I will refer to the theory of “brain lateralization”, the idea that the two halves of the brain’s cerebral cortex (left and right) perform different functions, to explain the careless behavior by Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) managers in the way they have treated their workers in the past few months. My conclusion is that there has been a qualitative lack of ‘level-headedness’ on the part of MBC top brass.
The theory of brain lateralization was developed by Nobel-prize-winners Roger Sperry and Robert Ornstein. It helps us to understand our behavior, our personality, our creativity, and our ability to use the proper mode of thinking when performing particular tasks.
The functions of the two halves (“hemispheres”) of the cortex can be specified as follows (for right-handed people):
The left hemisphere, which is emphasized in our educational system, specializes in analytical thought. It deals with hard facts such as patriotism, structure, discipline and rules, time sequences, mathematics, categorizing, logic and rationality and deductive reasoning, planning and goals, productivity and efficiency, and other things.
The right hemisphere specializes in the “softer” aspects of life which includes intuition, feelings and sensitivity, emotions, daydreaming and visualizing, creativity (including art), flexibility, learning by experience, relationships, play and sports and humor, among others.
Ideally, lateralization is something that develops for us to be able to use the proper hemisphere for the task which we are doing. For example, when we are having sex (a right-hemisphere activity), we would lose the essence of the game (the fun) if we were overly apprehensive regarding left-hemisphere matters such as HIV/AIDS, performance, goals, size of body parts, and duration of time.
Similarly, when we are preparing our monthly budget (a left-hemisphere activity), especially in the age of “zero-deficit” budgets, we don’t want to be distracted by the right hemisphere’s fascination with art and emotions.
In every task, one hemisphere is dominant, but the other hemisphere participates to some extent. For example, we do have rules during the pool game, and we can feel happy when we notice that our bills are not as costly this month.
According to James Harvey Stout, when we understand lateralization, we become more efficient: we can consciously allow and emphasize the correct hemisphere, knowing that the sense-oriented right hemisphere is a better sex player, and the analytical left hemisphere is better in organizational restructuring.
Generally, humans tend to use one half more than the other and we tend to distrust or even dislike the non-dominant half. If we generally use our left hemisphere, we might be annoyed by our right hemisphere as though it were an undisciplined child. These same attitudes might be projected onto other people.
The managers at Malawi Broadcasting Corporation have proved to be right-hemisphere at times they must demonstrate level-headedness. They are now unreliable and disorganized in the eyes of their workers as well as the public. Members of staff at the public broadcaster live in fear because any time they can receive dismissal letters or bad redeployment. The person second in command at the station, Mrs Chimwemwe Banda, allegedly went as far as describing one of the kid workers she must protect, Mary Segula, as being “ugly”. Female workers have suffered a lot. This abhors.
The workers MBC managers are tossing around are responsible men and women with spouses, big families and some whole villages to feed.
Much as I don’t like MBC myself, but as a Unionist I am obliged to condemn MBC management and to call upon them, especially Mrs. Chimwemwe Banda and Mr. Malopa, that as they play their games, they should acknowledge the presence of the other hemisphere, and seriously think about how their actions continue affecting the wellbeing of their junior staff and those who depend on them.
I hope we will be able to chat when we meet.
- Winfred Mkochi, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.