Change we can believe in
FIFTY YEARS ago, American singer James Brown belted out, “It’s a man’s world”. If he were alive, he would be hard-pressed to revisit the title. While women remain existentially disadvantaged, the good news is that in many parts of the world, they have closed the gender gap. In fact, in some areas of academia and entrepreneurship, the presence and dominance of women have become the norm. According to Insider Media Limited, a United Kingdom communications group, women are fast eclipsing men in these two influential areas.
A December 2012 Forbes magazine article reported that “for every 10 men starting a business, there are eight women.” It added that “men dominate economies as entrepreneurs, with the exception of Singapore and Thailand, where there are actually more women than men starting businesses, and Switzerland, Guatemala, and Brazil, where there are equal numbers of men and women entrepreneurs.”
But there is a troubling trend that is infecting the culture of young men, many of whom have lost their moral and professional bearings. This development is attributed to persistent social problems such as fatherlessness, the influence of subcultural organisations (gangs), the prevalence of drugs and violence, and the absence of organisations established to address these issues. Expectedly, the disorientation of young men is accentuated in inner cities that are blighted by generational poverty and crime. Even on a broader level, men have been the perpetrators of violence. And arguably, they are the most likely reapers of what they have sown.
This unremitting gnawing away of human potential must be expeditiously examined in the form of a global movement that offers practical solutions. This haemorrhaging must end. But there is a likely blowback. The troubling history of patriarchy has clouded the reality that not all men are rich and powerful or control the levers of power on the domestic and national stage. It ignores the truth that not all young men are confident and emotionally robust and deterministic. It fails to realise that a functional and fully integrative man benefits society. Indeed, not all men’s organisations should be likened to Promise Keepers, a controversial Christian outfit that promulgates the return to traditional values.
Well-adjusted young men are essential to Achieving Peace, Equality and a Healthy Environment, the title of Dr Jerome Teelucksingh’s signature undertaking that chronicles International Men’s Day (IMD). Interestingly, International Men’s Day, commemorated annually on November 19, is a prodigious grass-roots movement that has gained worldwide traction since its inception in 1999. It operates along a philosophical and highly decentralised framework devoid of traditional bureaucratic protocol.
“Where is the best venue to attract persons?” Teelucksingh asks. “It could be anywhere ... an observance for students could be appropriately held in a school hall. A lunchtime seminar in the office would educate co-workers. In the past, IMD observances have been held in parks, under shady trees on university campuses, in living rooms, libraries, garages, town halls, and hotels. Getting the message out is more important than the venue.”
The mission of International Men’s Day is unrestricted by gender, sexual orientation, or religious creed. It calls for positive male role models in all walks of life; the celebration of men’s positive contribution to family life; a focus on men’s health and spiritual well-being; improving gender relations; combating discrimination against men in areas of social services and law; and creating a safer world where people can optimise their abilities.
According to Teelucksingh, society is a reflection of us. We lead and society follows. In other words, we cannot transform our environment without looking inward. We have seen how selfishness and greed have spurred catastrophic events – wars, domestic violence, human trafficking, addictions, and suicide.
His humanist approach to problem solving is worth exploring. He calls for reflection, tolerance, prudence, and learning the power of forgiveness and gratitude. There is exigency to his every counsel and his authenticity is never in question. He is the architect of International Men’s Day but is addressed as a coordinator, one of many who are called to serve selflessly. “Being a coordinator,” Teelucksingh writes, “should not be a burdensome job or one that demands your attention for the entire year.”
He advises interested individuals to “create a timeline which will show when, where, and how you will begin planning the observance”.
And calling for the creation of archives, he adds, “It is important that you record some or all of your involvement on International Men’s Day [in order that] other coordinators and supporters would be interested in how they could continue your work and improve observances.” Indeed, IMD is an ongoing conscious movement and “a way of living.”
Throughout, Teeluckingh beckons, cajoles, and counsels: “No activity is too simple, too insignificant and unworthy if it involves easing the burdens of another living creature. Each drop of sweat, every cent, every second spent in a worthwhile activity will surely assist in helping humanity and improving society.”
After making a compelling case for his vision, he delivers the final pitch: “I want to encourage doubters and critics to try our free product – International Men’s Day. There is no need for a prescription. IMD is for the sick [and] healthy. Try IMD for as long as you want and there is a guarantee there will be no negative effects ... . ” How could we say no? Recommendation: Highly recommended