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In memoriam: Carl Stone, 1940-1993
published: Thursday | March 6, 2003


Martin Henry

IT'S BEEN ten years since Professor Carl Stone laid off his armour in the prime of an extra-ordinarily productive life. Hartley Neita reminded us of our enormous loss in his Gleaner feature 'This Day in our Past' last Wednesday (Feb. 26).

Stone was a mighty man. I deeply admired him, mostly from a distance and with some trepidation as a fellow Gleaner columnist who at any time could be the subject of his incisive no-holds-barred critique. In his own words: "I tend to be an aggressive person. I was taught by Archie Singham to enjoy the cut and thrust of vigorous debate. I like a good fight, a sharp exchange. I think that out of this you bring out facts and challenge orthodoxies, and from this can come real value."

Carl added real value to his world as UWI Professor of Political Sociology, researcher, unerring pollster, public speaker, activist for carefully chosen causes, columnist, friend, and family man. Carl, in his public pronouncements, lashed left and lashed right with reams of data and sharp analyses, and then became trusted consultant to both JLP and PNP administrations which took their licks and recognised the merit of the man.

I was alarmed to find out that not even the UWI Bookstore now stocks Stone's scholarly works which have largely gone out of print. In 1982 Carl produced a thankfully slim little report to the JLP Seaga-led Government, "Work Attitudes Survey". The Re-port was published as a booklet, which 21 years later is still on the market as a classic text endlessly used.

In 1992, Carl produced another slim popular study, "Values, Norms and Per-sonality Develop-ment in Jamaica". This study was adopted as a base paper for Prime Minister P.J. Patterson's Values and Attitudes campaign when it was launched in 1994.

Stone was always an optimistic man fighting for a brighter future for Jamaica and in particular the underdogs with whom he was always in direct personal contact. He saw himself as the "voice of the people" in his various vocations.

Stone would have had a problem with the blanket label "working class", as I do. One of his scholarly works, which cannot now be found, is a brilliant counter-analysis challenging the "orthodoxies" in the descriptions of Jamaica's class structure. I once used a borrowed copy of the book (which was returned), whose title is eluding me just now, in a bit of research work of my own.

'Work Attitudes Survey' and 'Values, Norms and Personality Development', taken together, do more to explain the economic and social condition of the country, and why escape is so utterly difficult, and why down rather than up so often seem to be the general direction of our movement.

In 'Work Attitudes' Stone concluded that "the overall interpretation of the data suggests that work norms are quite low at the Jamaican workplace (and) a major demotivating factor is the deep distrust between workers and management in most enterprises. It inhibits worker output by limiting management's capability to motivate higher levels of work performance and increasing worker distrust of management's motive. It reinforces the other factors."

In 'Values, Norms and Personality Development', which Arnold Bertram hailed as "required reading for every Jamaican committed to a better Jamaica" when the paper was re-issued for the Values and Attitudes Consultations, Carl described a portentous clash of values and norms. "Old and new ideologies, core values and norms compete for ascendancy in most domains of social space which I have called a power disequilibrium. Failure to break this stalemate or deadlock," the professor warned ominously, "will result in a ­ drift towards social anarchy where raw power rather than authority holds sway. This in my judgement," he said, "is where Jamaica now is ­ namely, structural disequilibrium bordering on anarchist tendencies."

It was to me amazing, therefore, that Stone once sought to legitimise roadblocks. To me this trampling upon the rights of innocent third parties is a sign of the "anarchist tendencies" which he warned of, tendencies which must ultimately destroy the goals, however legitimate, of the roadblockers themselves.

We found greater concord in our views of the links between poverty and violence. In his March 24, 1992 column, Stone wrote: "For some time now I have avoided commenting on what other columnists are writing. But I must depart from that trend to commend colleague columnist Martin Henry for consistently trying to deal with the deeper moral, development and philosophical issues and taking us away from a total pre-occupation with day to day occurrences and events. His recent piece on the role of declining family life in contributing to social violence was a refreshingly different perspective from the simplistic but popular view that poverty itself accounts for the high level of violence in our country. There is no longer any need to guess or speculate about this issue. A great deal of research has been done on it both at the international level and in our own environment and the explanations are beyond refutation."

Stone argued that values, culture and social institutions like family are the factors that make the difference in how people respond to poverty. Then he cried out at the end, "if we don't change these values, God help us in this country!"

Carl Stone often stood alone, like "Athanasius contra mundo" (Athanasius against the world) in Church history. He often complained that he had to do too much and outside his field because the scholars of the university were not engaging the burning public issues of the day. Carl Stone fired away to the very end with 'awesome' courage and discipline (in his wife's words) ­ last column, February 10; death, February 26, 1993. I videotaped his final TV interview with Ian Boyne in November 1992. Carl was gaunt and pale but as sharp as ever and unafraid to face public exposure in his terminal condition. Thieves broke into my house and made off with that tape among their loot, a tape which may have no meaning at all to them but meant a great deal to me.

Martin Henry is a communication specialist.

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