Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Ethon Lowe | Homo Sapiens Jamaicanensis: the superegotistical male

Published:Saturday | November 18, 2017 | 12:30 AMEthon Lowe

The grim headlines reads ‘Man beats babymother’, an all-too-common occurrence  that, sadly, we have become immune to its savagery. Recently, we hear that Jamaican men are killing their spouses at a higher rate than in most other countries. The prevalence rate of murder-suicide in Jamaica between 2007 and 2017 is 0.92 per 100,000, higher than the international rate. In the US, it is 0.20-0.30 per 100,000.

Who are the perpetrators? Homo sapiens jamaicanensis. Not a new species of humankind (although you might be forgiven to think that it is), but a unique species with a special proclivity for aggression and violence. Males of this species are predominantly the perpetrators.

Like other dysfunctional societies, the Jamaican male is subject to the same life’s circumstances that contribute to aggression and violence - poverty, unstable family environment, abusive parents, peer relationships cultural shaping, etc.—but endowed with unique qualities.

Paradoxical Male

Paradoxically, he can be lazy and slothful when there is little incentive to motivate him, e.g., the prospect of acquiring small monetary gains. It’s like employing a college professor to swat flies. Or, he may be highly disciplined and hard-working when the goal is more satisfying or lucrative. Exceptionally gifted, he has achieved world renown in various fields, including sports and entertainment (Murderers and con artists, we won’t mention).

Not surprisingly he is proud, has high self-esteem and an inflated ego. Certainly, having a high self-esteem is to be commended, but think of the aggressive people who have had high self-esteem: Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler, Stalin and Mao, etc. All were conceited and arrogant and regarded themselves as superior to others.

Think of our overblown materialistic society. The flaunting of high-end vehicles, stately mansions and extravagant lifestyles. A culture created to satisfy the taste of superegotistical individuals. A breeding ground for violence. But high self-esteem, by itself, is not always, or inevitably, a cause of violence.

Most people with high opinions of themselves are not violent. When, however, a favourable view of oneself is disputed or undermined, this is a potent recipe for violence. The roots of violence lie in the gap between a highly favourable self-appraisal and a bad appraisal by somebody else. Consider the egotistical Jamaican male who batters his wife to establish his power in the family. They are often men whose wives outclass or outrank them in some way - earning more money or having a better education. “I have to hit her now and then to show her who is boss.”

Attack on his pride

Seemingly innocuous acts by his wife, like smiling in a friendly way at a man, may be construed as a deliberate personal attack on his pride and ego, not to mention his sexual adequacy. Accordingly, he may become jealous and strike out.

Conceivably, some of his pride may be salvageable by possessing a sizeable appendage (his pride and glory). Bigger is better, and who are we to argue with that.

Aggression is a product of nature and nurture. Males have a higher level of testosterone and there is a correlation between high testosterone and increased delinquency and violent crimes. They also have a lower level of oxytocin (a hormone that seemingly makes people more friendly, more empathic and more trusting.

In one survey, men and women were asked what they were afraid of most. Women responded being raped and murdered. Men responded that they were most afraid of being laughed at. Men crave respect and can become violent when they feel put down — an apt description of Homo sapiens jamaicanensis.

- Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ethonlowe@gmail.com.