the world will become a much better place.

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