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Male underperformance and affirmative action


This week we publish the first half of a thought-provoking article by Dr. Malcolm Grant, a Vincentian physician living in Barbados. Dr. Grant’s thesis is that the lack of success (to put it mildly) of the current batch of West Indian cricketers is just another symptom of the malady of underperformance that seems to have befallen the young West Indian male.

We feel that Dr. Grant is on to something in his well-researched piece. Dr. Grant seems to have inherited the knack of getting to the meat of a problem from his late father, a frequent contributor to the newspaper, Roddy Grant.{{more}}

It is our hope that the article will generate public debate not only with the objective of finding solutions to that which ails our cricket team, but, also, with the objective of slowing or stopping the slide among our men in general before it develops into an avalanche. What we are seeing being played out in West Indies cricket is happening every day in our schools, homes, businesses and society in general.

Two of the suggested “psychosocial issues that have contributed to endemic indolence”, as Dr. Grant puts it, are the use of illegal drugs and the “rude boy” attitude, where authority is challenged just for the sake of it.

We agree with Dr. Grant. A casual glance around our society will give so many examples of men of tremendous promise who function at very low levels mainly because of these two very reasons.

The negative effect of illegal drugs on our society is much greater than we sometimes want to admit. When we do discuss drugs, marijuana is often omitted or glossed over because of its widespread use and the economic benefits cultivation of and trafficking in the drug bring to our people.

Our young people are often fooled into thinking that marijuana is harmless because they see so many persons who have used the drug for many years walking around seemingly unaffected. How wrong they are. Anyone who lives or works with a habitual marijuana user knows that the drug, at the very minimum, affects their reasoning and productivity and the way they respond to life’s challenges.

The drug culture engenders a “get rich quick attitude” among our people who, once they taste or observe how “easy money” is obtained, are then reluctant to join the vast majority of our people who work long, hard hours to earn an honest living. Some of the unemployed among us are unemployed because they refuse to work for a wage which seems like an insult when compared with what can be gained from making “just one drug run.” When the “rude boy” attitude is coupled with the use of illegal drugs, what is produced is a citizen and family member who performs well below par, is illogical, surly, and at times violent.

We hasten to state the obvious that the majority of men in our midst do not in any way fit this description. However, far too many members of the male sex are not living up to their potential. This affects us even at the social level. The late Sister Patricia-Ann Douglas, former principal of the St. Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua often lamented, “who will our girls marry?”

While we are on the topic of male marginalization and underperformance, there is one aspect of the discussion that is puzzling. It has been proven over and over again that women and girls out perform men at all levels, and make up the bulk of the workforce in both the private and public sector. Why, then, do men still have such a strong grip on the seat of power?

Men have the political power, head most of the financial institutions, churches, government boards, the larger private sector companies, and write all the opinion columns in our newspapers.

Is it that women do not have the stuff that leaders are made of? Are they early bloomers who fade out later in their careers? Do family responsibilities distract them from seeking career advancement? Are women socialized to give way to men and thus sabotage their own advancement?

Could it be the influence of the church in a still deeply religious country? Do we consciously or subconsciously believe that a man should be the head of the organization in the same way he should be the head of the home and the church?

Or, do we, in fact, have a male “affirmative action” operating silently in our societies? Are the men (or even sometimes women) at the top quietly ensuring the continued dominance of the male sex by identifying and elevating men to leadership positions, sometimes ahead of more suitable women? Do we go out of our way to ensure that no matter what, men are represented at the highest levels? Let’s think about it.