Breaking curfew is due to ‘culture’ – counsellor claims

Counsellor Koren Norton
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By Latrishka Thomas

Whether the authorities regard residents breaching the noon to 6am curfew as disobedience or non-compliance, local counsellor Koren Norton believes that “we’re just not used to this change in behaviour”.

Norton, who holds degrees in business administration, behavioural science and social work, says culture is a major determinant of people’s behaviour.

“We are used to a certain level of freedom in the Caribbean, where we do as we like when we like, and we don’t normally have a lot of legislation dictating our behaviour. So this is a big shift from what we’re used to,” Norton remarked.

She added that the lockdown may also be difficult for many because “one of the things we pride ourselves on is our ability to make certain choices and now we’re saying to people wholesale, ‘okay, you need to stop being who you are as individuals, as a community, as a nation, and you need to be somebody else’.”

The mental health professional also purported that many are denying the gravity of the Covid-19 crisis, and this contributes to the level of rebellion that has been observed.

“They’re not quite understanding that, okay, this thing that’s happening in the world is really going to affect us the same way,” she said.

She also stated that she doesn’t believe that some people are actively getting up and saying, ‘I’m going to make a choice to disobey’.

Norton, however, noted that behavioural change cannot happen overnight and although compliance has increased since the curfew was instituted, she said that sensitisation is essential to helping people understand the magnitude and seriousness of the pandemic.

“We all need to understand how the brain works. Behaviour change doesn’t happen automatically. We need to be consistent with the messages for people to get it. And those of us who know better need to practice what we preach.

“And there has to be a whole lot of things set in place for people to be able to get the message,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, counsellor Renee Smith lamented that there is “a kind of selfishness that we are operating with that is dictating – in my estimation – in some ways, what we see happening now.

“Until this becomes personal — meaning that somebody who you know personally becomes really ill or dying from this coronavirus — a lot of people are not going to be able to internalise and understand and respect what is being asked of them.”

Thus far, 17 persons have been taken before the court for curfew-related violations.

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