Don’t Let Little Transgressions Become Big Issues

“I would also extend to calling out those transgressions where someone is trying to take advantage of you or doing something illegal or unjust when they know it’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it.”

It can be difficult to step in when it comes to witnessing someone commit a transgression, which goes against societal norms and values. A transgression is an act, often small or basic in nature, that goes against a rule, law, code of conduct and causes offense to others in the society. While you may witness these transgressions as a bystander, you have it within your rights to call it out when you see it within reason. While I am not an advocate for self-policing and calling out random strangers for bad behavior, I do believe that it should be allowed especially in matters of public health and/or safety.

I would also extend to calling out those transgressions where someone is trying to take advantage of you or doing something illegal or unjust when they know it’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it. To give you some basic examples, if you are living in a city or a town and see somebody littering or throwing trash on the ground in front of you, I believe it’s worth calling them out for doing it because your tax dollars are going towards maintaining the cleanliness of your community and for hiring those local employees who help keep the streets clean.

The person causing the offense must be held accountable or at least giving a stern reprimand because while they may think they get away with it, everybody including yourself witnessing it is paying for it in extra tax money or effort to pick that trash up later. When you call out a transgression, be stern, make your point, and move on. It does not do any good to escalate directly with that person since you’re not enforcing the law yourself as your duty but rather express your concern as an ordinary citizen.

Other transgressions that come to mind include not picking up after your pet when they do their daily business, which you should call the person out for if you witness it and to report it after privately if you know where the transgression occurred. Also, another increasingly common one in certain cities is to see a group or a few individuals shoplifting and if you see this serious transgression, let a store person know to apprehend them or even call the police who can catch the individuals if the store or place has cameras.

You must keep your eye out for these kinds of transgressions because if there are no consequences for acts like littering, trespassing, not picking up after your pet, shoplifting, etc. which can result in heavy fines and even mandatory community service, those offenders will feel more emboldened to continue doing so and even commit even more violations of the laws and rules that our society is built on. If some people are abusing these basic morals and values with their transgressions, no matter how small they are, they must be held accountable for them in some form or another.

Think of our society as pillars holding the foundation together that binds us all under the same rules, laws, regulations no matter who we are. When one of those pillars starts to falter, in this case, being when little transgressions go without reprimand or punishment, it can start to crumble the entire foundation and weaken the other pillars as well. When these violators cause infractions and don’t get a stern slap on the wrist or a scolding at least, then they will be emboldened to do it again or even commit worse offenses, which we should be mindful of as a society.

The COVID-19 pandemic made me think about these small transgressions especially when you’re abiding by a mandate on public transportation, for example, and others refuse to abide by the mandate, and for which is not being enforced. When you follow the temporary mandate especially in a bus or on a train and others don’t, it does create a sense of entitlement to for those people who think they are above the rules and that the mandate should not apply to them even when it is a ‘mandate.’ I often ignored those people who would not abide by the mandate but there was one instance where I had to say something when the only people not wearing a face mask on the bus were sitting next to me and it was an entire family. They were oblivious to the fact that everyone else on the bus had a mask on at the time and even the driver had one on. This was before the vaccines were being distributed.

I would rather the bus driver had enforced the mandate himself but if you’re sitting next to me without a mask and I’m abiding by it, I don’t want my health to be put at risk by your lack of acquiescence. It was the only time I spoke out about it to a group of people as it puts you in an awkward spot but when it comes to public health, mask mandates on a bus, train, or a plane at the time should be the same for everybody especially when 90-95% care enough to abide by the temporary measure.

Unfortunately, those who impose the mandates are not able or willing to enforce them, which is doubly annoying for those people who abided by them each time and yet had to see other people flaunt the rules like it was no big deal without being held accountable for it. This kind of transgression is particularly disturbing when you realize that it could have public health consequences and those who set up such a mandate to begin with lacked the follow through or the care to enforce such a mandate making it rather useless and abusable.

Another transgression I’ve noticed is some people jumping the fare gate at the metro system or going in right behind someone who has paid their fare ahead of them and not paying it because they sneak in before the gate closes. That situation happened to me as I paid my fare to enter the metro station and go down to the train like any usual trip and there was a young guy behind me who bumped up right behind me and invaded my personal space. I noticed he came in right behind as I paid the fare and the gate opened for me. I also noted how he didn’t pay the fare since he wanted to use mine without paying his own way. I was mad about this to the point that I sternly reprimanded him and told him that he was abusing the system by not paying his fare like the rest of us.

He made a lame excuse in saying that he was in a rush and had to catch the next train. I kept my cool but informed him sternly that was not an excuse to not pay his fare and that some of us pay taxes and the fares each time to keep the system running well. The offender didn’t get it, of course, and weaseled his way onto the next train and I kept my distance from him. Sadly, he is a violator of the metro system like others who feel like they can jump the gate or not pay by bumping up against someone like me who pays each time.

These hooligans who do it unfortunately don’t get fined or reprimanded by the metro system officials very often, if at all, which is quite unfortunate and even detrimental to the larger society. When fare-beaters and anti-maskers get away with breaking the rules without consequences, it makes the rest of us sad that we are carrying all the weight for them, and they are mooching off the system based on mutual trust, benefit, and adherence.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, the rules and laws are meant for everyone and when the smaller ones are abused or not followed, these transgressions can lead to bigger issues in the general society. It leads to a lack of trust, a breakdown in norms, and an inability to keep track of how many people are abusing the basic laws and standards that keep the society running well. It erodes the pillars over time that keep the foundation of our shared society afloat. I’m not arguing for self-policing since that tends to not solve anything, but we need stricter enforcement for everyone to avoid these little transgressions, so they don’t lead to bigger problems that form later for all of us when the accountability and transparency is gone.

The Cigarette and The Mask

“Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.”

While I walk back to my apartment with bags full of groceries under my arms, I stop at the cross section waiting for the walking signal to light up, seemingly unaware of the bike screeching by me. “Hey, watch out, man!”, the bicyclist yells as he peddles past me almost knocking into my groceries. He speeds by just narrowly missing oncoming traffic as he heads downtown. Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

Now, I would hope that he was not getting ready to smoke while biking, but it sure looked like he had smoked a few or more cigarettes. We were both outside at the time, of course, and I could assume that he maybe just likes to wear a mask indoors and would rather smoke a cigarette while he biked or afterwards to enjoy the rush while getting some needed fresh air. The confluence of events of almost getting hit by this biker along with the scene of him having an unlit cigarette in his mouth, a mask under his chin, and no helmet on as he sped through foot traffic without regard for anybody else was so laden with irony that I couldn’t happen to notice all the ironies afoot.

If a commercial could be made about this bicyclist, it would be quite entertaining. “Protect yourself from COVID in the short-term, but don’t forget about the long-term risks to one’s health!” In that commercial, it would show the bicyclist being transformed from having a cigarette in his mouth to having none with a nicotine patch or gum if it’s anti-smoking or if it’s pro-safety to have him properly wearing a biking helmet rather than not having one.

These kind of public health or public safety campaigns are quite common in our culture especially when it comes to the dangers of smoking and the dangers of not wearing a helmet while cycling or biking. Now, after almost two years, we now have quite substantive public health messages around wearing a face mask or adequate face covering, especially while indoors, to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. The same public health messaging was quite prevalent at first when it came to social or physical distancing before the arrival of tested and approved vaccines.

Undoubtedly, these public health messages have saved thousands of lives and done much to further the progress of the current vaccination campaigns. We now know society-wide how masks can help prevent the spread of viruses just as we knew starting in the 1980s and later in the 1990s the harm that smoking can do long-term to one’s health. It took a few decades but now smoking is much less prevalent than it used to be, and the risks are well-known. The same could be said about wearing a protective helmet when biking or riding a motorcycle. It took a while for these messages to be ingrained in our society, but they protect not only our health long-term but also our safety in the short-term.

The advent of mask wearing in a pandemic has not fully set in for some people but for most people, the public health messages had a massive impact and after some initial confusion and the lack of supplies for protective gear, almost two years later, that public health messaging has set in across society. You could argue if the advent of mask wearing in public will have the same longevity or the same need years from now as anti-smoking campaigns would. While virus and diseases can become endemic, they can also possibly burn out much quicker than the long-term health risks that will remain with us after the pandemic such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

While the public health and safety messages around mask wearing, helmet wearing, and not smoking especially near a building have made people healthier and safer, I fear that other health warnings or messaging has been rather lackluster especially during the pandemic. Wearing a mask and not picking up a cigarette are easy enough for society to adopt, but the messaging should not end there.

In the age of the Internet, social media, and seemingly endless modes of messaging mediums, I have not noticed any uptick in making the public aware about the benefits of exercising daily or multiple times per week. I also have not noticed an effort to educate people on what a well-balanced diet looks like or what foods to avoid that are both addictive and unhealthy. Smoking is a bad habit but so is not having a proper diet. I am not saying that people should be told what to eat and what to drink but I don’t see the harm in sharing more messaging about what a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner looks like or to give examples to adults, especially young people in college or in their 20s.

In addition to a proper diet, bringing to people’s attention the need to exercise has never been a real part of public health messaging. The lack of public and/or outdoor gyms provided by towns and cities has contributed to other health issues that have reared their head during the pandemic. COVID-19 may be with us now but other health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are not going away anytime soon.

For the almost two years of the pandemic, there was a real opportunity that was squandered for the public to hear about other ways to stay healthy and well. Viruses make people fearful and anxious but instead of just saying “wear a mask!” and “be socially distant!”, other messages about sleeping 7-8 hours a night, reducing our time staring at screens, maintaining a healthy diet, and making sure to exercise each day or most days was rarely ever thought of to be entered into public consciousness.

Even something as simple as telling people who were mainly indoors to take their vitamins each day especially both Vitamins C and D, which some people are deficient in especially in wintertime was completely neglected. I usually refrain from commenting on matters of public health but having done all these things for myself as many others do on their own accord, I don’t see why this kind of public health messaging hasn’t caught on. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to discuss proper habits to build such as having more hours of sleep, what goes into a healthy diet, why exercise is important, or what are the benefits of vitamins.

I am not sure of how much money has been spent on anti-smoking, anti-drunk driving campaigns over the years but I’m sure it’s much more than what could also been address to the public. Now, in addition to the ills of drinking, smoking, we know now why mask wearing is important during a pandemic with an infectious virus that spreads easily. I don’t think that we should stop there and to keep trying to advocate for other commonly known public health matters that sadly still go largely ignored in terms of messaging campaigns.

From the local to the national level, after the pandemic is over, I would strongly recommend investing much more money, time, and even public infrastructure (outdoor gyms, for example) in building awareness of different public health matters that have remained largely unaddressed. From sleep to diet to exercise to even how to manage anxiety and stress properly, these important messages will affect people’s long-term health positively.

We know messages have worked in the past as I mentioned with wearing a helmet, not smoking in public places, and wearing a mask when others are near you. Lives have been saved and society has been improved because of those messages. When it comes to everyone’s long-term health, I would ask us all to think bigger to improve messaging around other public health needs, so we don’t end up only receiving advice on protecting the public’s health during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.

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