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Mr Chairman, distinguished colleagues I am honoured to have the opportunity to deliver this keynote address on the occasion of your Annual General Meeting. The work of the various Family Planning Associations in the different Caribbean countries has been one of the success stories of the post-war period of the history of the region. Individually and collectively the affiliated associations deserve the highest commendation.

I am heartened by your choice of theme, the Caribbean Male. Permit me a personal comment. How can I forget the response when I first raised the issue of the Male in 1986. For the only time in my career, I was publicly ridiculed and lynched, intellectually, in a Seminar on the Mona Campus following the Aubrey Phillips Memorial Lecture and publication of Marginalisation of the Black Male? The data, interpretation, and experience of which I wrote were discounted. I offered no defense but simply continued with the work. To that point, I had been studying the issue for eight years while my detracting colleagues had raided the data for no longer than a week, in preparation for the Seminar. As far as I was concerned the phenomenon would not go away and, having created the frame of reference to identify the issue, people would come increasingly to see the substance of what was being said. That assessment has proved to be correct. A decade later little skepticism remains concerning the data and experience although some controversy remains concerning the interpretation. I am pleased to see that throughout the region this issue has now come to the fore and currently engage our collective attention.

Today I wish to address some conceptual issues related to gender and its interrelationships with other elements of social structure,  highlight some empirical findings of relevance to Family Planning and offer some general comments about intervention strategies which seek to address the challenges faced.


The seminal theoretical contribution of feminist scholarship to social theory has been that of the radical feminists in firmly insisting that patriarchy must be included as an important category in social theorising and analysis. A social theory of all hues has been uniformly unisex, making no distinction between male and female whether in terms of their relations to the means of production or in status groups that perceived worth in the marketplace or in relation to the various structures of society. All feminist scholars have pointed to this deficit and discrepancy in social theory compared to the empirical reality. However, radical feminists have refused to engage in reductionism, that is, attempting to explain gender issues in terms of other categories such as class or race or status. They have insisted on gender and patriarchy being recognised as substantive categories in themselves, not capable of reduction.

The problematic has become the definition of patriarchy. [Weber, 1947] had defined patriarchy as women and younger men being dominated by older men, who were heads of household. While a few feminist theorists have followed the Weberian definition, the more common approach has been to discard the generation difference between men and define patriarchy as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women, Walby (1990). In other words, the most prevalent tendency in feminist scholarship has been to adopt a narrower and more exclusive definition than the Weberian definition.

But, to define patriarchy solely in terms of men’s domination of women is to treat both men and women as two separate undifferentiated groups that have sustained their coherence over time and between different cultures. This posture has attracted sharp criticism especially from Black feminists and post-structural and post-modernist theorists. [Hooks, 1984], for example, argued that while White feminists have traditionally conceptualised the family and home as a major source of women’s oppression, this is not the same among Blacks where the family is not a major source of women’s subordination. Indeed, increasingly it has become a major site of their liberation as more and more becoming heads of households. The post-modernist critique maintains that neither man nor or woman is unitary categories. They argue that the categories men and women are a number of overlapping and cross-cutting discourses of masculinities and femininities which are historically and culturally variable.

[Miller, 1991] argued that the main limitation of  Weber’s definition of patriarchy was its lack of attention to the kinship relations, factual or fictive, between the older and younger men and women that constituted the collective. In others words, patriarchy needs to be defined as that system of reciprocal social obligations in which final authority rest with older men of the kinship collective, who exercise that authority over its individual male and female members in the overall interest of the collective. The differences between these definitions of patriarchy are the elements included. Most feminist scholars have confined the definition of patriarchy solely to its gender component.  Weber’s definition of patriarchy included the elements of generation and gender. Miller explicitly highlighted the genealogy element in addition to gender and generation and insisted that recognition of this element is critical if the complexities of gender issues are to be better understood.

Miller argued that the gender and generation elements related to the internal relations of the collective while the genealogy element defined its external relations. This is a critical consideration both conceptually and empirically. The essence of Miller’s argument was that conceptually and historically patriarchal collectives have had major difficulties with other collectives that fell outside the covenant of kinship, and particularly with the men of those collectives. When patriarchal collectives interacted outside boundaries where kinship could not be established, whether factual or fictive, then one group had to submit to the hegemony of the other. Often elaborate ceremonies and rituals involving the payment of tribute marked such submission. Failing such compromise, violent confrontation became the means of establishing dominance. Miller traced the practice of genocide, where one collective sought the physical elimination of another; or killed the male captives, or castrated of male captives or almost permanent enslavement of conquered males as historical outcomes of conflict between collectives which did not share the covenant of kinship or where it had been breached. In all of these circumstances, Miller showed that patriarchal collectives found it easier to incorporate women of non-kin groups that the men of such groups. He maintained that the external relations with men of hostile collectives is as much an element of patriarchy as the internally ranked relations between men and women bonded by kinship.

At a minimum, therefore, patriarchy has to be defined to include genealogy, gender, and generation. In addition, categories of race, class or status group, region and religion or politics are super-ordinate elements that must be added as part of the structures linking the kinship collectives within the overall social structure.

The essence of my work has not been to deny or negate the contribution of feminist scholarship with respect to their findings and claims concerning the marginalisation of women within patriarchy. Rather it has been to add another dimension. That dimension is the marginalisation of men of the subordinate groups within society, especially in those societies in which race and class have been actively contested as criteria for organising society. The marginalised are men outside the covenant of kinship. Patriarchs of dominant groups have considerable difficulty in incorporating men of subordinated kinship collectives into the collectives that they dominate. By adding the dimension of non-kin male marginalisation, men at risk, gender analysis becomes more than women’s issues.

In my view, advocacy has been one of the factors that have distorted gender analysis. Collins (1990) made the point that while most individuals have no difficulty identifying their own victimisation, they routinely failed to see how they contributed to the suppression of others. White feminists typically point to their oppression while resist seeing how much their white skin constitutes a social privilege. Likewise African-Americans, eloquent in their analysis of racism, often persist in their perception of poor White women as symbols of White power. To this one could add that some women intent of prosecuting the injustices perpetrate against their gender have been unable or unwilling to concede that any set of males may be marginalised.

In applying these ideas to the Theme, Caribbean Male, it should be noted that the Caribbean qualifies male by differentiating these males from those of other areas of the world. At the same time, it treats Caribbean men as a unitary category. While there is some cultural reality represented in this classification, it masks the further differentiation of Caribbean males by country, race, status group, religion, and residence. These are meaningful distinctions especially as these relate to place in Caribbean society. One important axis of differentiation is with respect to men belonging to the dominant groups and those belonging to the subordinate groups. To put it bluntly,  if the Caribbean Family Planning Association treats Caribbean men as a unitary category, without differentiation into sub-categories differentiated with respect to power and position, it may find itself working at a level of generalisation that is patently unproductive of generating useful and effective strategies. Further, conventional wisdom may employ stereotypes that are at variance with reality. In other words, they may reflect nothing more than prejudice.


Nations, as social organisations, incorporate numerous ethnic and other groups within the national polity. While the national ideology and rhetoric of the state embrace notions of social equality and human rights, civil society within the nation manifest and practices varying degrees of social inequality rationalised and justified on the basis of the criteria on which the society is organised. In other words, while nationals may be accorded equal rights on paper many experience unequal opportunities, and even curtailment of their rights, as groups within the nation compete for dominance or seek to subordinate others.

In circumstances of modal consensus between the dominant and subordinate groups, generally marked by segregation, men of the dominant group can be expected to make concessions to men in the subordinate groups, in facilitating their limited access to the public sphere but enjoy comparable right to theirs in the private sphere, since the latter overtly accept the hegemony of the former. Concessions by men of the dominant group to men of the subordinate groups is as it were reward or reinforcement for voluntary acceptance of their subordination. Through this asymmetrical alliance with their potential rivals, the hegemony of the dominant group is preserved. The reward or incentive to men of the subordinate group is limited access to intermediate positions and particular occupations in the public sphere but the continuation of traditional rights in the private sphere. In these circumstances patriarchy in preserved in both the dominant and the subordinate groups. In this situation, women are either excluded from or allowed very limited access to the public sphere, as male solidarity between dominant and subordinate groups operate to minimise their participation. In these circumstances, men of the dominant group will fill positions in the public sphere from among themselves and skip over women of their own group to facilitate men of the subordinate groups. The marginalisation of women is most marked in societies in such periods of their history.

In circumstances of conflict, confrontation and competition between the dominant and subordinate groups in which the latter is challenged by the former, or where the latter perceive threats to their position from the former, men of the dominant group will alter their strategy. Men of the dominant group will seek to minimise access to their main rivals, men of the subordinate group, to strategic and intermediate positions in the public sphere. One aspect of the strategy is to relax patriarchal closure with respect to women of their own group. By so doing the patriarchal forms of the dominant group are extended to the public sphere as men of the dominant group exercised final authority with the assistance of women of their own group holding intermediary positions. Another aspect of the strategy is forming alliances with some younger women of the subordinate group by promoting them in the public sphere. That is, by skipping them up the place queue over their fathers, brothers, and husbands. One result of this strategy is the further marginalisation of large numbers of the men subordinate group. Another outcome is the emergence of matrifocal forms in the subordinate group as traditional gender roles are reversed in numerous relationships within these subordinate groups in the society.

In a nutshell when groups compete for positions, in societies espousing social integration, led by their men those groups controlling the gateways to opportunity and upward mobility will alter the structure of opportunity so that women of their own group and younger women of the subordinate group gain the lion share of opportunities that in periods of consensus would have gone to men of the subordinate group. In the process men, especially the younger ones, of the subordinate group are increasingly marginalised. This marginalisation is observable in all the so-called legitimate avenues of opportunities and with respect to all the avenues and symbols of material progress that are under the control of the dominant group. The avenues of opportunity created by the marginalised for themselves are usually categorised as illegitimate or deviant and are usually dominated by the men of the subordinate groups. The overall outcome is equalisation of women in the middle strata of society and the polarisation of men between the upper and lower strata.

It is important to note that these processes have been operative for more than a hundred years in Caribbean countries, at different rates, and to varying degrees. As with all social phenomena, there have been positive outcomes especially as these relate to the liberation of women of African and Indian ancestry. The increasing access of these women to education, particularly to those sections of the school system which allow for upward social mobility and the translation of these educational opportunities into better jobs and higher income has had profound implications on Caribbean demographics and the regional health status. Much of the success of family planning programmes in the Caribbean over the last 50 years have as their genesis the social transformations resulting from the processes previously described. The decline in the birth rate, family size and infant mortality and the increase in life expectancy and improved health status in the region all owe something to the motivation, momentum and marginal energy generated by  women of the lower strata as they have attempted to maximise the socio-economic opportunities open to them by delaying having children and reducing the number of children they have.

At the same time, we must acknowledge the downside of these social transformations. This has been the further slippage of some lower strata men, especially Black and Indian, down the social ladder into a growing male underclass. Their increasing marginalisation has engendered as many negative outcomes. Among the negative outcomes are the poor educational achievement, unsatisfactory performance at the workplace where they have jobs, chronic frustration among youths on street corners unable to find jobs, increasing domestic and street violence involving the gun and knife, and a growing sub-culture characterised by despair and hopelessness.


Some of these abstract arguments can best be illustrated with reference to the findings of a few recent empirical studies done in Jamaica. Wyatt et al (1994), in the most recent and most comprehensive study of sexual behaviour in Jamaica, reported that Jamaicans highly value long-term serious relationships in general and marriage, in particular. Factors deemed most critical for the successful relationship were: love, fidelity, adequate income, and good sex. Although having children was also important, these four factors rated ahead of children. These values were shared by both men and women and were also identical to those found in U.S. samples of Black, Latino and White Americans.

With respect to the value placed on having children, Wyatt et. al. reported that women placed a higher value on having children compared to men: 72 percent for females compared to 63 percent for males. However, when controlling for education an interesting gender difference emerged. Men with tertiary education placed the highest value on having children, 85 percent, while only 69 percent of men with primary education placed a similar value. Among women, the difference was in the opposite direction. Seventy-six percent of the women with primary education placed a high value on children compared to 68 percent of women with tertiary education. Tertiary educated men and women with primary education hold more to the traditional values with respect to having children, while tertiary educated women and men with primary education show a greater tendency to the emerging value system in which life without children is contemplated as an acceptable outcome. In other words, educated men shared similar values about having children with less educated women, while the reverse is true with respect to more educated women and less educated men.

Interestingly, these values seem to have translated into condom and contraceptive usage. Both unskilled and unemployed males and male professional executives and managers had high rates in terms of the number of partners over a year or 12-year periods. However, the unskilled and unemployed males had the highest condom use while professional men had the lowest. Wyatt et. al., having examined the use of other forms of contraception, concluded that professional men were practicing unsafe sex to a higher degree than any other group. This finding is contrary to the general stereotype of the uneducated lower status males as the irresponsible “studs” who are careless about fathering children. These findings suggest some caution is treating sex education by itself as a panacea to fertility matters among men.

It is important to note that the gender patterns found with respect to the value of having children and the practice of using condoms have a very similar structure to the patterns found with respect to education and unemployment rates, and education and income. The gender patterns found in these very separate and different studies do not conform to conventional wisdom, or popular stereotypes, or standard explanations derived from long-established sociological theories. Indeed, Wyatt et. al. found that the variables included in their study accounted for a very limited proportion of the variance in condom usage: 10 percent in the case of women and 13 percent in the case of men. This underscores the limitations of planning interventions based on opinions derived from conventional wisdom, popular stereotypes, and leading sociological theories.

Within the theoretical framework that I have employed in my work, Place Theory, it is easy to explain these findings. Men with tertiary education and women with only primary education are in the traditional positions of dominant men and marginalised women. They are holding to traditional values and therefore practicing traditional sex, that is, sex to produce children, called unsafe sex in the era of AIDS. On the other hand, women with tertiary education and men with primary education find themselves operating outside of traditional positions in society. Tertiary educated women are newly empowered, while men with primary education are further marginalised. Both are practicing modern sex, that is, sex for pleasure divorced from producing children, so-called safe sex. They are operating within the framework of emerging value systems related to their new positions in society.


Boxill (1993) conducted a study on the knowledge and use of condoms by youths between the ages of 12 and 25 years. The sample consisted of 400 youngsters, 61.5 percent of whom were females and 38.5 percent males. Boxill found that 98 percent of these youths knew of the condom; 81 percent approved of its use; 30 percent had used condoms and 24 percent were currently using them.

The 1993 Contraceptive Prevalence Survey carried out by McFarlane et al, included a Young Adult Module which provided empirical data on the sexual behaviour and contraceptive use of youths between the ages of 15 and 24 years. The sample included 2580 youths, 1180 males and 1050 females randomly selected through the two-stage sampling process.

The Survey found that generally young women were better educated than young men. There were more males with primary education only and more females with post-secondary education. This finding is consistent with practically also surveys of recent vintage.

The Survey’s the major findings concerning sexual behaviour and contraceptive use of 15-19 youths can be summarised as follows:

  • Between 1987 and 1993 there had been an increase in the proportion of 15-19 years old females who had had sexual intercourse, from 55.4 percent to 62.8 percent, while there had been a slight decline among 15-19 years old males from 78 to 75 percent. By age 15 years 36.8 percent of these adolescents had had sex while by 18 years the proportion rose to 77.8 percent.
  • The average age of first intercourse was 15.9 years for females and 13.9 for males.
  • 15-19 years old attending church at least once per week were the least sexually experienced, while those with no religion were the most sexually experienced.
  • Among 15 to 24 years old females those with primary and lower education were more sexually experienced compared to those with 5 to 8 years of secondary schooling. Among 15 to 24 years old males the pattern was the reverse: those with 5to 8 years secondary schooling were more sexually experienced than those with primary or lower education.

The average age at first intercourse showed a similar pattern for males and females at different ends of the socio-economic continuum, as shown in Table 1.

                            Table 1
             Mean Age at first Sexual Intercourse by Gender
                                        Female Male
Lowest social status            15.6 14.4
High Social status               17.6 12.8


Of the various social groups girls of high socio-economic status were oldest, of any social group, at first sexual intercourse, while the boys were the youngest. High social status males were younger than their peers of the lowest socio-economic group, at first intercourse, while among girls it was the reverse.

Other findings of the Survey were:

  • Of 15-19 years old only 0.2 per cent of the males and 3.9 per cent of the females were involved in residential conjugal unions. However, 37.5 per cent of the males and 31.4 per cent of the females were involved in visiting unions or had boy/girlfriends with whom they had sex. 62.5 per cent of the males and 68.6 per cent of the females either had no partners or had boy/girlfriends without having sex.
  • At first intercourse the partners of both males and females were older, except in the case of boys under thirteen years.
  • In the 1993 survey 42.7 per cent of the females and 21.6 per cent of the males reported the use of contraceptives at first intercourse. Compared to 1987, there was a slight increase among females but a marked increase among males. The major reasons for not using contraceptive at first intercourse were not expecting to have sex, 34.7 per cent among males and 46.9 per cent among females and not knowing about any method, 32.3 among males and 20.9 percent among females.
  • At last intercourse, 72.2 percent of 15-19 years old reported using a contraceptive method. The condom and the pill were the most used methods.
  • Among 15-19 years old none of the females and only 1.8 percent of the males did not use condoms because they desired pregnancy. The main reasons for not using condoms were that their partners did not like it, diminished pleasure and they had only one partner.
  • Among 15-19 years old 97.6 percent of the females reported only have one partner over the last month compared to 68.6 percent of the males.
  • Among 15-17 years old there was a dramatic increase in the proportion that had been pregnant and had had live births between 1993 and 1989. In 1993 32.9 percent had been pregnant compared to 12.4 percent in 1989 and 27.0 percent had had live births compared to 9.2 percent in 1989.
  • When the proportion reporting pregnancy and live births in 1993 and 1989 are compared with respect to the level of education, there is little change with respect to those rates among females with post-secondary education. The increased rates are noted among females with primary and secondary education and is most marked among females with primary education and lower.
  • The same pattern is noted when pregnancy and live births among 15-24-year-old females are compared
  • The school status of 15-17 females at the birth of their first child shows that 69.7 percent were in-school and 30.3 percent were out-of-school which corresponds to the school status of the cohort as a whole. In other words, the birth of first children of females 15-17 years does not appear to be influenced by school status.
  • The data shows, however, that of girls 13 to 19 more than 85 percent did not return to school after giving birth. Childbirth would, therefore, appear to be a major cause of the termination of schooling among females.
  • Approximately 70 percent of females between 15 and 24 years reported that their last pregnancy was unplanned and another 7 percent reported it was totally unwanted. However, females 15-17 were most likely to report that the last pregnancy was planned and less likely to report that it was totally unwanted.
  • The vast majority of 15-19 years old youths receive sex education in school. The content most thoroughly covered are human reproduction, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Topics not covered as thoroughly are birth control and services to adolescents.
  • When the ages of females are analysed with respect to when they first had sex compared to when they received sex education, it is found that the majority of females having sex before age 13 years received sex education after they had had sex, while the vast majority having sex for the first time between the ages of 15 and 17 had already received sex education.
  • Between 1987 and 1993 the level of sex education among females has remained virtually unchanged while that among males has shown modest improvement.

When the findings of Boxill (1993) and the 1993 Contraceptive Use Survey are taken together, it would appear the sharp rise in fertility rates recorded by females under 20 years old is not primarily due to a lack of knowledge about sex, contraceptives or the consequences of having sex without the use of contraceptives. Indeed, this sharp rise in fertility rate is restricted to adolescent females between the ages of 15 and 19 years who belong to the lower socio-economic strata and who have the least education.

The most likely explanation of these findings is that not having done well in school and faced high unemployment, and low wages even if employed, in stringent and deteriorating economic circumstances in which their families are unable to continue to support them, girls in mid to late adolescence have been forced to rely on males for their sustenance. To secure or cement these relationships these young females feel constrained to have children for the men on whom they depend. The decision to have the children is facilitated by the revered status of motherhood, the traditional value placed on childbearing by these social strata and the future security children could bring. The men involved are invariably older men who are employed in jobs which suggest that they could support mother and baby.

This practice of becoming “baby mothers” in adolescence has a history of well over 100 years in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The risks for young women utilising their sexuality in this way are well known to all concerned. However, to the females concerned, its the best chance they have when all factors are considered.

Any intervention that targets this age group and aims to reduce fertility, cannot simply provide family planning services to these adolescent females. The critical issue to be addressed is that of decreasing their dependence on men for financial support. Fundamental to this is an independent source of income, through employment at reasonable wage levels. Education and training that would secure employment and reasonable income could be the long-term solution.

Another important finding is that boys and men of the higher socio-economic groups, the dominant group, are the ones in most need of inventions targeting such behaviours as early sexual activity, involvement with many partners, the disregard for the use of contraceptives and fathering large numbers of children. The oft maligned lower-class male starts having sex later, is more likely to practice safe sex and is more disposed to limit the number of children that he fathers. These findings are almost totally opposite to the prevailing stereotypes and wisdom.

Yet another finding worth noting is that for both men and women socio-economic position and gender interact to produce widely different sexual behaviour leading to interactions that are not readily anticipated from standard social theory. The uptown boy and the downtown girl seem to share more common sexual values than the downtown boy and the uptown girls. The reverse is also true about the uptown girl and the downtown boy. Gender and its relations to sex and class are far more complex than would first meet the eye. It becomes even more complex when colour and race are factored in.


In my view, the phenomena of the mediocre participation of boys in the schooling and male underachievement are not caused by pedagogical approaches of female teachers in schools or by the socialisation practices employed by single mothers in the homes. Rather, the feminization of teaching, the matrifocal forms of an increasing number of households, the poor participation of boys in schools, the underachievement of men at the workplace are all symptoms of the intense conflict and competition between the various groups that comprise Caribbean society. The conflict and competition are about economic advantage and social status which has raged in Caribbean countries over the course of the twentieth century. The issues being contested relate to power, resources, status, belief, and culture.

The point of this analysis is that the observed gender patterns are not the result of the presence or absence of role male models but the changing definition and apportionment of the roles themselves. The issues involved are at the core of definition and destiny of Caribbean society. They are not superficial but substantial. This is not to say that they are beyond the reach of ordinary people but rather to say that ordinary people have to reach the point of tackling the fundamental issues of these times. The issues of the times are not simply about scarce benefits but about the nature of society itself as it seeks to develop criteria to deal with scarce benefits, against the background of its history of injustice accounting for the inequalities that exist.

In addressing the matters such as attitudes, self image, responsible behaviour, parenting among Caribbean males it is important to maintain a distinction between males of the groups dominant in the various societies are they are defined by combinations of race, class, region and generation, and males of the subordinate groups as they are defined by these same categories. The point is that males of the dominant groups are beneficiaries of the inequalities and injustices of Caribbean history. In large measure, despite the changes in the ethnic composition of these groups, they have continued to behave in a manner not far removed from those they succeeded. Those who struggle and defeated the oppressors, now act in a manner not easily distinguished from their predecessors. As such they are perpetrators of structural violence against the rest of society including women and marginalised males.

For example, it is men of the dominant groups that have access to the sexuality of large numbers of women by virtue of income, status, education and social desirability. As a result many do not need to engage in predatory behaviour in the context of the growing number of young middle-class women who are unable to find men of comparable social status.  It is these men of high social status, adequate income and professional rank who can continue the tradition of the “Grandee” of eighteenth-century plantation fame: who rode hard, drank hard, gamble hard and had a whole lot of Brown skinned progeny.

On the other hand, increasingly young males of the subordinate groups are resorting to physical violence, directed at self and others, as their response to their precarious position in society. Saddled with the negative stereotypes that have traditionally surrounded their groups in the society, they are indeed the males that have begun to effect substantial changes in their social orientation. While much attention may be focused on their violent and destructive acts, sight must not be lost of their creative endeavours in music, sports, and entertainment generally. Some have even begun to make fundamental changes in relationship to family responsibility including parenthood.

It is this framework that must constitute the macro view within which attitudes, values, self-image, and behaviour at the micro level must be understood. For those groups planning interventions directed at the male population the most fundamental factor to face is that males of the dominant groups must be included within the scope of any intervention planned. Their omission from any intervention would constitute the most glaring oversight and even folly. While the ethos of the time highlights the marginalised, the powerful constitute a critical factor in any equation for a fundamental change.

In concluding let me say that I can offer no detail prescription. My lack of expertise in your domain constitutes more than a limitation, it is a disabling handicap. I trust, however, that the broad dimensions of the conceptual issues I have raised, and the empirical findings related to your field, will be helpful in your deliberations as you seek to define new directions and to plan your work. More than anything I trust that this analysis will cause you to revisit some areas within your domain to reassess both the conceptual basis and empirical foundations upon which they stand.

Finally, let me say that it is not unusual to hear pessimist forecast about the future of the Caribbean. I do not share such a perspective. One of the myths of the twentieth century is that perfect conditions are the midwife of progress. To be the best you must have the best situation. Sufficiency is prized, and deficiency despised. Yet one of the mysteries of history is that it is often war not peace, poverty not prosperity, marginality not centrality, colonial dependence not imperial power, adversity not sufficiency, pain not pleasure, suffering not well being, sacrifice and not self indulgence that were the attendants at the birth of great advances in human civilisation

This is not to suggest that there is any sadistic element in progress. Rather, it is to observe that it is circumstances of manifest mortality, weakness, and tragedy that are often the settings in which humans tend to see beyond self and listen to other than reason. In these situations, people are more likely to embrace the common good, envision a better society and exercise the faith necessary to achieve it.  Fundamental change begins in the margin. History is the study of the rise of the marginalised. The commencement of their rise is generally not auspicious, but the realisation of their dreams is glorious.


July 11, 1996