A nationwide traffic safety campaign requiring the use of seat belts as a mandatory measure has gone unnoticed by motorists in Jeddah. The campaign is supposed to be in its third day but people are apparently unaware of it. Those who have been seen wearing their seat belts were "old timers" - drivers long used to buckling up.
Personally, I have not came across any awareness campaign accompanying the date of implementation of this measure. It reminds me of an earlier campaign by the Electricity Corporation requesting electricity consumers to economize and not waste this vital part of our national resource. In this case too, the campaign did not catch the attention of the general public. On the contrary, I noticed more bulbs being lit up and houses and compounds glittering with lights.
In the case of the electricity campaign, the focus was on a "one-liner" on the back of the bill. The question arises as to how many people read and who actually goes to pay utility bills.
The whole problem, I think, stems from a lack of awareness by the campaign planners themselves. In a world that is changing fast and in a society where people are open to new ideas, thanks to speedy and readily available communications, a new methodology must be developed. Archaic type of campaigns that leave people unmoved should be avoided. It is time to get the experts.
Before any campaign commences, those sponsoring it should be well advised to do their research and discover how effective it would be. Instead of flashy advertisements and bombastic pronouncements, the sponsors would be well advised to produce and place in motion an evaluatory program.
The Gulf countries are all going through great changes. These have come as a result of the oil boom, mobility, travel and the increase in the percentage of youth among the population.
These changes have also brought a myriad of problems with them - some of which must be fought against.
The drug problem was one. A well publicized and sustained campaign has created awareness among our youth, most of whom shun the intake of any toxin into their bodies.
Other areas of focus should be on the rising problem of obesity among Gulf youth, problems of the environment, the changing attitude of many of our youth and the role of women in society. In addition to all this, and thanks to a "cultural invasion", the area will be subjected to various views and ideas. How are we going to contain them if we cannot get our message to our people?
The success and well being of our future societies will depend on getting the right type of message in the most appropriate way to the largest number of people. However, all this will come to naught if the right vehicle is not used.
As Marshall Mcluhan said: " The medium is the message."
Some time back, we were sitting in a restaurant when four people came in and sat close to us. Hardly had they sat down when one shouted at the top of his voice for the waiter to come. Speaking in a loud voice, he asked the waiter about the menu. The waiter brought four menus and distributed them. Immediately, his other companions screamed at the waiter: "We asked you what food you serve and you bring us the menu! Why don't you just tell us? We don't have time to read." They kept on shouting for a couple of minutes, capturing the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Then they walked out, got into their fancy expensive car and were driven away.
My friend looked at me and commented: "These people have no culture." From their appearance, however, they seemed to be well off; but their behavior and attitude leaves much to be desired.
"Can you invent culture for people or buy it?" This question from my friend made me think. Personally, I don't believe that culture can be invented or bought. It is the result of a long period of habit, behavior and education. Other synonyms of the word "culture", in the dictionary, are: civilization, edification, refinement, polish, etc.
In other words, culture is associated with good manners, civility, education and knowledge. Without these ingredients, one cannot be defined as cultured. One may be educated but still ill-mannered. He may have knowledge but be neither civil nor polite. Therefore, a necessary ingredient is missing and the person cannot be defined as cultured. Money and wealth in no way contributes to culture. There are rich people who stock unread books on their library shelves, occasionally having them dusted by a housemaid. This is again not a symbol of culture.
Well, then how does one define culture - by education, wealth, position, power or dignity in society? It is difficult to answer. However, one thing remains for sure. You cannot easily acquire it. It is a spontaneous process that combines several elements and comes from within.
A cultured person, to my mind, is one who combines education, knowledge, experience and, if God has given him bounties, adds these to the others so that they may be used in the service of his fellow men. Culture is a process that aims for a better and more colorful world.