Machismo Bollocks

Rumours a few weeks ago that a papier Mache sculpture-making festival of our civic leaders was taking place deep inside Forum North were incorrect. The public were informed that the drippy slaps coming from council chambers were the sound of wrists being lightly caressed with soggy bus tickets by councillors disciplining a staff member again. I would warn anyone entering with a question to back out deferentially whilst making flattering remarks about inspiring leadership – that seems to be the preferred modus operandi. It’s one of the problems of living in a company town – it’s just that in this town the council is the company. But deference can be lethal. It’s deadly for business but it can be just as dangerous politically and socially. Years ago I was given a class of Latin air traffic controllers for English classes. After the first lesson it was obvious they were wasting their money and that their English was flawless. The director insisted that there had been several near misses in recent years at various airports and all the problems had been with English. I asked for the transcripts of some of them. The problem, it transpired was not an English one. It was an over-abundance of testosterone. Younger flight engineers, pilots and air traffic controllers continually deferred to older macho pilots who would bully them into believing their incorrect assumptions. This is one of the more stupid outcomes of a machista culture that insists that you are only gay if you ‘take it’. A pity 250 passengers have to die to prove that you had the bigger bollocks on the day. It is also one of the great gifts that living with Latin machismo gives one; and that is; to understand that the authority and sheer weight and aggression with which some bollocks are thrown around is entirely disproportional to the veracity or validity of the point being argued. Dumb decisions are invariably the outcome of these kinds of work environments – women do not thrive in them and cease to contribute and clever blokes – you know; the ones that think before they open their mouth - often struggle to be heard. In the sinking of the Tongan Ferry “Princess Ashika’ one surveyor and the Tongan Port Chief found the vessel to be unseaworthy. The Captain later admitted he had been pressured by government to override all advice and sail without the delay of repairs. Arrogance over intelligence won and the boat sank in a one metre swell with the loss of over 70 lives.Last month the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years was found by a parliamentary enquiry to have been a ‘man made disaster.’ It was due, not to the Tsunami, but to ‘a dangerous culture of deference’; the Japanese ‘reluctance to question authority.’ It also pointed to an unholy allegiance between government officials and the owners of the facility who all bought into a convenient ‘safety myth’. ‘The regulation of the plant was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion’. It would be unfortunate to be saying the same of the mining industry here in 20 years time. Although there are elements of this same problem in the Pike River disaster too. The lack of transparency and civil alienation from the decision making process – i.e. one that was conducted ‘behind closed doors’ were also contributing factors to the Fukushima disaster. It was noted that by ‘staying silent, (managers) were on the upward promotions escalator.’ Promoting and rewarding silence as opposed to the due consideration of constructive criticism and beating the odd recalcitrant critic into submission, allows the mediocre and the sociopathic to quietly percolate to the top. A point that seems to be playing out in the CTV building enquiry which seems to prove that a dangerous culture of deference is not unique to the Japanese.

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