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EVERYTHING BUT: Habit beyond act

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: Habit beyond act

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
If there is one humorist who utters serious truths that ought to be fully digested and acted upon as a habit, it is Mac Fingall.
His presentation at the 39th NIFCA Awards ceremony at Ilaro Court on Sunday night was far more than a spiel on excellence. It was a declaration of war on half measures and mediocrity and the consequent lack of self-esteem, and the incivility this harbours.
Mac’s challenge is that as an entertainer he must put up with people who are so myopic that they cannot see the fun from the profundity. They know only half of what they ought to.
As Mac asks of the man who can muster only 50 per cent in carpentry: “What type of house you are going to build for me? A half a house?”
Apprehensive about flying as I am, I may ask of the pilot who could manage only 50 per cent in aptitude and competency what kind of flight I might expect from Barbados to London.
How indeed can school students be cultured in the notion that a 50 per cent pass – or effort – is acceptable and then be advised in adulthood by the same powers that be that nothing less than excellence in service and in work attitudes will do?
Truth be told, the same 50 per cent and less mentality pervades the workplace. If the customer “could live with” the service, no sweat! Why “kill” oneself to be excellent?
Mediocrity is “natural”; after all, it is human to make mistakes, and only God is “perfect”.
I have never yet accepted that a plane captain is “human”; he is my god of the sky. I don’t expect him to make any mistakes. And those people who themselves do shoddy work won’t accept the pilot making any errors either. That is the hypocrisy of it all.
And to think that it has become “we culture” to be accommodating of low standards parading as high in public speaking, public writing (especially on the Net and the blogs) – from the poppet to the priest. People will write bad grammar and spell awfully, and utter the greenest of verbs in public places and on the airwaves, and we are told by the apologists we should not worry; that we know what the shameless offenders mean anyhow; that that is what communication is now about; it isn’t much to do with language. This is the sorry state to which we have succumbed.
Lest someone accuses me of dissing Bajan dialect, let me say all educated Barbadians should be able to recognize our dialect and speak standard English with competency – if indeed we say we are educated.
Some years back, a Prime Minister of ours was touting the notion of “going for gold”. Only minds of excellence get there. It is not reached by rhetoric or its repetition; and its pursuance must be set by example. The hardest thing about being a leader is being the exemplar; the next most difficult is making those who would follow you, examples.
It’s a leader’s job to provide the appropriate guidance, motivation and atmosphere to ensure the mission determined is completed – at the very least attempted.
If we will foster a culture of excellence in this country, it must start at the gates of the powers that be.
It is incumbent upon them to raise the standards; up the 50 per cent pass.
We may fail to impress this importance upon some of this current generation, but we could invest in developing the next, getting them to better appreciate and take full advantage of the educational and training opportunities before them – taking us to that excellence many of us are too lazy to work after and couldn’t bother about.
Sadly this self-defeatist group cares not to be accountable to anyone or anything, or to be obligated to a higher cause or to be willing to accept responsibility for the degradation of the society.
But then comprehension – the act of grasping with the intellect ­– is a dying art. Mac Fingall will find this out to his chagrin.
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.