If you’ve ever actually seen real live crabs in a barrel, you’ll immediately understand why that analogy to certain human behavior makes perfect sense. When I saw them for the first time recently, I thought it was the most curious thing. As with any trapped animal, they were all clamoring to escape the container. But when one seemed close to victory, another would grab onto it dragging the successful one down, rather than dragging himself up. Now I’m sure that the poor crabs were just acting on instinct, but when we the people behave that way, consciously drag others down and then say that if they couldn’t deal with the heat, they didn’t deserve the success, what are we actually saying about ourselves?
This issue isn’t unique to the West Indian community. And while some argue that it is human nature to have some amount of jealousy, I don’t understand why we feel it is normal to act on it in this way. There are other cultures that clearly work together for the good of their communities more often than not, so why can’t we? This is a matter of nurture rather than nature. We absolutely reason ourselves out of this behavior, but you know what they say – you can’t deal with a problem until you’ve acknowledged that it exists.
Digging a little deeper, I think there are a few common culprits behind this “Crab in a Barrel” syndrome. The three that I’ve identified as clear and present are: misery loves company, we believe everyone doesn’t deserve our support, and we don’t believe that we can collectively escape negative circumstances, so we seek to make sure others can’t escape individually.
On this week’s episode of The Caribbean Diaspora Weekly we explore these reasons in more depth. I believe that if we know better, we can do better. I’ve recognized some of these behaviors in myself and have chosen to leave them behind as far as possible. Hopefully, opening up this discussion helps others choose to make a positive change in their own attitudes.
Watch the extended version of this opinion piece on The Caribbean Diaspora Weekly. Set your DVR or go to early church service to catch each Sunday’s 11:30AM episode on SFL / The CW Network (Ch 39 / Comcast 11). If you miss it, watch it right here on the SFL Times website. Calibe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.