Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars. If the concept is to be applied to the law and order situation in our society with special emphasis to the prevailing system of administration and governance, one would find the same psychological response to the prevailing situation. This very social phenomena is termed the Broken Window Theory - introduced by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an article titled Broken Windows, in the March 1982 The Atlantic Monthly following an experiment by Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist who tested the theory in 1969. Unsurprisingly for many, the test concluded that vandalism, or for that matter, most forms of social disturbances occurs much more quickly as the community generally seems apathetic. Similar events can occur in any civilized community when communal barriers – the sense of mutual regard and obligations of civility – are lowered by actions that suggest apathy. In other words, the theory posits that the prevalence of disorder creates fear in the minds of citizens who are convinced that the area is unsafe.
This withdrawal from the community weakens social controls that previously kept criminals in check. Once this process begins, it feeds itself. Disorder causes crime, and crime causes further disorder and crime.
A lot of social discrepancies- between the accepted social norms and the ground reality can be explained based on this theory. The snowballing effect of corruption, favoritism, unrest and elitism being increasingly experienced by the general public in the state can be understood more clearly and objectively when one understands the psychology behind the cause of such undesirable social occurrences.
In short, an overhauling of the deep rooted social evils and malpractices that has been inextricably intertwined with the present system is the need of the hour. If the present government does not have the gumption to own up and make the much delayed changes, the general public will be forced to act on their behalf. Time to fix the broken window is running out for the government.
Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.