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    Opinion column: Social sanctions as a tool to create a new urbanity in the 21st century by Augusto Solano

    I do not know the exact number of resolutions, decrees and memorandums that the National Government has issued to contain and mitigate our current health emergency. Much less could I speak on the protocols issued by authorities, companies, professionals from different fields and by commercial establishments in order to be able to restart their activities.

    What I am sure of is that no matter how sensible and diligent the work of our leaders may be, including businessmen and all those who provide any type of service, it will not be enough without the active, conscious and sustainable participation of society at large.

    Today, since the lockdown is gradually being lifted, we are demanding our return to traditional spaces of coexistence such as family, work, school, shopping centers, entertainment and even travel to the rest of the world, to name just a few.

    At each social gathering point there are norms that impose responsibilities and grant rights to achieve individual and collective purposes. These social, moral, religious and legal rules seek to guarantee order and harmony in society and are expected to be followed by all. What characterizes legal norms is that their compliance is not optional, every individual must comply with the laws if they do not want to be sanctioned, or detained for violating them.

    If humanity, in all countries without exception, maybe some more than others, has witnessed the efforts of many to break the laws and not suffer the consequences, what could we say regarding compliance with non-legal norms. We saw it in Spain, the United States and Italy, among other nations, where after initial easing of the lockdown irresponsible behaviors were seen in bars, beaches and other meeting places, without measuring the effects on infections.

    Referring in particular to Latin America, the region of the world that today leads the increase in infections and people starving from Covid 19, what has prevailed is a culture of violation of norms and a social free-for-all. How wrong they are, the freest today will be possibly dead tomorrow.

    The government has to enforce the law; and society, the rules. In psychology, the term social sanction is used to describe generalized reactions in society, or methods of controlling people, regarding behaviors characterized as negative that do not violate laws but harm society.


    Awareness campaigns and training programs are necessary, but they are not enough. If society remains silent in the face of attitudes and practices that threaten the common good, it will be impossible for governments and laws to stop this phenomenon.

    I will say it again, what happened provided us with lessons, and showed us that the onus is on everyone: the State, citizens, the public and the private sector. In other words, we must all wake up and demand more citizen control, whether in the face of Covid-19, inequality, disrespect for the environment or many other behaviors that prevent us from developing in a sustainable way.

    I am not afraid to say that, although the world has changed, the basic principle of the Carreño Manual remains the same: no community will work if there are no minimum rules of consideration among its members, and what more basic consideration is there than survival of a human being?

    It is useless for some to follow the rules if others do not. I call on all of us, so that in our homes, streets, churches, large supermarkets, stores and at any other point of social gathering, we reject in unison, with serenity and didactic arguments: people who do not wear face masks, avoid preventive hygiene behaviors or refuse to respect social distancing.

    Observing relative proportions, lets remember the Venezuelan musician and pedagogue, Manuel Antonio Carreño, who with his rules for urbanity and moral principles revolutionized social behavior in the nineteenth century. It is time that we jointly build in Colombia the sustainable urbanity of the 21st century to consolidate, exercise and require sustainable attitudes in citizens through social sanctions.

    We know that we must build a world without poverty, with social equality and respect for natural resources. It is time we demand that it be so!

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