Don’t kick the cat!

03 December 2021 | Economics

John Steytler

Namibia is in an unenviable position as a developing country, its economy is very fragile and it is trying to weather the pandemic. Any adverse impacts can and do have long-lasting effects. Where developed countries and economies can bounce back, the resilience and recovery of the Namibian economy is a more challenging prospect. As an economist I know that it will take more than a magic wand to kickstart the economy. It will require us working together, and as our president has said, ‘resilience’ from every Namibian. All of us pulling in the same directions towards a sustained and prolonged recovery.

The need to operate as a team made me think of something I recently saw on a comedy show called ‘Blackadder’, a very funny British sitcom. It sounds strange to bring up a comedy show in a serious article about the state of Namibia and its economy. However, it resonated with me. It came down to Sir Edmund Blackadder going down to the servants’ quarters after having been thoroughly chastised by the queen, and kicking the cat that lived in the servants’ kitchen. The cat in turn bit a mouse and the mouse bit the lowliest servant, the dogsbody called Baldrick.

In life there is a pecking order, and in the comedy ‘Blackadder’, we saw the pecking order in full effect. Everybody kicks downwards until there’s no one to ‘peck’ any more. This is called the ‘Don’t kick the cat’ metaphor, used to describe how a relatively high-ranking person in an organisation or family displaces their frustrations by abusing a lower-ranking person, who may in turn take it out on their own subordinate.

The economic toll has had a major impact on our mental well-being, with people at all levels feeling powerless and frustrated. This is often when people lash out. Kick downwards if you will. Tempers are frayed, nerves are short, and people are barely holding it together. What could be better than taking out your frustrations on a junior staffer or on a family member or the cat?

There is no excuse for abusing co-workers or subordinates as a mechanism to relieve stress. This behaviour can result in a chain reaction, where a higher-ranking member of the company or organisation abuses their subordinate, who takes it out on their own subordinate, and so on down the line. It certainly does not create the environment that is conducive to getting the best out of employees or increasing productivity. Which is what we need most if we look at the situation which we find ourselves in as a country.

Namibia is still a very hierarchal society, and we often take verbal abuse and physically abuse for granted. However, it is not normal and it is certainly not okay in this day and age. If we truly want to become a just, fair and equal society where we can flourish as an economy, but also as a people I urge you all to refrain from ‘kicking the cat’. It will do wonders for Namibia as a nation and for our wellbeing.

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