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OFF CENTRE: We can . . . do bad all by weself!


Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: We can . . . do bad all by weself!

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Managers are some of the worst workers. And white people’s racism and capitalist zeal have visited some of the most oppressive outcomes on people of other races. True, true.
Amid all the skirting of the issue raised by Ralph “Bruggadung” Johnson’s late July claim that “we as a people have grown lazy and inefficient”, these two responses ran ahead of the field.
Your average hedger doesn’t put things as bluntly as I put the first observation. A self-respecting ideologue, even when sidestepping, never minces words, so they would probably put the second observation even more caustically than I did.
Neither side seemed to realize that by their diagnosis they were tacitly accepting the basic truth of Bruggadung’s claim – never mind its overreach, which I dealt with last week.
The deflectors should at least understand, though, why when a crucial truth meets constant denial, some people will choose to shout it from the housetops, so to speak.
I heard this one: They asked back for the company car. He did not get the message. They moved him to a demeaning corner office. Nothing getting through. They told him, “You need not come in every day.” Thick skull meets figurative writing on the wall – message not received. Finally, the head honcho walked in with a big placard emblazoned with the words “You’re Fired!”
After the many individual cries, after the studies about declining productivity, some people would just give up. But Johnson bring a placard, and not even a big one with fiery statement and exclamation mark.
And the extenuators and the mitigators came a-calling. Now, don’ fool yuhself: there are a number of things that can inhibit sublime productivity.
Management, for sure. And greedy capitalism. And racism.
But I think we have to face up to Tyler Perry’s more than US$50 million-grossing movie truth: “I can do bad all by myself”.
The “devil” does not always make me do it.
So while I agree when people say that poor worker behaviours could be improved by remedies such as better management or an understanding of the ravages of the capitalist system and racism, and even add in things like more worker participation in decision-making, better pay, more motivation, I say also they put no score at all on things like personal pride, common sense of duty and basic self-accountability.
I gotta tell yuh: I can’t see how the remedies advanced were the critical missing elements when a hardware store worker felt so “disturbed” by a customer entering the store and asking right away where he could find such and such a product that she exclaimed to her confab partner, “I woulda understand if he had looked around first and then come and ask. But he just walk in and ask [you could imagine that?]”!
Nor can I see what those things have to do with a mechanic scarcely tightening the rack ends he installed on somebody’s car. Or a plumber terminating an open-ended water-bearing pipe in the foundation of a house.
Or when that gas station worker made me wait at the pump five minutes while she talked with a co-worker about her Crop Over Cavalcade exploits.
Because I still could, I went elsewhere – where apparently well adjusted, sensitive white people with a socialist/communist ethic and better management skills ran things. Yeah, right!
Those naked, in-your-face, unsatisfactory worker behaviours did not require any special managerial input – or a non-capitalist or non-racist backdrop – to better. They are all cases of personal laxity of the “I-can-do-bad-all-by-myself” variety and, paradoxically, of the “I-can-do-better-than-that-all-by-myself” kind. And that is what Barbadians meet going and coming – and what they mean when they complain about poor “work” – aka laziness and inefficiency.
Ideologues (who are often people with an axe to grind and wield and who just as often see things only through their black and white, them versus us blinkers) and misguided ivory tower types miss (the former I think conveniently) those straightforward, minimum-standard things.
But you got to stop seeing my off-putting, inconveniencing, expense-creating experiences with poor workmen through your little prism (prison?). Which apparently holds nobody accountable but bad managers, capitalist employers and Whites as you verbally masturbate to the sound of your doctrine.
Well, while you are at it, find an excuse for me as well. After all, the system must have frigged me up too.
In these parts there is a callousness about individual victims that must be uncompromisingly denounced. What kind of people want to downplay other people’s bad service reality and sacrifice it on the altar of their philosophical convenience?
This is not to say that the status quo does not need fixing. But why kill personal responsibility as you pursue that?
True, managers and capitalists and Whites have a lot to “answer God for”. But as a worker, so do I.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.

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