Change we can be­lieve in

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS & EDUCATION - Glenville Ashby Send feed­back to glenvil­leashby@gmail.com or fol­low him on Twit­ter @glenvil­leashby

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

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

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