Yesterday I saw two men pissing on the street. One next to my car, dribbling under my rear tire. Another – sarong hitched, balls out – effectively flashing the traffic down Thimbirigasaya. Why? I think part of the reason is psychological. Everything in Colombo is dirty and fucked up, so people don’t feel bad about piling a little more on top. That’s part of the reason I like Sri Lanka, I never really feel that dirty or out of place cause, you know, fuck it. However, I think the little degradations in our life lead to worse things, as in a worse culture, and people being worse than each other. Was reading this article in the Economist, and we could probably see vast improvement in Colombo life simply as picking the garbage off the streets and fixing malaria lots and generally cleaning up the place a bit. As per the Broken Window Theory.
The other experiments were carried out in a similar way. In one, a temporary fence was used to close off a short cut to a car park, except for a narrow gap. Two signs were erected, one telling people there was no throughway and the other saying that bicycles must not be left locked to the fence. In the â€œorderâ€ condition (with four bicycles parked nearby, but not locked to the fence) 27% of people were prepared to trespass by stepping through the gap, whereas in the disorder condition (with the four bikes locked to the fence, in violation of the sign) 82% took the short cut.
The most dramatic result, though, was the one that showed a doubling in the number of people who were prepared to steal in a condition of disorder. In this case an envelope with a â‚¬5 ($6) note inside (and the note clearly visible through the address window) was left sticking out of a post box. In a condition of order, 13% of those passing took the envelope (instead of leaving it or pushing it into the box). But if the post box was covered in graffiti, 27% did. Even if the post box had no graffiti on it, but the area around it was littered with paper, orange peel, cigarette butts and empty cans, 25% still took the envelope.
Now, Colombo is in a constant state of disorder. And we all behave like assholes. And apparently there’s a correlation, causation even. So maybe all the cops loitering around could pick up garbage or something, clean up some graffiti. Perhaps this would actually lessen their workload overall. Or, you know, fuck it.