Like many of us, J.K. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. From the time she was young, she wrote fantasy stories, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans – and she’s incredibly talented. Hence, the phenomenal success of Harry Potter.
As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys (ie) Donald Trump, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In our hyper-rational and unfeeling world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be barely human.
Within her writing, Ms. Rowling cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized and unconscious people, like Donald Trump, into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of; that we avoid and deny to varying degrees. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.
That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are deemed worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?
Recently, Ms. Rowling once again engaged the ‘enemy’, with the Huffington Post gleefully pointing out how she ‘destroys’ her Trump-supporting twitter trolls. In one breath Ms. Rowling tweets, “We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalised. We hold the line.” In the next breath she responds to a Trump troll who says they will be burning her books and movies with, “Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.”
The inference is that Voldemort, WBC and her twitter trolls are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love – and even deserving of a brutal death. Cleverness, sarcasm and ridicule employed to inflict maximum harm. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? With Mr. Trump? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us – a mirror we dare not look into because we might see that we are an energetic match for what we reject most in others.
But, it’s just so damn satisfying to ‘destroy’ those who are lesser-than, isn’t it? After all, it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort! It’s Trump for God’s sake!!
I mean, these memes are hilarious, right?
The truth is, we scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured shame – because, steeped in avoidance and denial, we are unable to own it and heal it.
Besides, does it make sense to egg on such a damaged and now powerful man, as well as millions of his supporters, who naturally take these memes personally? In mocking them, don’t we only further alienate them? Don’t they become even more entrenched in their positions, further exacerbating the already precarious divisions in the culture?
Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our hyper-masculine world. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’. Because, all any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in our society? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place? And, most importantly, what does this harsh judgment say about those of us who engage in it, especially if we manage to dig deeper and recognize that Mr. Trump is less an aberration and more of a culmination of an abjectly corrupt social, economic and political system that has simply arrived at its logical destination? It says that if we continue to respond in the same unconscious fashion, the outcome will be predictably, and unpredictably, problematic.
Conversely, there is the opportunity for an evolutionary response. This begins, first and foremost, with us as individuals. Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel badly for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable given past and present traumas. This uncertainty can paralyse us, making the inner journey even more daunting than it already is. And yet, if we are hoping for different results, we’re challenged to seek peace and healing in the only place it resides, within, and then, to the extent that we can, to share that with the world.
Reflections on Staying the Course or Finding the Courage and Clarity to Make a Course Correction
Remain or Leave? Which brings us back to Brexit. If we concede that what has been presented in this paper has validity, then it might feel trivial at this point to engage with Brexit, which is simply yet another in an endless line of outgrowths of an unconscious system that cannot do anything but: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The Brexit vote was a gentle nudge to the ribs of our leadership; a civilized wake-up call to let them know that the people are still relevant, and they are tired of being an afterthought. The response? As one commenter, discussing a potential second referendum, says:
“The Remain Camp’s contempt for democracy and the working class is huge and ever increasing. Any second referendum would result in an even bigger majority to leave. They clearly don’t understand the British people.”
Someone responds to him with:
“If it will be “an even bigger majority to leave”, then what is the problem? It has become abundantly clear that the Leave camp had no clear vision of what Brexit would mean. As that is the case, how can the referendum possibly have been conducted in anything but ignorance?”
What the second commenter is missing is that while ‘clear vision’ was, and still is, missing in action on both sides of the ledger, there is plenty of unconscious ignorance to go around. Only from this oxymoronic place can a serious article be written entitled, “The Brexit Doomsayers were wrong but now we need economic certainty.” Economic certainty eh?
Fortunately, we are becoming more aware of our own failings and blocks, as well as those of our political, legal, medical and economic systems. The emperor has kind of lost his mind, mystified by his personal and ancestral betrayal and addiction to the Rational Man Project. He truly doesn’t know any better, because he’s been frozen in time as the traumatized seven year old child, still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. That makes him potentially dangerous until we understand that the way forward on all fronts is compassion and non-judgment. These people need help, just like we do. They need love, just like we do. When they don’t get it, when we don’t get it, bad things can and do happen.
Many of us will say we’re not addicted to the RMP way, as we fill our every waking hour with something: coffee, get the kids ready for school, work out, eat, work, surf the web, coffee, email, snack, Facebook, cigarette, coffee, eat, work, snack, pick up the kids from daycare, have a toke, make dinner, clean up, Facebook, bathe the kids, put them to sleep, collapse on the couch in front of the TV, have a drink, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TV, news, have a drink, late show, stay up way past when we should because we don’t want to go to bed. Oh, it’s morning again. Shit. Whatever, must keep moving; to escape the pain. Weekend? What weekend? What rest? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Are we not addicted? We frown upon those who shine a light on our collective malaise by abusing a specific addiction, especially one that has arbitrarily been deemed unacceptable, such as drugs. Apparently, these people don’t know how to colour inside the lines; and it’s awkward for the rest of us to have to witness that, especially as we are working double-time to escape the pain. The reality is that most of us find ourselves somewhere on the Addiction Continuum, our location correlating with our level of disconnect from our feelings and with the depth of our trauma.
As the untenable nature of the RMP approach comes into sharp relief, more of us are wondering if this state of affairs really is inevitable. On social media recently I saw the following ditty: “We’re born. What the fuck is this? We die”. More of us are starting to recognize that this mass confusion, mollified by our normalized addictions, is no longer sustainable. How much longer can we maintain this exhaustingly addictive façade?
We are approaching the nexus where universal and inconsolable stiff-upper-lipping-it meets a place we have not experienced before. We get snippets here and there of this mythical place, but we don’t know what it looks like. We think we need to know what it looks like before taking the plunge. But looking, and the left-brain evaluation that accompanies it, is not remotely as effective as feeling it.
Here’s the mission should we choose to accept it:
(1) Forgive ourselves;
(2) Forgive our parents;
(3) Forgive our ancestors; and
(4) Regenerate the pathways back to the right-brain; back to our hearts; back to our long-lost feelings.
But before that can occur there is one critical component of courting a viable and juicy dance with compassion and non-judgment, without which little changes: space. We have so little space in our over-scheduled and addicted lives to invite in something new.
How can anything change while we suckle at the teat of our permanent hyper-adrenalized state? There is a violence to this routine of addiction. When we engage the wall from this place we are met with a corresponding resistance; a painful rebuff that serves to confirm for us the improbability of safely reconnecting with that far-off place. We are owned by the things we resist most. The greater the resistance to anything, the more in common we have with its energetic signature; not with the exact characteristic but with the feeling underlying it.
Courage is required to create the space needed to reconnect with our hearts – and compassion for what will arise from this place. Crucially, as Dr. Mate, says, “Real compassion doesn’t have to do with helping somebody feel good. It has to do with guiding them to the truth because it’s the truth that will liberate them.” A friend of mine took a course with Dr. Mate last year and she asked him about “joy” – because when you look at him over the course of many videos he doesn’t seem to exhibit much joy and lightness. He responded in a way which is entirely congruent with what he is sharing with the world. Uncovering joy and happiness is a process. Many of us don’t even know what joy really feels like. We are manufacturing it from without. We haven’t known how to be joyful. So, extracting it is not easy. But the more of it we extract, the easier it becomes.
One of the things I love about Dr. Mate is how deliberately he speaks. In our era of lightning quick edits and instant gratification, his thoughtful and gentle delivery can be jarring at first; until we allow ourselves to glide along with him as he creates the space for himself to come up with just the right word or feeling. (For a more in-depth interview with Dr. Gabor Mate click here)
The introduction of this space, and the accompanying gentle pace, into our lives is a mechanism through which we can gain access to the heart side. Of course, this cannot happen without making some changes.
Despite the sway of infinite growth, we can take a step back: maybe downsize our home; change our job; simplify our lives; reduce our addictive consumption; limit our exposure to toxic relationships. No doubt, this is hard to do when confronted by our peer group and family when they are still operating at warp speed. Hence, courage, to slow down, in order to feel; in order to be able to deal with the fear that comes with change. When the fear comes, as it always does, we acknowledge it and feel how it is affecting us and then reach for the better-feeling thought.
The endgame is to feel. Feel the bad stuff and release it. Feel the good stuff and invite it to stick around. Sustained clarity comes from maintaining and nourishing these newly forged channels to our feelings; knowing all the while that this is a life-long process that will sometimes feel like one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back. At all times, we are encouraged to be as compassionate with ourselves as possible; to cut ourselves continual slack because we are doing the most demanding and honourable work there is.
An antidote to the confusion that is so prevalent in humanity is the process of gaining access to our feelings. It is only from the increasingly balanced place where right-brain feeling has been re-integrated that we can recognize the patterns, destructive and otherwise, that are governing our lives. Moreover, this personal journey becomes a conduit to decoding larger scale unconscious patterns that dictate our familial, national and global behaviour. Questions we didn’t even know we had, or have been avoiding because they are so vexing, can suddenly be asked and answered. Why did I marry my wife? Why am I an alcoholic just like my father? Why is my brother in a terrible relationship with his partner… again? Why am I sick… again? Why am I going through the motions with my job… again? Why is my relationship with my mother so problematic? Why am I perpetually unsatisfied and unhappy? What is up with the world?
Over a period of months and years of accessing our long-dormant feelings the dots begin to be connected as we experience revelatory moments of really understanding the programming behind the scenes. But what’s really fascinating and exciting is that the more insight we gain into our personal patterning, the more we see the generational patterning at work within our own families and our world. Trauma is trauma and betrayal is betrayal, regardless of class, nationality or religion. With this felt understanding, the artificial walls that separate us begin to fall away. We see each other. We see ourselves.
Quantum Physics has a theory, which has been tested, called Quantum Tunneling, which entails “transitioning through a classically-forbidden energy state”. For example, a particle passing through a barrier that it logically shouldn’t be able to. Until recently, this was deemed impossible by the experts who are experts at colouring inside the lines, only venturing outside the lines once it has been confirmed that it’s okay to do so; which brings us back to that daunting wall. Don’t we already know the deal with the wall? When there is clarity, courage and compassion, we can tunnel through the wall. It is not so much a breaking through the wall as becoming one with the wall – and then dissolving it.
Image from Roger Water’s ‘The Wall’ tour
Notice all the people in the crowd exhilarated by the dissolution of the wall by a single person.
When this kind of opening happens, for however long it lasts, empathy enters the equation. Empathy is the opposite of judgment. From this place we can feel that many other humans on this planet – our brothers and sisters – have endured similar levels of trauma and betrayal; and that we’re all just doing the best we can to cope. From this place we can learn to trust. Trust is the opposite of betrayal. From this feeling place we can become familiar with happiness. We can stop running. We can rest. We can feel the exhilarating liberation of letting things go. Letting go of the illusion that we are defined and judged by our trauma, most of which doesn’t belong to us anyway. We can feel the power of peace and gentleness. We can feel that it’s going to be okay.
The other side of the wall is not the promised land as much as extricating ourselves from our own cage; as we realize that we are responsible for our own suffering and our own joy. Until then, we play the role of victim, beholden to the hopelessness and pain that keeps us down. On the other side, we can choose to exchange the hand we were dealt, with a new hand we deal to ourselves. Where we go from there is up to us.
There is nothing we ‘must’ or ‘should’ do. This piece will resonate with some; others will say it’s ‘tosh’. And that’s okay. It is not required for everyone to have courage and to do what Rumi said:
“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”
Will we as a species manage to open our hearts, to trust? Let’s see what we choose. In the end, our individual and collective choices will govern which direction we will head in: further global divisiveness or the unprecedented coming together. We may have to sink further before we can swim. And that’s okay.
If Pink Floyd’s, The Wall, has been the soundtrack of the time period we are emerging from, then the wonderful band, Villagers, represents one musical vision of what is at hand. Here is Conor O’Brien singing, Courage.
“Took a little time to get where I wanted. Took a little time to get free. Took a little time to be honest. Took a little time to be me…”
With courage in hand, we can reach for our emotional surfboard and ride The Waves:
It’s all in our hands and hearts.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on The Wall and How to Move Beyond our Endemic Hysteria, Anger and Aloofness
Who better from the RMP establishment to remind us of Diana’s legacy than the country’s new chief diplomat, Boris Johnson. In an article he wrote after the Brexit vote, he said:
“There is, among a section of the population, a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales.”
Mr. Johnson drips with sarcasm and disdain for the contagion that is love, admiration and loss. And yes, hysteria, a term that has historically been associated with loss of control by women. Undoubtedly, the majority of Diana’s admirers were women, though there were also hundreds of millions of men. If what I’ve described above is remotely accurate in describing Diana’s singular effect on the people of the world, was the outpouring of grief not justified? Hysteria is exaggeration. How should people mourn for the untimely death of one of human history’s most influential and beloved figures?
By using the word hysteria to compare the fear and confusion over Brexit to Diana’s death, Mr. Johnson only confirms his utter lack of respect and understanding of, and connexion to, the people , women and the feminine in general. Clearly, Brexit is a big deal, as was Diana’s passing – except to those who have difficulty feeling. To Mr. Johnson, any misplaced emotion is hysteria that must be brought under strict control, just like when he was eleven years old. The quasi-exception to this rule is anger. It’s also not really allowed, especially in public, but because there is no stopping it – because it is ubiquitous – we must make room for anger. Anger in one hand, Martini in the other. The Martini helps with keeping it in check, where it should be.
By all accounts, I went into Boarding School a lovely, six year old boy. Four years later, I exited severely damaged. I know about anger; rage; an achingly barren, futile and impotent fury; my constant companions for 40 years… and beyond. My parents, like almost all parents of children traumatized by the boarding experience, had no idea how to deal with me afterwards. I was two handfuls… and then some. My fury was commensurate with, and exacerbated by, their inability to see and feel what I had experienced. In perpetual survival mode, I made them suffer for their unawareness of me. I couldn’t help it, and they did not have the awareness to help me. It’s humbling for so many ex-boarders to accept that it’s likely, and understandably, damn near impossible for the family to reconcile that they unwittingly put their child in a terrible situation. For many parents and family members, this is a non-starter. Unfortunately, the unfeeling RMP and the inherent privilege of Boarding School meant, and means, that most parents cannot see, or feel, the forest for the trees. Consequently, the way forward may not be to seek acknowledgment and restitution from our families, but to find our peace out in the world.
I can’t find it but somewhere in Nick Duffell’s work he mentions that after a quarter century of counseling, the wounds from Boarding School often run so deep that few, if any, recover. When I first read that, three years ago, it took a while for it to sink in. Up until that point, 23 years into my adult life, I had been working hard, really hard, to find a modicum of peace. I’m talking purposeful and direct self-reflection, to the best of my ability at any given moment. Amazingly, after 23 years, while I had definitely made notable gains, I was still a slave to my rage, that I would regularly take that out on my wife and my child; and whoever else crossed my path at the wrong moment. Mercifully, my anger does not present itself in the physical dimension – but we all know that emotional and verbal abuse are just as bad. It took the momentary dissolution of my marriage two years ago for my wall to wobble; the near miraculous escape from the maze only to be confronted by the immensity of the wall. Fortunately, all the gut-wrenching work I had done until that point paid off, just, because as with the CEO on the plane, momentous clarity came to me. Standing before my wife, who had the proverbial last straw gritted between her teeth, I was able to see how far I had come – and how much further there was still to go.
I don’t know if I can find the kind of peace where the anger that wells up in me is permanently muted. At this point, I am still vulnerable under my worst button-pushing moments. Recently, I was having a bad day. I knew that going into the bank to sort something out was a bad idea. But I went anyway. Before I knew it, I was taking out my frustrations on the bank manager for the gross injustice of their policies. The poor guy was only doing his job. It wasn’t pretty, and, as usual, I felt that all too familiar shame right away after I dismissively left him. It took me three days to call him and apologize. This shit runs deep. And so it should not be taken for granted. I am charged with staying centred, or getting back to centre as gently and quickly as possible, for my own sake, and that of others; a kind of graceful vigilance. Shame is the opposite of grace.
Synchronistically, when I came upon the Boarding School Trauma information, my daughter was six years old, the same age as when I went to Boarding School. Through her and her peers I saw what six years old means. It hit me and I felt, for the first time since I shut myself down those many moons ago, what it felt like to deal with being dropped off and what it meant to survive in that place. I realized how much my child still critically needs her mother and me.
It’s humbling to witness the glorious and heart-breaking vulnerability in my child and her peers, and how easily it can literally and suddenly become the end of the world for them. Some adults wonder what the big deal is and castigate the child for getting carried away. All the while, we and the rest of the adults in the world, are living embodiments of “getting carried away” – which our children readily feel and see. Aren’t our children, and their moods, and their health, not a perfect reflection of us? There is little more startling than your own child reflecting back your own anger back to you; the anger that, despite my very best efforts, I have passed on to her. As parents, we have a choice to either recognize where our child’s issues come from and take the challenging steps to evolve as human beings, or we can punish them for showing us what unconscious assholes we are.
My daughter and her friends are only nine years old. She is a kid growing up in a RMP culture, dealing with her RMP parents and the RMP world. They still really need their parents, the best versions of us that we can muster.
It is from this position of gaining access to who I was that I write this piece. It has been a gruelling journey. Cut off from my heart and feelings, my anger has always been severe. Anger is a funny one because it is allowed, but then it is condemned, especially when employed by a man – a man who is raging because he is confused and afraid. The anger is seen as shameful, which is yet another blow for the angry man. After all, anger is emotion – out-of-control emotion. One might call it… hysterical. He gets angrier. But because many more men than women exhibit this anger, patriarchy cuts anger slack because it’s never as bad as it seems – at least to the perpetrator (beyond the historical rape of hundreds of millions of women and the killing (via war and murder) of well over 300,000,000 million people since recorded history).
I mean, anger is bad but it’s no hysteria.
What many don’t realize is that anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, anger is a loud clarion call that something is very wrong. Unfortunately, despite its absurd obviousness, we haven’t gotten the hint – yet. So, anger doesn’t go away. It will not go away until it is acknowledged, embraced and forgiven – with humility. That is the only way. This illustration, meant for children, is perfect for us adults as well:
Actually, this illustration also serves to reveal the general level of consciousness (up top) and unconsciousness (down below) in our culture.
What is lower on the totem pole than anger? Apathy. Resignation. Being comfortably numb. Aloofness. For many of us, if we’re not angry we’ve just kind of given up; running on automatic; in full avoidance and denial. At least the hooligans are alive and kicking; the little boys in them desperately trying to be heard; wanting the all-enveloping hug from the Mummy in the Mother, and raising hell in the absence of it. How many of us, men and women, experienced the mummy-in-the-mother?
How many boys, in the absence of getting the mummy-in-the-mother, grow up with that void of nurturance which results in frustration and anger? How many men unwittingly look to their partners and wives for that missing mothering/feminine energy? Except we’re not supposed to get that from our sexual partner – so then many relationships are fatally compromised from the beginning, as a twisted dynamic develops between man and woman. Wife is not mother. Meanwhile, most women have also not received the proper maternal mirroring from their mothers – so they don’t even know what a healthy version of that is. This is the inbuilt betrayal of our parents, who themselves have largely played out the historical patterning of trauma that was passed down to them. Most of us don’t know any different, so that ubiquitous lack of deep mothering seems normal; it often doesn’t even feel like a lacking because in most of our lives, and in our society at large, it barely registers to begin with.
Where is that deep mothering? Millennia of misogyny and centuries of the Rational Man Project have relegated women and the feminine to the sidelines; deemed unhealthy, especially for young boys. Hence Boarding School, where you are least likely to find it, where young boys (and girls for that matter) will instead be indoctrinated with all the useful masculine skills necessary to succeed in an RMP world; where you will learn the ultimate lesson: Trust no one. Self-reliance is paramount, because in the end, you are alone.
The repression of the feminine is so thorough that most women are full participants in the worst aspects of the Rational Man Project. That the divine feminine has been crippled in men is one thing – and a given – but what of the commensurate de-feminisation in women? It goes without saying that, generally speaking, the daddy-in-the-father has been permanently missing-in-action.
Boarding School was a pretty awful experience for me but there were a handful of major moments or aspects that kept me from fully going to the dark side. One such sublime moment occurred in 1979. I was nine years old. It was the middle of a weekend day. All the boys, maybe around 150 of us, were in our dormitories cleaning up. The sound of music came, ever closer. One of the older boys was walking towards us carrying a ghetto blaster. The lyrics became intelligible: “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control, No dark sarcasm in the classroom, Hey, Teachers leave them kids alone”.
The entire place went mental. Such easy lyrics to repeat. With kids singing the refrain! Kids like us. Telling our story. It was surreal. We were giddy. Euphoric. Of course, we were children so, beyond the obvious, we didn’t know what the music meant. But we felt it. It cut through like a laser. Acknowledgement of the madness we were embroiled in. It was a moment of clarity and connection that would pass into legend.
Pink Floyd was the perfect soundtrack for us boys. For many Britons and humanity, it still is: Dark Side of the Moon; Wish You Were Here; The Wall. The enduring popularity of Pink Floyd is owed to the fact that their music is arguably the seminal soundtrack to the 20th/21st Century Rational Man Project. The dark hope of that revelatory music etched itself into the tree of my heart. I didn’t listen to The Wall again properly until I was 26 years old – and totally lost. Those were dark days, months and years. It told my story.
For most of my life it was more a matter of intellectual faith that I might possibly reconnect with that mythological place on the other side of the wall; that it was real; and that I was worthy of hanging out on the other side. Three years ago, at the age of 43, knee deep in connecting with my Boarding School experience for the first time in my life, I finally emerged from the impossible maze only to behold the sheer immensity of the wall.
The last three years has entailed me letting go of the wall; acknowledging the wall; appreciating the wall for how it protected me when I was most vulnerable. I wouldn’t have survived without my wall. None of us would have. I had no idea how to engage with my family during this process of discovery. Consequently, I caused them a lot of pain; the pain that is housed within our lineage.
But we are family. We all come from the same place. I may have attended Boarding School but that experience is only one manifestation of the betrayed energy that imbues my collective lineage. That’s how I ended up in Boarding School. It’s understandable that they may not want to participate in that delving. It’s overwhelming. If they don’t want to tap into that aspect of their life experience, that is their prerogative. Unfortunately, this rejection and dismissiveness only serves to make the ex-boarder feel those familiar feelings of isolation and desolation.
But then this is par for the course for so many within the Rational Man Project as we neglect and punish the most vulnerable among us. It’s not personal. No one is doing anything on purpose; not the politician, not the CEO, not the hooligan, not the mum, not the dad, not the boss, not the child, not you and not me. Despite how it seems to the outside world, we are all doing our very best, including those of us who seem to be doing a dreadful job.
Without the balancing effects of the right-brain the RMP system has no shut off valve – hence why it is running itself into the ground; shooting itself in the foot; causing the people to rise up. Many of us are wondering what on earth is going on. Others are crying out for help. Brexit is part and parcel of an ever-building and increasingly audible SOS. Will there be some economic and cultural adjustments that will emerge from the Brexit vote? Will we need more of a wake-up call?
Is there something wrong with humanity? Are we too far-gone to be saved? No. There is nothing wrong with us. We are on a journey and to date it has looked like this. It’s easy to focus on our failures – there have been many – but the more we focus on that, the more difficult it is to see that we are all in this together. In the age of social media, we are saturated with sayings and poems emblazoned on beautiful images. Cliché has never been as cliché as it is now. But, as Ram Dass says, ‘we are all just walking each other home’. In a world in turmoil, that can be hard to see; hard to let in; jaded and bamboozled as we are by centuries of betrayal and trauma, personally and generationally.
The workshop with my boarding school mates was a microcosm of our world. Despite being all men, humanity was well-represented. No matter the details of our own experiences we are all, at once, perpetrator and victim. Amongst our ranks are bullies and those victimised by bullies, at school and in adult life; some of us are just hanging on, sometimes by a thread; some of us realize why we have allowed ourselves to be endlessly victimised, only to take it out on others; some of us realize that, all along, when we insist that our bullying is not as bad as our wives, children and co-workers have suggested, that it has actually been worse; some of us feel, in a deeper way than ever before, the depth of the trauma we have endured – and how much desperate energy we have exerted to not feel it and to hide it from the world, as we hear story after story of betrayal and pain and genuinely feel it, maybe for the first time; feel the desire to walk over and hold that fragile and lovely man you have just met in your arms; just hold him so he feels acknowledged and safe. Maybe for the first time, he has willed the courage to reveal himself – very un-British – in front of a bunch of other British blokes no less; his shame right there for all to see. And… it’s okay because we are all right there with him; because we are him.
Each one of us is a coin. Perpetrator on one side, Victim on the other. The place we are all after is the narrow space between the two sides, though we can see that there is actually a lot of surface area to this narrow space. This is the place where peace, gentleness, generosity and community reside. This is the place on the other side of the wall. The conventional RMP approach insists that life is all about no pain, no gain. If we’re not feeling pain, we’re not trying hard enough. Gain can only come if we go beyond what feels good; sacrifices must be made. Based on millennia of programming, we have accepted that life is a slog. To think otherwise is the domain of the ignorant and naïve. The turmoil in the world certainly gets a lot of airtime. What we have seen much less of, until very recently, is the good stuff. The good stuff is now accessible in an unprecedented way via the Internet; increasing numbers of people are feeling the pull of information and experiences that summon the happy within. It’s the underdog, totally underestimated by those among us who dare not believe; because to actually allow ourselves to believe is the greatest fear; because if we allow it in, really in, will we be betrayed… again? That would be unbearable. Instead, I’ll endure the old familiar… until I can’t any longer.
So, here we are at the wall. It is daunting. After all this way in the cold, how will I get to the other side of this monstrosity? Is there even another side? No pain, no gain tells us that there are only two ways to get there – over or around. Both of those routes are available. Both may get you there but after such a grueling trip you may not have the energy required to reap the rewards.
Maybe there is another way: Courage.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’” Brene Brown
It is our own personal Diana-passage. Let us not focus on the fact that she died an untimely death; let us revel (because that is what hundreds of millions of people did in her) knowing that, even for only a short time, she began to live – and be free. That feeling of freedom is priceless. It is attainable. It is ultimately challenging. Because we are undoing many lifetimes of looking down and digging the ditch, distracted by those odd dull-sparkles in the earth. We and our ancestors, on automatic, have tunnelled to an unimaginable depth. Once in a while we pause, yanked out of our stupor by a sliver of sun that has miraculously reached us from miles above. We never look back – up – because it is usually just an abyss of darkness. But there is something undeniable and irresistible about this light. So… we look up. We see the light.
These are the rare moments of clarity that cut through the fog, as occurred for the CEO after watching, The Making of Them. We all have them. Alas, however deep in the ditch we find ourselves, corresponds with how elusive these magical moments are. The ancient patterning, the ego, works overtime to reel us back in because these earth-shaking events do not just concern that particular situation; they illuminate everything. This is scary. But as Maya Angelou has written:
“In the flush of love’s light, we dare to be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.”
How can we transform the “elusive” into the “mainstay”? Through something like what Dr. Gabor Mate calls Compassionate Inquiry, which he discusses here in a brief video:
We are often loath to dig too deeply into the past because we’d rather not engage with painful experiences, including some that have, through necessity, receded so far into the ether that they barely register, consciously anyway. The traditional therapeutic model usually consists of endlessly mining the past, which is required, yet remaining there and trying to decipher what happened can often lead to further confusion and entrenchment. Why? Memory is fatally flawed, especially in service of old patterns of belief that keep us down.
So many of us have engaged with some form or another of therapy. Why do we stop when we clearly have not found the peace we are searching for? Because connecting ourselves with those long-past and dark memories for too long only keeps us connected with those lower frequencies; look for too long and we get mesmerized by the sheer scale of the trauma; and we stay stuck. It makes sense that conventional therapy falls short for so many of us.
However, as Dr. Mate says in the video, “the past is only important insofar as it illuminates what’s happening in the present.” Compassionate Inquiry allows us, and those we look to for assistance, to feel safe and brave as we approach the wall; to feel where we are at, and what’s happening – NOW – in the present. Now is much more manageable than then; it’s much more accessible. Critically, this access can only be granted “when compassion is present”. Only then “will [we] allow [ourselves] to see the truth” – to FEEL the truth – “But it’s a fierce kind of compassion… to guide [ourselves] to those painful places”
Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel helpless for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable under the generationally traumatic circumstances, which kind of paralyses us. This makes the wall even more fantastic. There is an abiding futility to the task, which would be relevant if not for the recognition that the trip really begins and ends at the self. The self is much more accessible than the daunting whole. Within this inner journey, “once [we] become capable of recognizing where [we] are being inauthentic, which is to say disconnected from [ourselves], then the pathway is clear for authenticity… It’s a matter of patiently and fiercely and compassionately inquiring into what’s in the way of authenticity.”
It cannot be exaggerated the significance of a single human being embracing our authentic selves. A single human being operating from this compassionate and non-judgmental position can interact with tens and hundreds of other human beings on a daily basis. You know that feeling when we are walking down the street and someone walks past us, but not before flashing an authentic and heart-warming smile. Did we miss it? Maybe. Did we see it but are taken aback, maybe because I’m a man and he was a man? Maybe. Or did we let it in; let it wash over us? As delicious as eating our favourite food. It puts a hop in our step. We have been acknowledged and appreciated – by a stranger no less. That is mighty powerful. Simply a given and received smile cuts to the core of everything. This does not require us to be enlightened beings. After all, it’s a process, not a destination. But the more of it we do the easier it becomes; the more peace we attract and share with the world. As Dr. Mate says, the path forward is quite “simple” in a way, once it has been identified. There will be difficult work that follows this discovery but the decision is as follows: Remain in a life that finds us perpetually unsatisfied, with spikes of heart-wrenching melancholy, and the constant whiff of futility; or, leave the situation by courageously embarking on a path to the undiscovered country. Both routes can really suck but at least the second option has the possibility of something… else, rather than the interminable status quo.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Princess Diana, Her Family, Prince Charles, The Queen and the People of the World’s Search for Humility
When will we find the courage to create a different experience? Interestingly, humanity has had minimal opportunity to embrace an alternative style since the global take-over by organized religion, which was created exclusively by men. From there we entered the Age of Reason, again the exclusive purview of men; moving from Religious Patriarchy to Rational Patriarchy; the passion and energy associated with religion was supplanted with the cool, detached clarity of the rational, which has had a long run. Unfortunately, the lack of balance between the left- and right-brains has extracted a heavy toll – our ability to feel.
It feels like we haven’t given ourselves the opportunity of seeing what might happen as we re-integrate the feminine back into the game, eventually leading to a more balanced relationship with the masculine.
It’s important to stress that despite the collective suffering, we are in many ways a young species (if the earth is indeed 4.6 billion years old, then we have been here around 4 hours). We’ve been going through the birthing pains of the evolution of our species in the last few millennia. It’s been an arduous journey. Many of us are understandably medicating ourselves through the trauma.
Each one of us is at once birthing the next level while also being born into it. Clearly, this hasn’t been one of those rare, “easy” births. I was present at my daughter’s birth. The pain that my wife endured, the genuine moments of loss of faith and confidence, and her courage to go way, way beyond where she ever imagined she could go was quite something. And here we are.
Our lessons have been excruciating at times but this is the Hero’s Journey that we are on, individually and as a community, guaranteed to test us. We will keep asking for these difficult lessons until feeling becomes as respected and appreciated as thinking. Is it to be believed? It’s a mirage, isn’t it? I mean, can “good” really going to come of all this?
Ironically, the extremity and incongruity of our present moment is serving as the main fuel for the challenging journey through the maze to the netherworld: to reclaim our essence. We can make this trek alone, but it sure makes it easier and more enjoyable when we have company.
The way ahead is to look to those amongst us, increasing by the minute, who are more connected to our heart sides; to those who can mirror for us how we can be; how we can welcome the long-dormant empathy that is dying to come out and play.
Harry Patch was such a person, a guiding light; courage personified. There was another in the last 30 years in Britain, a figure so oozing empathy in its purest form that she single-handedly brought the country, and the world, to life. Princess Diana.
The tried, tested and true by-product of betrayal is the wall, and its accompanying fear and judgment. Maybe out of sheer desperation did Diana step out from behind her wall, her trauma laid bare for the world to see what they rarely get to see: a genuinely feeling person in a position of massive influence. The people’s empathetic balloon had been steadily, carefully expanding. Daring to hope. Daring to feel. Diana’s struggle, as she was marginalized and abandoned within the Royal Family, mirrored that of the people, perpetually betrayed by their leadership, by themselves.
Charles was betrayed by not being allowed to marry his love, Camilla. So, he played the game, married Diana and then betrayed her. Diana then betrayed Charles by having affairs. Then she couldn’t live with all the betrayal and lies, so she left. The Queen and the Royal Family felt so betrayed, especially by her openness with the media and the public, that it took them a full five days to make any statement regarding her death – despite the tremendous negative publicity they received.
Why the delay? Because while all Royal parties involved drank heartily of the betrayal soup, Diana’s betrayal was deemed the most egregious; because she had the audacity to confront it, within and without. Under the auspices of the Rational Man Project, personal betrayal is essential, while betrayal of sacred institutional conventions is an unforgiveable sin. You are supposed to sweep it all under the rug.
How did Diana end up in such an unhealthy situation rife with systemic betrayal? Like many of us, she came from that very same place, only magnified under the microscope of a noble/privileged life. From an early age, her destiny was intertwined with that of the Royal family. She grew up on the Sandringham Estate, in a house leased from Queen Elizabeth II. As a child, she played with Princes Andrew and Edward. Her parents divorced when she was seven years old.
In the ensuing custody hearings, Diana’s grandmother, Baroness Fermoy (‘Woman of the Bed Chamber’ and confidante to the Queen Mother), betrayed her own daughter, Frances, Diana’s mother, by testifying against her in court (she had committed adultery), resulting in Diana’s father obtaining custody of all the children (Baroness Fermoy herself had endured the serial womanizing of her husband Lord Maurice Fermoy, which yielded at least two illegitimate children). The difference is Baroness Fermoy stayed in her adulterous marriage because that is what you are supposed to do. Frances, Diana’s mother, not only flouted the unwritten masochistic rule, she did so with a commoner, which was beyond the pale. Hence, she incurred her mother’s wrath – and lost custody of her children.
Meanwhile, Edmund Roche, the son of Baroness Fermoy, and brother to Frances, Eton attendee and suffering from long-term depression committed suicide at the age of 45.
With Frances and her husband, Viscount Althorp (“Johnnie”) Spencer, producing two girls, the pressure was on to produce a son to ensure the family inheritance.
“His young wife would go through six pregnancies before the heir arrived… Their hopes seemed to be fulfilled when they had their first son, John, in 1960. However, it was immediately apparent that John was deformed and he was rushed out of his mother’s room immediately after birth. ‘In cruel repression of feeling that reflected the paternalistic nature of obstetrics at the time, Viscount Althorp decreed his wife must not be allowed to view or hold her son. Years later, Frances recalled the chilling scene of how she struggled out of bed and banged frantically on the locked door’ (Brown, 37). He died just 11 hours later, without his mother ever seeing his face (Beddell Smith, 1999). The chasm between Johnnie and Frances widened as he subjected her to multiple humiliating fertility tests to determine why she could not produce a male heir. Soon after John’s death, she became pregnant and miscarried, but did not tell her husband. When Diana was born, 18 months later, her parents and extended family were so disappointed by the arrival of another female child, they did not bother to register her birth, and she is the only one of her siblings who was not given a royal godparent. They did not even give her a name her until a week after her birth.”
This is the multi-generational warped energy into which Diana was born. She was the third girl; unwanted, especially after the bitter disappointment and trauma of losing a boy – the much vaunted heir. Diana grew up an afterthought. So, after experiencing her parents’ divorce, Diana, aged 9, was then placed in Boarding School, the same school attended by her mother and grandmother. And, of course, Diana’s children were also sent away to Eton.
As with many of the privileged, for both Charles and Diana, marrying for love was unlikely, to say the least; impossible actually for Charles, who has been seen as a heel for his role in the Diana affair. But let us manage to scrape together some empathy for a boy who was sent away to Boarding School, grew up saddled with the incredible pressure of a future kingship, was forced to marry a woman he didn’t love (while hiding his affections for his true love), had to endure the fallout from said marriage, then Diana’s death. Meanwhile, for decades it has been suggested that he’s actually missing that kingly quality.
In keeping with tradition, infidelity has also been a feature of Diana’s brother’s life. Charles Spencer is now three-times divorced.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Diana had been playing the game for too long. She just couldn’t do it anymore, just like so many of us who are barely coping. But while many of us remain on the hamster wheel, understandably afraid to make a change, Diana took the terrifying plunge. And she was beloved for it. She was an inspiration because through her immense compassion and empathy, she showed us what humanity is. All of this from a most unlikely source: a British Princess. She became an island unto herself, surrounded by a rational and frigid structure that could not contain her; could not understand her; could not feel her; and felt threatened by her.
The sheer power of her vulnerability crashes through the screen – easily misconstrued as weakness when it is actually profound courage.
Despite overwhelming pressure, especially with respect to her boys, she went with her heart. Some will contend that she was selfish for choosing to live a life that did not entail self-betrayal. Some will say that she chose herself over her children. But her soul was dying and she knew it. She knew that if she stiff-upper-lipped-it and did the ‘right’ thing – as any self-respecting Royal and Brit would and should do – she would have become a shell of herself. What good would it have done for her children to witness and feel her abdication, her resignation? That would have been devastating for Diana and the young princes.
In an airplane, if the oxygen masks come down, we are told to put our own mask on before helping children and others – which sounds counter-intuitive. The reason we are told to do this is that our mind can instantaneously make a logically convincing and contrary case that we should help our children first. Why? Because of our over-trained left-brains. Intuition, which is deep knowing, is found more on the right. It can only be known via feelings.
In the absence of this balancing, feminine insight, we delve further into the masculine maze of the left-brain. The masculine energy is the doer; it is the action and penetrating force that launches itself beyond. Outside. It looks to others for validation, comfort, strength. It lives in incessant binary comparison; jealousy; insecurity. All to do with other; with what is outside of us. This is what we’re most familiar with. Hence, the reason many of us would automatically put the mask on our child first.
Taking care of ourselves first isn’t selfishness. It’s intelligence. This only sounds counter-intuitive from an RMP perspective. We don’t know that we can and should be taking care of ourselves first. That is how we will be better parents and human beings – not by sacrificing ourselves at every turn.
Despite Diana’s ever-present connection with her heart, her decision, and the courage that entailed, was actually practical and wise, which was indicative of her increasingly balanced mind and being. Her acute sensitivity (which is generally deemed a liability in our culture, attached as it is to hysteria – the hysterical woman in particular) could not brook further committing the ultimate betrayal – of herself.
Though there would undoubtedly be serious repercussions, the charade was no longer tenable. During her marriage to Charles she cut herself repeatedly, and suffered from bulimia. By her own admission, she had, like her uncle, attempted suicide on multiple occasions, including throwing herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with William.
This was the boarding school of her adult life. She did what almost every boy and girl who is dropped off at Boarding School wants to do; what so many of us wish we could do at this very moment. We want to live. We want to be. We want to believe. We want meaning. We want things to feel right – even as our resistant conditioning and culture hammer into us that we are naïve to think things can be any other way; that tells us we are unsafe; that we are not enough; that the ultimate arbiter, the solution, is more, more and more of the same, just a glossier more photo-shopped version. Stay the course. The alternative path is so unknown, so intangible, so fluffy. Do not look to your left or right. Hair straight back. Full steam ahead.
Diana made the intangible real. The world stopped in her presence. She represented that place within all of us that yearns for a fuller experience. She represented the ascendant feminine. She was the personification of the huge adrenaline-filled needle that is jammed through the chest cavity right into the heart to bring someone back to life; straight into the heart of humanity.
“Her death became a world-wide public event with millions who had never met her feeling a personal bereavement… For a full week, this single news story dominated all media outlets to an extent that is rarely seen under any circumstances. Diana’s death received more media attention than any event in history. It was the biggest story the BBC had ever carried…”
In a time of zero social media, almost 50% of the adults in Britain watched the funeral. A record 2.5 billion people (out of 5.9 billion) around the world watched the funeral. A staggering 42% of the world tuned in because she was the most beloved human being in history – per capita and total.
She was more beloved than Jesus, Mohammad or anybody else in history. A woman steeped in compassion and empathy. Party, religious and club affiliations became meaningless to her. Her appeal was boundless because she was proof that we need not be slaves to the Rational Man Project, even and especially when you are an elite representative. It is akin to a child growing up in a Ku Klux Klan family and town and knowing nothing other than extreme prejudice but somehow managing to think and feel for themselves and transform into a lover of humanity and becoming the most appreciated human of all time. That is how you get 2.5 billion people fascinated by you. “People left public offerings of flowers, candles, cards, and personal messages outside Kensington Palace for many months”after her death.
It is axiomatic that we are an energetic match to the people and things we are attracted to – good or bad. Her legion of admirers felt her struggle, because energetically she represented their own challenges. We are all steeped in cultural, familial and multi-generational betrayal. She did not set out to represent the pain and hopes of the people. That just happened. It’s likely what saved her – and possibly was her undoing.
This is what privilege looks like at the highest levels: an endless sea of trauma and betrayal. How do these people endure such heartbreak? How do any of us? In 2004, when audio tapes were released of her telling biographer Andrew Morton about her life and one of the attempts at taking it, she said:
“I threw myself down the stairs bearing in mind I was carrying a child. Queen [Elizabeth] comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking she’s so frightened … and Charles went out riding.”
How do so many of us deal with our various levels of torment? The way Charles did, by going out riding. Grin and bear it. Avoid feeling it at all cost. Deny the severity of the trauma. That is the left-brain RMP way. Because to really feel it is too daunting. Instead, we dull our pain, often through our coterie of addictions and make it not such a big deal. After all, there are millions of others around the world enduring greater suffering than you. It’s all good, right? RMP binary tells us so. So, bury those feelings. They are not worthy of our attention.
In the interview with Martin Bashir (a total betrayal for the Royal Family, but where she actually held back so much) she speaks of the difficulty of her first pregnancy (without mentioning the suicide attempt), and goes on to say that prior to her marriage, pregnancy and post-partum experience she had not experienced depression. After what you have read about her life doesn’t it sound like there were many incredibly depressing times? Was she being disingenuous? Likely not. When you don’t have any other frame of reference; when the crazy world around you reflects the madness of your own life; when all those terrible things are nothing other than… normal; and when you have been trained from an early age to bury the only thing that can provide some clarity – your feelings – you might very well delude yourself into thinking everything is just fine.
What does it take to bring our disowned pain and shame to the surface? Invariably it’s something dramatic. A death in the family. A suicide. A life-threatening illness. Or marrying the future King of England and becoming the most watched person on the planet; by joining and becoming the most visible member of the most pressure-packed family on the planet; by realizing you are married to a man whose heart belongs to another.
All of this taken together was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A lifetime of downplaying her suffering was no longer possible. She was broken open. She almost didn’t survive, until she turned to the people. In Roman Mythology, Diana was known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. Her name means ‘bright sky’ or ‘daylight’. She was a sun unto herself, cutting through the RMP clouds, shining a glittering light on humanity’s path towards the netherworld – setting the emotional foundation for humanity to birth our next level of consciousness. The mythological “Diana was also considered the protector of the lower classes, especially slaves.” How perfect is that?
So, how does the RMP view Princess Diana and her death? Well, we saw the response from the Queen and the Royal Family. Interestingly, at the outset, the Queen greatly approved of Diana as a match for the future king. Why? (1) There were long-term family connections (as already noted, Diana’s grandmother, Lady Fermoy, was the Queen Mother’s confidante); (2) She was thirteen years younger than Charles, so she would be obedient; (3) She was beautiful; and (4) She hadn’t even managed to pass her ‘O’ Levels and she was working as a nursery teacher’s assistant. In other words, she wasn’t too sharp, so she wouldn’t pose much of a challenge to Charles and she would do what she was told, that is, perform her Royal duties as required. Perfect.
So how did Diana become the Queen’s worst nightmare? How did the Queen make such a miscalculation for the ages? And how did she follow up and compound that mistake with her enthusiastic support of Prince Andrew’s disastrous choice of wife (from the Royal perspective), Sarah Ferguson? Actually, as we can see, when we look back at the history of the Royals and most privilege families, we find a repeating pattern of awful decisions, made for all the wrong reasons, ad infinitum.
As it has been suggested, effective leadership and decision-making requires fluid access between the logical and emotional mind. Stretching back for centuries, the Royal Family and the generationally privileged could not be any more entrenched within the left-brain. In a parallel universe, if the Queen had been more balanced in her approach, after a few visits with Diana, she might have felt that something was not quite right; that maybe it wasn’t such a perfect match after all. She might have noticed that Diana had that same independent streak that was present in her mother, Frances, who went to incredible lengths to secure her freedom from her husband, while losing her children in the bargain.
Sadly, with so little access to the wealth of insight and information available in the right-brain, the Queen’s calculations used the same faulty algorithms as Mr. Blair employed in approaching Mr. Patch and going into Iraq. There is an inherent arrogance and entitlement that comes with RMP leadership, which fuels chronic underestimation and erroneous judgment of people and situations. From Mr. Blair’s perspective, he was the Prime Minister for God’s sake. Who is going to refuse a picture with the goddamned Prime Minister, and be disrespectful to boot! If Mr. Blair and the Queen had been able to really feel what was before them they both might have made different choices.
The Harry Patch incident is, and was, little more than a side-note. The problem of this persistent cranial and emotional imbalance in our leadership – and society – is that when this mode of decision-making is applied to complex and grave circumstances, the results can be disastrous – as with Brexit. Not because Brexit shouldn’t have happened but because it was not the intended result. Britain and Europe were not ready for Brexit. It was apparently such a slam dunk that the Remain Camp would prevail, that no planning was done, you know, just in case.
Neil Seeman, Canadian businessman and expert on the collection and evaluation of data says:
“Brexit and Trump — and Twitter’s success (launched 10 years ago) — stupefied the overwhelming majority of experts in politics and technology, respectively… On Brexit, the usually accurate prediction markets for binary events, where people invest their own money on the outcome, were wrong. Expert influencers – from Christine Lagarde of the IMF to Mark Carney of the Bank of England to Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman – did not influence. The average of public polls, polls usually being reliant on non-random survey respondents – that is, self-trained political pundits – were wrong, not just right before the vote, but through many of the prior months. Behemoth financial institutions, privy to sophisticated private research, did not take trading positions that would suggest any information edge… That Leave would win was, especially among academic and media elites, as preposterous an idea as the early notion that Mr. Trump would win the Republican nomination… Socrates and the Stoic philosophers were correct. The only true wisdom is that you know nothing. From that premise of humility stems the basis of the pursuit of reason, and, ultimately, intelligence. ‘Intelligent’ machines — spirited forth through the current generation of the Internet of Things and the so-called Semantic Web — are only as intelligent as the humility and self-doubt of those who write the code… Yet we humans are a self-assured lot; we assume ever more data sets will lead to the Holy Grail of prediction — while history teaches the opposite to be the case… In the field of prediction, this manifests itself in the failure to probe for potential confounding variables, and, ceteris paribus, our intellectual reach shall exceed our grasp. Not understanding confounders that have unintentionally crept into enormous data sets can result in flawed conclusions…The next era of prediction, then, lies in factoring humility into our models. Without this, machine learning will only take us so far. This time it was Brexit that the machines failed to predict. Next time it could be an eventuality more serious.”
Each of the people Mr. Seeman mentions are deeply embedded members of the Rational Man Project. While Mr. Seeman, a Harvard alum, is cut from the same cloth, he has hit on something interesting. Humility is a mainstay of the neglected right-brain, and the opposite of arrogance. What are some words associated with humility? Humble, modest, gentle, easy-going, peaceful, compassionate, sharing. Mr. Seeman could not be more right in his assessment. For our leadership – for us all – how identified are we with the aforementioned words describing humility?
Alas, though arguably presented as such by Mr. Seeman, humility does not lend itself to being turned into simply “another” criterion to be added to the many others. True humility unites us with our very essence; to the best of us. It’s not a box to be ticked. It is encompassing; as are all the elements concerned more with the feminine. The extremely logical, structured mind has trouble containing and appraising those criteria because they simply will not be pigeon-holed and manipulated. Humility cannot be faked. False humility changes nothing or causes more damage. True humility, a la Diana, can move mountains.
Post-Brexit, our leadership, governmental and corporate, have not given any signs of shifting the approach. It’s business as usual. Responsibility is being avoided by all. Blame is being placed on the most vulnerable, as usual. Adjustments are to be made on the fly. Passions on all sides will dissipate. The people will forget. They will get back to the same-old-same-old. Moving right along. Nothing to see here. Or maybe not. How many warning bells must we here before we are yanked out of our RMP stupor?
If we are to make better decisions, personally and politically, a good place to start is to take the time to move beyond an intellectual understanding of humility to actually ‘feeling’ it; to feeling anything really. What does it feel like in the body if we allow humility to wash over us? How does that feeling affect the way we engage with the world – and ourselves? Can we feel the genuine frustration and confusion on the part of poor and disenfranchised in the Leave camp? If we could just allow ourselves to feel humility and compassion… This is a new direction. This is the opportunity.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Donald Trump, Ridicule as a National Pastime, The Sheer Scale of Humanity’s Endless Trauma, The Continuation of Global British Influence and the Troubling Legacy of Winston Churchill
Yes, Donald. It can’t get any better than poor, misbehaving Donald Trump having been sent off to Military Boarding School (in America). Watch the BFG and see if Mr. Trump doesn’t remind you of the head Giant. “According to biographers, Trump’s father was a workaholic, a ruthless, cold and authoritarian man who believed life is a competition where the “killers” win.” He passed his bigotry and trauma on to Donald, who has apparently been known to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches at his bedside. His life story is similar to all the other traumatized figures in this piece. Rest assured, that Mr. Trump has suffered – mightily. He recently suggested to the Pakistani-American father who lost his son in combat that he, Mr. Trump, had sacrificed as much as Mr. and Mrs. Khan. Of course, he was roundly condemned for his apparently absurd comment, which he then doubled down on for good measure.
How on earth do you so irresponsibly – politically, let alone morally – throw good money after bad following such a damaging statement? We write him off as a fool, but his life and actions reveal deeper truths.
Many people are genuinely afraid of Mr. Trump. That they are correct to be concerned is ironically and frighteningly displayed in this video of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, recounting their father’s foundational advice when they were 11 and 4 years old, respectively. It is with pride that the brothers speak of their father telling them that they must never trust anyone, including each other, and including himself, their father. What a thing to tell your children. Why would Mr. Trump tell them that? It’s not because he’s just a sociopathic jerk, though that’s the result of his life experience. It’s because he has unquestionably – yes unquestionably – been visited with extreme betrayal in his childhood; and the extremity of this betrayal, on one end of the continuum, mirrors the extremity of the absence of trust that he so unconsciously bequeaths to his sons, who continue the tradition. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Even as adults, the dissociated brothers see nothing wrong with their father’s approach. On the contrary they laud it as superior parenting. But if we don’t trust our parents, our Gods, then how can we trust life. That’s exactly the point for Mr. Trump. Life is not to be trusted. Only someone who has come from trauma and betrayal feels this way. Earnestly believing he is helping his children, Mr. Trump brands his “wisdom” onto his children’s foreheads, for all to see. It’s the right thing to do. To Mr. Trump, anything other than this realpolitik approach would be naïve and irresponsible.
A person who has no trust is capable of the gravest actions.
So, in a way, Mr. Trump has sacrificed more than Mr. and Mrs. Khan. The Khans’ lost a son yet exude dignity and decency. At some point, unable to cope, Mr. Trump lost himself, as do so many boys and men who experience extreme RMP families and institutions do, including many of our leaders. He sacrificed himself to survive. The alarming consequences are on display for the world to see; alarming because, like some Brits, 40% of Americans are so far gone with their disgust towards the establishment that they will consider voting for such a man. Dig a little deeper and understand that these people are an energetic match for Mr. Trump. There are a lot of lost and disillusioned souls out there, and they just don’t give a shit anymore. Scary stuff.
Is Donald Trump not the terrifying manifestation of the betrayed soul, taking out his frustrations on the world? Boris to the nth degree. Of course, all over the world, including in the UK, Mr. Trump is ridiculed and mocked. As for his supporters, we throw them under the bus as well because of how unconscious they must be – just like the Brexiters. How stupid are these people anyway? Meanwhile, the more his supporters are derided, the more emboldened and unreasonable they become. Why? Because not only don’t we recognize that they are angry and lost, just like Mr. Trump, we are unable to muster the compassion and non-judgment required to get through to them. Instead, we do the worst possible thing: we’re assholes towards them; we take the piss.
Remember when a segment of the British Parliament debated banning Donald Trump from entering the country? This one-minute clip was shown the world-over, including in the United States, where it was great fodder for press and comedians alike.
One gets the impression from the clip that the debate consisted of nothing other than taking the piss out of Mr. Trump; puns and wise-cracks galore; a real opportunity for the country’s leadership to show off their top-drawer roasting skills.
Interestingly, when you read the transcript of the entire debate, it’s clear that there were actually many more measured voices among the group, such as that of Conservative Sir Edward Leigh who opined that care should be taken since: “This man [Trump] may conceivably become President of our most important ally.” Not very sexy to be sure. He also said that: (1) the debate just gives Mr. Trump more publicity; and (2) “We must be wary of lowering ourselves to demagoguery in fighting demagogues.”
MP Alex Chalk, the man who has the last word in the clip, says, “… May I suggest that this is actually about buffoonery? Ultimately, buffoonery should be met not with the blunt instrument of a ban, but with the classic British response of Ridicule” – to the shouts of ‘here here’. This was the extent of Mr. Chalk’s contribution. Despite the inanity of the process as a whole, most other speakers provided at least some level of insight into Mr. Trump and his potential to cause unrest in the UK. Not Mr. Chalk, who nonetheless masterfully recognized the opportunity for self-promotion, including retweeting his moment in the sun (on January 19, 2016, the day of the debate). Heavens did he deliver, unleashing the zinger of the session; a succinct sound-bite that goes for the jugular. Pats on the back all around.
Any guesses at to which gentlemen, Sir Edward or Alex Chalk, attended the elite of elite 600 year-old Boarding School Winchester College, followed by Oxford?
Of course, one need not be an ex-boarder to be judgmental. On the contrary, Mr. Chalk has wonderfully summarized a key British characteristic that permeates the culture, the humour and the Parliament: Ridicule.
Taking the piss is one of Britain’s favourite pastimes. Who laughed after watching Mr. Chalk’s clever quip? We all did apparently. Because that’s what we do. Identify a person’s greatest vulnerability and make fun of it. And make sure to give them a few extra kicks when they’re down. (ie) Boris the ‘clown’. It is de rigueur in all the Anglo countries. Hilarious really. Just like when we were kids in the playground. Hilarious for everyone else except the recipient.
As with addiction and racism in Britain and the Anglo World, ridicule also crosses class lines.
The same thing that is happening in the UK is firing on all cylinders in the US. A Washington Postanalysis discovered that Trump’s main source of support were young, male, white, without a university degree, disenfranchised, voiceless, threatened from the outside and racially unprogressive. Sound Familiar? America, Canada and Australia, and scores of other countries to similar or lesser degrees, are underpinned by the particularly British Rational Man Project. British men were responsible for laying the governmental, economic, legal and cultural systems of these countries. Hence, Slavery (not just in the US) and the grotesque treatment of Indigenous People in all three countries. The inability of RMP systems to look within, means that all three countries have only scraped the surface when it comes to addressing what has been perpetrated on their respective Indigenous peoples.
Despite our need to believe that these issues are from the distant past, Canadian residential schools were still open in the 1980s. A recent shocking report out of Australia where imprisoned juveniles, 90% of whom are Aboriginal, have been subjected to outright torture, should be earth-shaking – with techniques employed against alleged terrorists in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay used against CHILDREN. Shocking is an understatement, which also describes the typical governmental reaction to such revelations – a royal commission that will present a report by next year. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. These are children who have been betrayed by a racist system, whose people have been so vandalized that they understandably – at least to someone with empathy – have a devil of time creating a functioning life. Who among us would fare better under the emotionally and financially decrepit conditions that many Indigenous children grow up in? We look down on them and wonder what their problem is. We castigate them for their addictions, while many of us are ourselves only functioning via our addictions. The contradiction is fantastic – and predictable. What we disown in ourselves we disown in others. What we cannot own continues to hang over us like a toxic ether that we share with the world.
In Britain and the Anglo world we like to think we live in post-racist world. We keep being shown that the reality could not be further from the truth. One ironic truth is that the working class people we systematically abuse have more in common with the lowly natives all around the world, as both parties are slaves to the whims of an out-of-touch elite.
Many people, especially in the working class demographic, have had enough. There is a sense of futility. Manufacturing has been decimated in their countries. Opportunities are few and far between. The American Dream is apt because it has been nothing more than a fantasy for decades. So, damn right they are upset. When things are this out of whack it eventually becomes obvious, even to the peasants. When things are this off-kilter, how can we expect anything other than the shenanigans of Donald Trump? We are only shocked because we are the fish in the sea not recognizing that Mr. Trump is the canary in the coalmine. Actually, he’s not a canary any longer, he’s an Albatross. While the mainstream Rational Man Project seeks at every turn to present him as the fool – which is rather easy to do – they miss the point: Donald Trump, fool as he may be, keeps revealing enough truth about the corrupt establishment system that those who are at the very end of their rope are actually willing to listen.
We have a choice in dealing with these angry, mostly white, men. We can fiercely reject them and dissociate from them, which will only further entrench their rage. Or, we can see them for who they are: angry beacons shining a blinding light into our eyes. In one direction is tyranny. We have been there. We’re being tested again. It seems like early days, but as we have learned from history, things can get out of hand pretty fast if a critical mass is reached.
Alternatively, we undertake the hard work; the hardest work there is. Namely, recognizing that they, and our wounded leaders, actually represent all of us. Foundationally exact, yet superficially opposites, they reveal to us who we actually are. Via the Rational Man Project and the economic imperative for infinite growth, many of us are so busy running and running and running, we can’t see its effect, dulled and distracted by our cocktail of addictions and avoidances.
“People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley (another Boarding School attendee with additional personal trauma. His nickname was “Ogie”, short for Ogre. School must have been fun.)
The focus of this piece has been the particularly British form of the Rational Man Project. Of course, as we can plainly see, left-brain, rational patriarchy dominates much of world, resulting in global RMP misogyny, racism and classism.
In most countries, there is a dearth of empathy; the feminine energy quashed. Patriarchal religion has fundamentally undermined the feminine for millennia. The mode and method of this subjugation is different in every country depending on a myriad of factors especially with respect to the religion that dominated before the arrival of the Age of Reason. With Britain being the last great empire, and with the United States being recent history’s lighter version of empire, the British way of doing things holds sway in large swathes of the world, even in places the British didn’t colonise. After all, Britain has in its history invaded 9 out of 10 countries of the world and the United States currently has 800 military bases around the world (with American military presence in 160 countries), while all the rest of the countries of the world, including Britain, France and Russia have a grand total of 30! The BBC World Service is the most watched source of news information in the world – and its reach is only expanding. We don’t need statistics to know the class of those global non-Brits watching the BBC. Furthermore, for a century, the elite from all over the world, including from Russia, China, South Korea, The Middle East and India have sent their children to British, American & Swiss private and boarding schools – and that trend has reached record levels. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (and her son) and Gandhi, among many others, were educated in Britain. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un attended a Swiss boarding school.
Meanwhile, top British boarding schools (Harrow, Marlborough, Wellington College and Dulwich College) have recently opened locations all around the world, especially in China, providing local elites further opportunities for their children to receive the best education in the world. “Our culture values a Western education more than a local education, probably due to our colonial mentality,” notes Matthew Manotoc, a grandson of Filipino ruler Ferdinand Marcos. Manotoc went to university in the US, as did his mother… And it’s just not a matter of colonial submissiveness. As Prince Asfa-Wossen, the European-educated son of the last president of Ethiopia’s Imperial Crown Council observes, foreign leaders send their children to schools and universities in the West “because they want them to get a good education, but also because they identify with the values and culture of the West”.
The deep and recent British influence is why the entire world is taken with Brexit and many things British, including the Royal Family.
So many of us, within our own lives and via our lineage, have endured the Boarding Schools that are our lives marred by profound personal tragedy and betrayal. Extrapolate that to an entire nation, and then to the world and we get massive collective rrauma. In our instant gratification world that has become governed by the next election or economic quarter, and the 24 hour news cycle, we are inundated with trauma that we just as quickly shunt aside. In order to protect ourselves, just like boys in Boarding School, we become desensitized to the psychological and physical violence. This mode of living has become normalized. So, we avoid and ignore our own pain, too busy with our ludicrously adrenalized lives. Paradoxically, then we subject ourselves to secondary trauma by ingesting alarming amounts of violence via news, film, TV, video games and pornography. Notice how the intensity levels of all of these forms of entertainment have gone through the roof, keeping us on our toes as if there is a terrorist, serial killer or pedophile around every corner? But that’s what it feels like, doesn’t it? Why?
Question: If the statistics show that global deaths from conflict have been on a consistently downward trend since WWII, why are so many people so pessimistic and fearful?
Firstly, note that almost all of the worst conflicts since 1400 have involved inter-European combat. Secondly, if you then take a look at the data used to create this graph, one thing will jump out at you: the vast majority of deaths from conflict since about 1400 have resulted from inter-European war or European aggression against the people of the world. So, while we continually demonize people of other races and religions, it is Christian, White Europeans who have wreaked the vast majority of the havoc in the world. Thirdly, notice that while the death figures are down since WWII, our present day deaths per 100,000 is comparable to that of many periods of the past. What does it say that our current global conflict death rates are similar to those from the horrid medieval times? With all of our civility and technology, has anything really changed? Beyond the facade, the answer is pretty clear. Things feel out of hand because they are – and people are feeling it.
Here is a tiny taste of the trauma and betrayal that human beings have doled out and received over the last 150 years;
(a) ongoing blowback from the mistreatment and genocide of Native peoples during colonisation
(b) WWI and WWII
(d) Iraq, Afghanistan and historical malfeasance in the Middle East
(e) Recent London attacks
(2) The United States:
(a) Brutalization of Native Americans
(c) The Civil War, pitting American against American
(e) dropping Atomic bombs on Japan
(f) Vietnam War
(g) Support of despotic fascist regimes in Central and South America and The Middle East
(i) Perpetual War in Afghanistan and Iraq
(a) Hundreds of thousands of women raped and many millions of civilians killed by the invading Japanese between 1937 and 1945, including the savage Rape of Nanking
(b) the Trauma of Chinese Communism under Mao started in 1949 and continues to aggressively limit the human experience
(c) The Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s which resulted in a mind-boggling 30 million Chinese murdered by their own (and these are the “official” figures)
(d) Tianenman Square
(a) committed mass genocide in China, including the famous Rape of Nanking, as well as the systematic torture and killing of POWs in their care. The history of Japanese atrocities in the 1930s and 1940s is incomprehensible
(b) being the Perpetrators and Victims in WWII, culminating in suffering through the Atomic bombs and the shame of defeat
(c) Large scale rape and slavery of thousands of Korean women during WWII
(a) WWI and its aftermath
(b) WWII, the Holocaust and the murder of millions of other people, and the breaking up of the country
(a) The continent’s suffering is enough to fill many volumes but just the colonial genocide and brutality is unfathomable
(b) The Congolese Holocaust at the hands of the Belgians laid the groundwork for the more well-known mass genocides of the 20th century
(c) South Africa and Apartheid
(d) Starvation in Ethiopia
(e) Egypt, Libya and most of Islamic Africa under violent oppressive regimes, past and present. Etc, Etc.
(8) South and Central America:
(a) Spanish and Portuguese colonial genocide and repression
(b) In the 20th Century, most of the countries experienced fascist regimes that terrorized the people, with America having a hand in the savagery
(9) Russia: an endless history of oppression and violence that continues to this day, internally and externally.
(10) Eastern Europe: massive suffering during WWII followed by ruthless Soviet repression
(11) Former Yugoslavia: the dissolution of a country in devastating fashion
(12) Vietnam, Cambodia and South East Asia
(13) Israel and Palestine and the Middle East in general. Syria. Lebanon.
On and on the list goes. Infinite brutality. Infinite pain. Infinite trauma. Infinite betrayal. For perpetrators. For victims. The beautiful and the wondrous in humanity decimated. Some contend that this is simply humanity: selfish, greedy assholes who will take advantage when given the chance. After all, so few countries have taken responsibility for their past actions.
Any meaningful admission of wrong-doing, even in a recent and clear cut case like Iraq? Any reparations paid? The Rational Man Project does not allow for the self-reflection that would be required to elicit healing for Britons, both as perpetrator and victim of their own perpetration. This inability to take responsibility for morally reprehensible behaviour has meant that the overt racism of the past, never having been properly owned and repudiated, still remains, ready to rear its ugly head under duress.
Are these traumas ancient history? “What are you going on about? That was 150 years ago!” The American Civil War was in 1860. As we witness America falling apart, does it feel like that history is in the distant past? Does it feel like we’re done with the problems of slavery? Does it feel like many Southern, white American men have gotten over a conflict that took place 150 years ago? The disowned traumas and betrayals of even generations past remain with us until we do right by them. America’s weighty baggage is threatening to take it under. Though the situation in Britain is not quite as dire as that in the US, it is on the same destructive path – though many are incapable of seeing the patterns at work; patterns that connect the likes of Tony Blair to the demigod, Winston Churchill.
Mr. Churchill is arguably the most admired Brit of all time. His role in rallying Britain to survive against, and then defeat, the Nazis is the stuff of legend. However, if we take in his entire record, should Mr. Churchill be so appreciated, so deified?
“With limited contact with his parents, Churchill became very close to his nanny… attended Harrow School from the age of 13… he was a stocky boy with red hair who talked with a stutter and a lisp… he did poorly in his schoolwork… he hated Harrow. His mother rarely visited him, and he wrote letters begging her either to come to the school or to allow him to come home. His relationship with his father was distant; he once remarked that they barely spoke to one another… Churchill had a lateral lisp that continued throughout his career, reported consistently by journalists of the time and later. Authors writing in the 1920s and 1930s, before sound recording became common, also mentioned Churchill having a stutter, describing it in terms such as “severe” or “agonising”.
Boris before Boris.
Mr. Churchill married Clementine in 1908. What was Clementine’s back-story? Childhood trauma arising from, at the least, infidelity and betrayal. It’s hard to keep up with the multiple levels of trauma which Clementine carried with her into her marriage with Mr. Churchill – and into motherhood. It’s hard to be a good mother when your understanding of what mother is has been reflected back to you by a negligent mother – who herself, no doubt, has been beset by the very same dynamic. And so the pattern endures.
As with Mr. Churchill’s early life, and those of most Royalty and nobility, his children were usually left in the care of governesses. On one such typical occasion in 1921, while Churchill was away for work and Clementine was away on a tennis adventure, their three year old daughter Marigold died of septicaemia – sans parents.
Churchill then “received word that his nanny, Mrs. Everest, was dying; he then returned to England and stayed with her for a week until she died. He wrote in his journal, ‘She was my favourite friend.’ In My Early Life he wrote: ‘She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived… She served as his confidante, nurse, and mother substitute’ …”
As with so many of his privileged brothers and sisters, we see the characteristic neglect and betrayal of Mr. Churchill by his absentee parents. It was truly a godsend that he adored his nanny so much; nannies and matrons of the day were generally not so lovable. But between the abject parental neglect of young Winston, and his desperate, unrequited letters, the stage was set for a dangerously un-empathetic adult. The normalcy of such a state of affairs has no bearing on how a child responds to, and is traumatized by, neglect and/or abuse. If we weren’t so enamored with purely scientific reasons behind why some children develop a stutter or lisp we might notice the obvious. Either way, can it be doubted that he suffered greatly because of his impediments, as child and adult?
With Maya Angelou’s words, “when people show you who they are, believe them”, in mind, this quote from Mr. Churchill may provide some deeper insight into the man:
“When you’re 40, you stop caring what other people think. When you’re 60, you realize that no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.”
Mr. Churchill’s accomplishments are well documented, though strangely limited if one views history from a more empathetic perspective. Unfortunately, there is a large body of evidence to show that Mr. Churchill personally made some devastating leadership decisions, which stemmed from his unconscious RMP upbringing.
“Churchill certainly believed in racial hierarchies and eugenics, says John Charmley, author of Churchill: The End of Glory. In Churchill’s view, white protestant Christians were at the top, above white Catholics, while Indians were higher than Africans, he adds. “Churchill saw himself and Britain as being the winners in a social Darwinian hierarchy… Churchill was very much on the far right of British politics over India,” says Charmley. “Even to most Conservatives, let alone Liberals and Labour, Churchill’s views on India between 1929 and 1939 were quite abhorrent… “People sometimes question why on Earth did people not listen to Churchill’s warnings about Hitler in the late 1930s,” says Charmley, “to which the short answer is that he’d used exactly the same language about Gandhi in the early 1930s.”
He said of Gandhi’s peaceful resistance campaign that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” As the resistance swelled, he announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
But what should we expect from a man who at Harrow and Sandhurst learned that “the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilisation.” Many of us will recoil in reading this. It’s pretty stark. Yet, how different is it from what Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said in 2002: “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers or their citizens scrambled once again in her direction on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.” The disconnect is, as usual, arresting, yet predictable. Recently, in a speech, he called Africa, “that country”. “Doubling down on imperialist rhetoric as his speech this week progressed, Johnson also proudly proclaimed that “the values of global Britain are needed more than ever” along with suggesting that its “beliefs” are responsible for continuing to “lift the world out of poverty”.”
Mr. Johnson is not being obvious on purpose. It just slips out. He’s just mining what is in the air, deeply engrained in our RMP culture; except, as with Donald Trump, his filtering system goes AWOL at the drop of a hat. And then we get the truth, their truth. It’s ugly. We don’t want to see it. Alas, the more we look away, the more intense and absurd the lesson becomes, until we wake up to the fact that Boris Johnson is the Foreign Minister of Great Britain; and he want to be Prime Minister. Dr. Gabor Mate asks, “What does it say about our society that such deeply troubled individuals frequently rise to the top ruling circles, attaining wealth and power and even the admiration of millions?” Isn’t the answer, that many of us are also deeply troubled?
Back to Mr. Churchill, whose actions in Africa, The Middle East and India showed that he simply took what he learned, culturally and at school, and sprinted with it. This knowledge, combined with a foundation of parental betrayal, produced an extreme RMP figure. At a moment in time during WWII, there was some doubt as to whether Britain would prevail over the Nazis. It was a fearful time. The man of the moment was the ultimate survivor – he embodied the survivor spirit of the Brit. He was forged into that within the trenches of childhood. What he brought forth was genuine. The people felt that and embraced Mr. Churchill in that vulnerable moment – and then turned him into the most admired Briton of all time – largely based on that short period of time during the War.
Would he be so admired if the people allowed themselves to see and accept the fuller picture? In a sense, it’s difficult to write this because there is so much invested in Britain’s elevation of Mr. Churchill to hallowed levels. It’s painful when we are challenged to take another look at something which has given us so much strength and value. It means looking within and touching into places unseen and unacknowledged. It shines a light on the places of our greatest sensitivity.
In 2014, Labour candidate Benjamin Whittingham “tweeted that Churchill was ‘a racist and white supremacist’.” Mr. Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, “was outraged… Soames thinks it is ludicrous to attack Churchill. ‘You’re talking about one of the greatest men the world has ever seen, who was a child of the Edwardian age and spoke the language of [it].’ Conservative opponent Ben Wallace labelled the comments ‘ignorant’ and ‘incredibly insulting’.”
The responses of those defending Mr. Churchill are instructive. Firstly, Sir Soames, provides the de facto reason why Mr. Churchill should be revered: He is the consummate British man. Simply due to his station in life, his pedigree, he is to be admired – details be damned. Of course, Mr. Soames’ position can only be held if he subscribes to a revisionist version of Mr. Churchill’s history. Despite the expected apologists, family and Churchill organizations, the actual record does not paint Mr. Churchill in a good light:
(1) Famine in Bengal – “In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for ‘breeding like rabbits’.” To confirm, Mr. Churchill ordered food that Indians had grown for Indians, to be forcibly taken from them and sent off to feed British soldiers. Again, it’s easy to focus the blame on Mr. Churchill – until we see that the Colonial Secretary’s actions were consistent with 150 years of British rule in India, including seven previous famines that had killed millions, and exacerbated by criminal British taxation policies which left Indians in the lurch during times of difficulty.
(2) South Africa – Mr. Churchill’s direct influence in restricting Black African rights to own land and vote – which, as we have seen, was perfectly in line with historical British practice in Africa – set the stage for the official policy of Apartheid.
(3) Iraq during and after WWI – when Mr. Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, was responsible for overseeing the invasion of the area he would end up partitioning into, among other countries, Iraq. 40,000 British troops were killed before the locals were subdued. Heaven knows what the Native casualty figures were. The partition was done in a reckless manner that brought together disparate tribes and people including: Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. If that weren’t bad enough, he engineered the installation of a Sunni King, though the Sunnis were in the minority. Fast forward almost a hundred years. While Saddam Hussein was always vilified, and rightly so, for his terrible rule, how was he not anything other than a leader cut from the mould carved by British colonial power? Saddam Hussein was a facsimile of King Faisal, who was appointed by Mr. Churchill in 1921 to rule the new Iraq. He was wholeheartedly supported, economically and militarily, by Britain and the United States; that is, until Mr. Hussein started to violate the rules of the game. Enter: Tony Blair, to do the same-old-same-old, except, because of technology and access to information, the people now have a much better sense of dire consequences of neo-colonial actions. Let us try to imagine the scope of the conflict that started in 1915 that claimed 40,000 British soldiers – during the time of trench warfare. It must have been hell on earth – like now. And how about now? Our empathetic shortcomings makes it all but impossible to comprehend the scale of suffering that people from other parts of the world endure – where the fatalities are in the tens and hundreds of thousands – especially when, as in Iraq, where in the guise of installing democracy, we have had a direct hand in destroying, arguably, the most progressive country in the region.
In short: Britain being Britain. Churchill being Britain. Blair being Britain.
What of Mr. Churchill’s support of eugenics and “compulsory labour camps for ‘mental defectives’”? There were only three members of parliament, who grasped the moral implications of the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913, which replaced its predecessor, which went by the wonderfully tone-deaf moniker of The Idiots Act of 1886, and voted against it. Mr. Churchill was not among these enlightened souls. Instead, he specifically advocated for compulsory labour camps for the four classes of citizens: idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons and moral imbeciles.
From the Mental Deficiency Act:
“A person deemed to be an idiot or imbecile might be placed in an institution or under guardianship if the parent or guardian so petitioned, as could a person of any of the four categories under 21 years, as could a person of any category who had been abandoned, neglected, guilty of a crime, in a state institution, habitually drunk, or unable to be schooled. At the height of operation of the Mental Deficiency Act, 65,000 people were placed in “colonies” or in other institutional settings. The act remained in effect until it was repealed” in 1959.
One of the three dissenters was, Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgwood, who “staged a filibuster against the government’s Mental Deficiency Bill, which he saw as authoritarian and unjust. Over the course of two days in Parliament, he tabled 120 amendments and made 150 speeches in Parliament, sustaining himself with only barley-water and chocolate according to press reports, until his voice gave out.” He also went out on a limb by supporting the Suffragetes. Furthermore, “though he stood for the Liberal Party, he made it clear that he would take an independent line in Parliament if necessary, in accordance with his conscience.” Conscience… clearly it was as novel an idea back then as it is today. When do we hear about conscience? Does it make sense to take decisions without conscience front and centre? It does when, collectively, we have trouble accessing our conscience, which is tucked away somewhere in the opaqueness of our right-brains. Without a notable presence of conscience, the results are predictable: regardless of Party, generations of successive leaders, like Prime Minister May, pledge to finally do better by the people, but almost always fall well short of their promises. Who knows, maybe Ms. May will be “the one”. Considering the ever-present distraction and primacy of inner-party and election politics, that seems unlikely; not because our leaders genuinely don’t actually care about the people, but because they are so utterly mesmerised by the intricacies of their institution, including surviving and thriving in the game. The people are not purposely, but necessarily, an after-thought.
It’s not difficult to extrapolate Mr. Churchill’s advocacy for the Mental Deficiency Act to the establishment of the Kenyan labour camps a few decades later. While we now champion the rights of the imbeciles among us, it has never taken much for our abandoned and traumatized leadership to betray the lesser-thans of the moment. Without knowing more about, Mr. Wedgwood, do we generally celebrate leaders who, especially with the benefit of hindsight, were ahead of the curve, who rose above the fray, morally and intellectually?
With limited access to his conscience, Mr. Churchill filled his void with Empire. His touchstone was not himself but Empire. It took Empire to keep him from engaging with his massive inner turmoil. Many of us do our versions of the very same thing, desperate to avoid our deep trauma. How can we surmise that Mr. Churchill’s trauma was massive? By looking at the scale of the suffering and destruction that was wrought on humanity by his hand.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Churchill also sacrificed himself, in this case to the altar of Empire. Surely, these two men should not be placed in the same universe, let alone the same sentence. Surely? Surely, it doesn’t mean anything that both Mr. Trump and George W. Bush hugely admire Winston Churchill. Amazingly, after I just wrote this, I did a Google search for Mr. Trump and Mr. Churchill only to find a plethora of right-wing news articles favourably comparing the two. Ridiculous as it may seem, there is quite a bit of overlap, especially if we can admit that Mr. Churchill was not the best of men. Winston, Donald and Dubya are cut from the same RMP cloth. Many suffered due to the leadership of both Mr. Churchill and Mr. Bush. Alas, Mr. Obama, who promised Americans that “they could”, was unable or unwilling to give them a chance. And with so many people despising the uber-establishment Hillary Clinton we are left with the preposterous possibility of a Trump presidency.
We celebrate or vilify extreme RMP figures. We imagine them as somehow different than the rest of us when in actual fact we are enabling them. This is where we need courage to look within; because our unconsciousness is helping to manifest these damaged and dangerous leaders.
As always, let us not forget and underestimate the trauma Mr. Churchill experienced as a child. Many of us, familiar as we are with our own histories of personal and generational trauma, may balk at the “trauma excuse” when judging the dastardly deeds of others. This is not to exonerate those who behave badly. The thing is, we all respond to trauma in unique ways. For those who feel it more keenly, if the good and beautiful do not manage to find a way in, that person is at risk of betraying themselves and those around them. If such a person achieves political and/or corporate power then watch out. How many times have we seen this play out in history?
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Ubiquitous Media Violence, Football Hooligans, JK Rowling and Roald Dahl
The ever-present RMP structures and institutions, which have held it all together, are starting to give way. Our collective sensitivity is on the upswing. Many of us are delving into uncharted territory. This can be confusing and frightening. One thing is certain: An increasing number of people are seeing and feeling the rampant discord that has the world perpetually at the brink of catastrophe (only exacerbated by the unprecedented amounts of intensified and normalized ultra-violent news, films and video games that many of us ingest on a daily basis). Fear is ever-present. Meanwhile, competing studies regularly emerge discussing whether or not our violently-saturated media environment has any impact on our children and society. Only the hyper-rational mindset requires studies to confirm something that is evident to those who have access to their feelings.
Like many of us in the Western world, especially men in the Anglo world, I have absorbed a staggering amount of media content in my life. I am a sports fan, I love movies, including super-hero films, and unfortunately my mobile phone is practically attached to my hand. Until pretty recently, I have been able to experience a wide range of media violence with barely any notable reaction, other than maybe becoming adrenalized. As I’ve allowed feeling back into me, I’m noticing that for the first time in my life I am actually being affected by violence and brutality. I am no longer as comfortably numb as I’ve been. Magnified by the psychological violence of, for example, Boarding School and the Military, our systemic emotional numbing provides us and our children protection from actually feeling and comprehending the perpetual damage we are inflicting on ourselves.
“The typical American [British figures will be similar] child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly.”“Overall, roughly two out of three video games marketed for general audiences contained violence, and nearly all games marketed for older players do” (Wilson, 2008)… Underage children often play violent video games, even those rated inappropriate for their age group. For example, a 2004 survey of kids in grades 7-12 found that 65% had played the game Grand Theft Auto (KFF, 2005).”
As for video game sales in the UK, outside of FIFA16, practically every other game is non-stop violence, including the ever-increasing place of first-person shooter games in which the player has a weapon and is killing the “enemy” at will. Years ago, the “enemy” in these games were demons and monsters. In a short period of time, they became humans.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA): only in a violence-saturated, empathetically-numbed environment can parents believe that this game is “no big deal” steeped as it is in murder and misogyny. In a strange way, it’s not a big deal because GTA and other violent video games are also simply outgrowths and representations of our RMP society in which violence is completely normalized. So, when we see that many parents condone their child’s playing of GTA, it shouldn’t come as any surprise; including the mental games that are employed to minimize and deny the potential impact. One parent reviewer says, “I think that this game has many violent and awful things, but if your child knows the difference between the game and the real world, they should be fine. My 13 year old son was allowed to get this game because he demonstrated his knowledge that this game is not to be repeated in any way.” Another parent says, “But I believe that apart from it being violent and the language being bad this game is fine for anyone ages 13 and up.” Another parent says, “yes it does have sexual content, although I had found out that you do not HAVE TO go near any of it during the game.” Parenting our children to become kind and compassionate members of society – to seek out the best in themselves – is a monumental challenge for parents who are so submerged in the RMP that we have trouble recognizing that violent media serves to further entrench the already deep-seated lack of empathy that underpins our society.
My nine year old daughter recently attended a two-week film-making camp (made up of an equal number of boys and girls). On the final day, an hour’s worth of their short films (a total of about 20 films) were screened for us parents. The vast majority of the films contained violence, including fighting, murder, horror and even suicide. I kept waiting for just one of the films (made by 8-12 year olds) to explore love or friendship, to tap into the innocence of childhood. Nope. For me, in the midst of writing this piece, it provided yet another transition point as I sat there and witnessed many of the parents laughing along with what we were watching. When the show ended I was in a daze as I walked out listening to the parents congratulating their children. Despite all the violence I am so intimately familiar with, I was suddenly strangely disturbed by watching these children representing, in a twistedly cute fashion, what is dominating their imaginations. It is troubling, though not unexpected, if we take into consideration the acquiescence and participation of the children’s supervisors: a bunch of 20 year old first-year university film students.
Remember when the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange was so outrageous, so absurd in its excess? Remember the scene when the Malcolm McDowell character, Alex, a perfect representation of the RMP run amok, is injected with a drug that makes him terribly nauseous, then has his eyelids forcibly exposed so he can watch a video with endless amounts of cruelty and brutality?
Nowadays, our addictions are Alex’s injected drugs, though our level of disconnect is so severe that we need not be forced to imbibe the ultra-violence of our culture and world. We readily soak it up. As always, Kubrick was ahead of his time. We are all versions of Alex. And we have learned from the very beginning to protect ourselves from our violent world by cutting off from our feelings. It’s the only way to survive the onslaught. Of course, the consequence is that we then have trouble feeling love and community.
This is the bad news; and there’s plenty of it. Are we truly no better than this? Fortunately, and significantly, there is an opposing, and over-arching force that is rapidly coming into play, and its delivery system is the Internet. More of us are choosing to engage with content that connects us with our hearts and with humanity; that makes us laugh; that inspires us; that yearns for community instead of conflict. The inevitability of an the RMP way, that assumes and promulgates the worst in us, is running up against this heart-centred force that is expanding at a rapid pace, and has hitherto largely been unexplored by humans. There is an inverse correlation between further RMP extremity and increased emotional sensitivity. There is a nexus point in there somewhere and we are working our way towards it.
Notwithstanding the ridicule by RMP stalwarts, a tipping point may be in the offing. RMP resistance is understandable and must be met with compassion, keeping in mind that it is not required for the majority to open themselves to this evolution in consciousness.
In fact, despite the terrible state of global affairs, there are many examples of this increased sensitivity. Between 1915 and 1922 it was acceptable for 40,000 British troops to die in Iraq. That would be an impossibility today. In the last 13 years, the combined losses for British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has been less than 500; and yet even these figures have placed incredible pressure on the government and military to justify these deaths.
What will this tipping point look like? I have been asked a number of times recently what will replace the status quo. Well, we are on the cutting edge of something new… we won’t know what it will look like until we’re in it. As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” That’s scary for some, and certainly it leaves open the possibility for some terrible things to transpire. Or not .
Which brings us back to Africa. Some will say that the Africans were savages. After all, some of them participated in human sacrifice. That was certainly the case up until the 19th century, but only from a rigid RMP position can the human sacrifice of a tiny number of people justify the murder of hundreds of thousands and millions of Africans.
One of the easiest routes of healing for our planet would be the acknowledgement, and some level of reparations for what has been done in Africa. Until that happens, Britons, and almost everybody else, will continue to drown under the weight of their woefully misguided and ill-informed racism, a major pillar of British culture.
Unless Britons find the wherewithal and the courage to look within, the pattern still rules. This means that you are a grown man, but you likely have the emotional maturity of a traumatized young boy; maybe book smart, maybe not; but probably emotionally stunted. This has been ongoing for centuries, resulting in normalized and systemic betrayal that we cannot recognize because it’s all we’ve ever known. We cannot see the forest for the trees.
Actually, we have so lost the plot that we’re zoomed in on a few particular leaves of only one tree, the big picture sacrificed to the myopia of the Rational Man Project. Does the forest even exist any longer? Has it been relegated to myth? We are divorced from the right-brain, from the heart, too busy defending the fortress to look up and see and feel that just because something has been one way for ages, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way.
But if that ethereal other way entails the possibility of being on the receiving end of ridicule, we’d rather stick with the status quo because that is always preferable to touching into the shame and the pain. In other words, business as usual. As we continue to see, this is disastrous for all citizens.
Hundreds of years of the betrayal of our privileged children via the Boarding experience has not only created a deep-seated, cutthroat environment within the governmental and corporate spheres, but also within the culture at large. The people have always looked to their leaders for guidance and support. We admire them, or more accurately want to admire them. We aspire to their success, position and wealth. Our leaders, whether at home, school, work or government are meant to be our beacons.
Here is the crux of the matter. How on earth can we expect our leaders, generationally steeped as they are in betrayal, not to betray the people? When was the last time in the UK that a leader came into power being liked and respected, and left under the same conditions? It does not and cannot happen within the current framework. Consequently, it only stands to reason that the people are constantly betrayed by government and corporate leaders. Inequality goes up. The negligent and thieving banks are bailed out while the people pay the price through austerity. Institutions that support the people, like the NHS, are constantly undermined. More and more people living with subsistence wages are bearing the brunt of taxation while corporations are allowed to avoid their financial duties with off-shore tax havens. On and on it goes. Long and familiar story.
The people get the shaft. The reason why this doesn’t change is that for those at the top there is genuinely nothing amiss. After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world they have grown up in. The people will have to battle, just like they’ve been forced to do. Life is not for the faint of heart. Take what’s yours. Defend it with all your might because, guaranteed, someone is going to try to take it away from you. And if you’re not up to the task, then you fall by the wayside. If you’re looking for sympathy, let alone empathy, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Nobody is withholding the empathy. It’s simply not there because it has no place within the Rational Man Project.
With the marginalizing of Spirit in the Anglo world – post Age of Reason – one thing in the modern world more than any other has filled the void for men: Sports. Some sports fans, largely young and middle-aged men, live and die with their teams. The religion is now Football. In the absence of community, once an outgrowth of the Church, they find belonging in their team. They commune with their team. They’re value comes from their team and how their team performs. When they speak of their team they say, “We”.
Unfortunately, in keeping with the chaos of Brexit, desperation has been the main feeling associated with the England football team for quite some time. It’s palpable. The pressure on the players is overwhelming. England have potential but they always manage to disappoint. Isn’t the football team the perfect reflection of working class English society as it stands? Confused and resigned. It is these young men who have the enormous task of providing a winning salve so that, at least for a moment in time, the people can feel some much needed pride and elation; because the fans feel the trials and tribulations of their team as keenly as the players. They come from the same places. Football is one of the few arenas where they, primarily young men, are allowed to feel anything, especially with the lubrication of alcohol; where they can get a small dose of acceptable male camaraderie. This general feeling deficiency is so acute that when it has a chance to surface it is extreme in its manifestation. Winning produces euphoria. Losing, especially on a big stage, is a crushing personal defeat.
When England lose, in true British fashion the fans mercilessly turn on the players – on their own – vicious on social media, heartless by the tens of thousands in the stadium. Why? Because the players got out. They made it but they’re too pathetic to take advantage of it. Too coddled and weak to deliver what the fans expect and NEED. The team has betrayed the fans with their pathetic performance so the fans feel justified in doing this…
This fierce rejection becomes an outlet for the working class fan to project their own feelings of rage and abandonment anywhere but at themselves: at their football team, at immigrants, at authority. To the bully, everything that goes wrong is everybody else’s fault, lashing out at those who dare to fail and make you feel like shit.
Again, how is this different than what is transpiring in the political arena? The players betray the fans by losing. So the fans betray the players by ripping away their support, at least temporarily, until those bastards know what they have done!
So, in the absence of empathy, community, compassion and respect, we are left with betrayal at all levels of our society. The abandonment of the privileged, results in the abandonment of the working class who then take out their frustrations on whoever is most vulnerable around them, especially women and children. Hence, why the British football fans treated those refugee children in France the way they did.
They’re not doing it on purpose; it is because there is an empathetic bankruptcy that imbues the culture both on a personal level and on a state level. State-sponsored racism is cloaked hollow justification that is subservient to a geopolitical calculus that is backed by corporate interests. There is no difference.
The rest of us look at the behaviour of these “hooligans” and condemn it in no uncertain terms, just like we condemn our politicians; wash our hands of these embarrassing fellows who reflect so poorly on us. That’s the key. They are not outliers. They are reflecting us and our culture back to us. This is real reality TV. They shed a humiliating light on us – giving away the family secrets. They are the black sheep of the family, unable to keep up the required pretences. Thus, they must be shunned because their behaviour is apparently not what Britain stands for. Shame! But of course they are exactly what Britain stands for.
We refuse to see it, to accept it. Why? Because we have trouble forgiving ourselves, empathising with ourselves. If we cannot be compassionate with ourselves, how can we give that to others? In the absence of understanding and kindness, the immediate default response is rejection.
In some “primitive” Indigenous cultures when a member of the community transgresses they are not cast out. Instead, they are brought before the community to find out what’s wrong with that person. Our binary, left-brain system only has two settings: Good and Bad. If you’re Bad, you will be punished. End of story. We are unable to see what is glaringly obvious once you notice it: namely, that a person acts out, breaks the law, hurts other people and abuses drugs, when they are in pain; when they have been hurt and betrayed. What do we do in response? We punish that person with further rejection and/or imprisonment. We take people who already feel deep levels of shame and shame them further; publically humiliate them.
The way forward is to connect to our empathy within, to recognize that no one – NO ONE – is harming other people on purpose. Only someone who has been traumatized can treat other human beings the way that the British fans treated those children (I do not believe in inherently awful or evil people). I feel secure in saying that if someone were to contact one of those drunk British football fans, who treated those refugee children so terribly, and sit down and find out who the man is that, to the extent that he’d be able to share his own story, it would reveal pain and sadness as a result of betrayal. If we saw hidden video of him as a boy we would want to hold the allegedly terrible man and say, “I’m so sorry for what you have endured”. Our compassion would crash through the wall that keeps us from our empathy.
But then aren’t some people simply beyond the pale? Aren’t some people just lost causes, bastards? Our RMP culture, challenged as it is with nuance, can discard people so easily, transform them into Voldemort.
I almost didn’t want to mention JK Rowling and Harry Potter because Ms. Rowling’s life-story and accomplishments are so extraordinary, and she is so renowned, deservedly so, for her philanthropy. The sad reality is that she, like the aforementioned bookseller, is magically unaware of the reality of Boarding School. Before the meteoric success of Harry Potter, the Boarding School industry was at its nadir, with attendance at dangerously low levels. Ms. Rowling’s fantastical depiction of Hogwarts has not only coincided with a huge jump in domestic attendance but also has surely played a role in the top British Boarding Schools opening locations in the Far East and Middle East.
The slogan for JK Rowling’s charity, Lumos, is “Protecting Children. Providing Solutions”. Lumos is charged with improving the plight of orphaned children around the world. Upon light inspection, they appear to do wonderful work. During a live Facebook Live chat, Ms. Rowling, said, “All of the research agrees that there is little you can do worse for a child than put it in an institution”.
But then, isn’t this terribly ironic and confusing? Does she not see the intense overlap between the two institutions, orphanages and Boarding Schools? Maybe she does at this point, maybe she doesn’t. Likely, she’s like most Brits, from all backgrounds, who see Boarding School as just another normal component of our RMP culture.
Like many of us, Ms. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. Like Roald Dahl, she wrote fantasy stories from the time she was young, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans. Hence, the success of the series.
As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In a RMP binary world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be practically inhuman.
Within her writing, Ms. Rowling, who took some years to fill in Voldemort’s backstory, cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized people into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.
That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?
The inference is that Voldemort and the WBC are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us. But it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort for God’s sake!
We scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured self-disgust – because we are unable to own it and release it. The question is, do we believe in humanity’s inherent beauty or not? Unfortunately, so many of us are living in a state of collective trauma that when push comes to shove, we reluctantly admit that based on personal and human history, the answer is no; or, I don’t know. It might be on the other side of the wall, but who knows? Who knows is who feels.
Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our RMP world, all within a superbly entertaining package. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’.
There is a moment in the wonderful new film “The BFG”, based on the book written by Roald Dahl (another Boarding School and Oxford alum) in which, perfectly for my current purposes, the fictional Queen of England pays a lovely compliment to the Big Friendly Giant. His eyes well up instantly. He asks if she’s really talking about him. Receiving confirmation, he is overwhelmed. You see, the BFG is as old as the world and his constant companions have been a bunch of other Giants who are much larger than him and have bullied him mercifully for eons. It’s all he has ever known. So, when he receives love, he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, but he likes it.
All any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in this culture? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place?
From his autobiography, it is clear Roald Dahl had a horrendous time at Boarding School. Without doing further research, it feels like Dahl is the BFG and the other Giants are the boys at school, making him feel small, terrorizing him. How did he survive Boarding School? Probably by living in his imagination and by hoping against all hope.
To the football fan, bless you. To David and Boris and Donald, bless you. What we judge them for is being their traumatized little boy – and that boy is running the adult – in them and most of us. That’s hard to do and so we constantly screw up – waiting for something that doesn’t seem to be coming; that doesn’t seem like it exists. Acknowledgment. Love.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Tony Blair, Iraq, Harry Patch, Racism, the Historic Abuse of British Soldiers and the Unknown yet Magnificent History of Africa
The Chilcot Report was recently released and we have confirmation of what was obvious, namely the chicanery of Tony Blair, ardent Christian, blood-brothers with George Bush, and the initiator of the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses; which, including the ill-fated expedition in Aghanistan, resulted in sending hundreds of British servicemen and women to their deaths, as well as the tens of thousands of injured and scarred soldiers.
The working class once again sacrificed for the misguided machinations of an elite class who deemed the sacrifice worthwhile. In Tony Blair, yet another Private and Boarding School attendee, we have the archetypal example of a skilful man who is so trapped within his RMP Left-brain, so divorced from his empathetic right-brain, that while at an event as Prime Minister in 2006 he sought a photo-op with the last remaining British WWI veteran and war hero, Harry Patch. Why was the decision by Mr. Blair to approach Mr. Patch an absurd one?
Mr. Patch was ‘the last fighting Tommy’, ‘the last surviving combat soldier from any country’; except he was actually more of an anti-hero than a war hero. He called War “calculated slaughter” and said that the dead were “victims of governments”. He said he had no time for “‘thieving politicians’ lies”. Surely, these public statements by a very well known cultural figure in and of themselves should have convinced Mr. Blair, who, under false pretenses, had recently sent troops into Iraq, that seeking a photo with the legendary anti-war-hero was a terrible idea.
It gets better. What makes Mr. Patch extraordinary, in the truest sense of the word, is that during “the war to end all wars” him and five friends made a pact not to kill any “enemy” soldiers. Yes, you read that correctly. Him and his mates all went to the Western Front and did not kill any Germans. These soldiers decided that they would rather be killed, maimed or shot for treason than to harm another human being who, just like them, had been forced to suffer the brutality of war in order to play out the twisted machinations of their arrogant and cold-hearted leadership. Mr. Patch, a man well ahead of his time, was so conscious and empathetic that it was an impossibility for him, a “peacenik”, to kill people who he was told were his mortal enemies; when he knew very well that he had infinitely more in common with the terrified young man in the opposite trench than with his own leadership that had sent him and millions of other British men into a most horrific conflict (700,000 British soldiers perished).
So, when Mr. Blair sidled in to ingratiate himself with Mr. Patch “he was met with Harry’s sharp rebuff. Harry regaled him with the Harry Patch remedy for conflict resolution, namely, that politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.” This is the man a warmonger approached for acknowledgement; for personal gain.
Humiliated, Mr. Blair slinked away. The question is, how on earth did such a seemingly intelligent man (a la Mr. Cameron) manage to make such a gross miscalculation? Do his actions not contravene even the most rudimentary rules of “common sense”? Shouldn’t he be steering well clear of Mr. Patch? Here again we run into this patterned unconsciousness that governs our culture and our leadership and leads them to betray the people – and themselves. Sadly, the assumed “intelligence” is only one-dimensional.
Speaking of, common sense (CS), this from another of my pieces: “There is much lamentation in our culture regarding the dearth of common sense. Common sense is commonly conflated with logic, hence why our culture regularly jokes that woman’s ‘unpredictability’ makes her susceptible to lapses in CS. Yet, taking a wider view of things, it’s easy to see that in fact it is the world of men, which controls the levers of power in all of our institutions, which consistently acts with a disconcerting and dangerous lack of CS – while hamstrung by the difficulty in seeing past the unfeeling logic, which is only one component of common sense. Actually, sense only becomes ‘common’ when the right-brain gets involved. The absence or dilution of the ‘return’ to the right-brain results in the debilitating excesses that are threatening our very survival as a species.”
This is the insanity of the rational mind that can create convincing justification for anything from thin air. The issue is that Mr. Blair didn’t and doesn’t feel what he has done. He has so little access to his right-brain, where the instinct resides, that somehow it makes sense to him to seek a photo-op with his human antithesis. This is the level of incongruence, the level of cluelessness, that resulted in the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
The assumption on the part of some citizens is that corporate and government figures like Mr. Blair do what they do on purpose; that they are fully aware of their actions – as well as the consequences for themselves and others; as if they are like the odious Mr. Burns character from The Simpsons, gleefully rubbing his hands together at the prospect of screwing the people over.
The reality is that Mr. Blair, like most Western leaders, was simply on automatic pilot, trapped within the rigid confines of his left-brain; divorced from the empathy and common sense that is required to make good and moral decisions, personally and professionally. Despite taking some artistic license with the intelligence, he determined, and/or was led to believe, that however illegal and unjustified the invasion of Iraq was, it was preferable to any alternatives.
Undeterred by the damning Chilcott Report, Mr. Blair is still in fine RMP form. Though the emperor has no clothes, or more accurately has had the clothes ripped off him, this time, astoundingly by the authorities, he maintains his position that invasion was the correct course of action, regardless of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Can it be anything other than abject denial when today Mr. Blair says, “I can regret the mistakes and many things about it, but I genuinely believe that we acted out of good motives … I sincerely believe we would be in a worse position if we hadn’t acted in that way.”
Surely, it’s the realm of the fantastic to suggest things could be any worse in Iraq and the Middle East. So why does such an intelligent man continue with this charade? Because as crazy as it sounds he believes it. He has created his own logic which enables him to protect himself from the agonizing truth that he has a direct hand in setting off a chain of events that has caused untold and ever-continuing death and suffering. Steadfastness to the last. The Chilcott Report begs to differ with Mr. Blair, as do the millions of British people who knew back in 2003 that going to war would be disastrous for Britain and the world. Not even the stark clarity of hindsight is enough to elicit an iota of self-reflection or remorse, at least for public consumption. In our RMP culture, and especially for our leadership, it’s all or nothing; usually nothing.
Privilege means rarely having to take responsibility for your actions or to receive any meaningful punishment. So, despite the authorities finding Mr. Blair convincingly culpable, the cherry on top is this headline which perfectly encapsulates why more and more people are fed up: “Outrage as war crimes prosecutors say Tony Blair will not be investigated over Chilcot’s Iraq war report – but British soldiers could be.” What else but travesty can be expected? If there is anything surprising it’s that anyone is surprised. The people, especially soldiers, always take it on the chin for the misadventures of their leaders. The architect not only gets off scot-free but the stratospheric insult to injury has Mr. Blair not only coming to the defense of the very soldiers he has wantonly put into impossible situations, with ruinous consequences, but actually considering saving Britain by once again gallantly taking the reins. We might forgive some soldiers who question Mr. Blair’s sincerity.
What must it be like to be an avowed and ardent Christian, a follower of the Prince of Peace, and yet have behaved in a fashion that runs so counter to what Jesus stood for? Actually, Harry Patch was Mr. Blair’s real life quasi-Christ figure. He unwittingly went to Mr. Patch for forgiveness and absolution only to be rebuffed. Only maybe Jesus himself could be forgiving towards Mr. Blair. In his absence, we are all charged with seeking out our own compassion for a man who has to live out the rest of his days with his naked shame forever spotlighted for the world to see, even if he can’t see it himself. What of Mr. Blair’s children? What of the trauma and betrayal he has passed down to them? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Another element of Mr. Patch’s disdain surely concerns the shocking lack of support for our veterans. If all of their unnecessary suffering wasn’t insult enough, we see that these poor souls are not being taken care of, especially in the long term (in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia).
Still, it’s not really shocking is it? It makes perfect sense. It should be a crime to not take care of those who have sacrificed so much. There is a reason they say “War is Hell”. That’s not just some platitude. But when the leadership doesn’t really feel the magnitude of sending young, lower class, men and women to war, then they cannot emotionally understand the nature of that sacrifice; what killing other humans does to a person, regardless of the alleged justification, let alone the debilitating physical and mental wounds that are left behind.
Consequently, the returning soldiers are betrayed. It’s not personal. It’s not on purpose. If decision-makers actually allowed themselves to feel the agony of so many veterans, war would truly only become a last resort. It is the hyper-rational mind that produces the dissociation required to make these horrendous decisions; dissociation learned within the culture and the educational system – in a highly focused way in Boarding School and the top Universities.
I feel for Mr. Blair. He is a Shakespearian Tragic Figure (we haven’t even touched on how he might be connected to the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly). As with many of us, he is a slave to the Rational Man Project. Like many in our culture, he lost himself as a boy but jumped through all the right hoops in order to survive and thrive. Success made him believe that he was playing the fiddle masterfully, without realizing that, in fact, he was, and still is, the fiddle and the RMP has been playing him like a Stradivarius. Like many leaders that came before him and after him Mr. Blair became a marvelous, emotionally-enfeebled technocrat. David Cameron fittingly called himself “the heir to Blair” when he became Prime Minister. The results of his tenure, including his mangling of the Brexit vote and his disgraceful Libya follies, confirm the redundancy of Mr. Cameron’s statement since it scarcely matters who holds the reins of power and which party they represent.
RMP failings are extremely visible in the hands of our leadership. It’s easy to sit back and scrutinize our leaders for their shortcomings, but if that’s all we’re doing we’re missing the boat. Granted, it’s difficult to admit that they are an accurate representation of us within the political sphere. We don’t want to see that, or can’t see it, in the same ways that we create revisionist history – and denial – in our own lives in order to avoid pain; to avoid looking at the past; to avoid looking within and taking responsibility for how we are living and what we are putting out into the world.
How many of us regularly take the opportunity to unleash our incredulity or anger on a random person, even over a harmless infraction? As pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we are ready to wag an accusatory finger at one another over some apparent advantage taken, or a moment of unawareness, that might have delayed us from reaching our destination by thirty seconds? No worries. We’re on it. We’re on high alert at all times for these situations where, based on one moment, we can identify a person or a group of people as being lesser than us. Less intelligent. Less aware. Less considerate. And while we are fiercely condemning them for their act, we instantly take in their appearance, their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, their fitness level and come up with a personality profile that is born of ego, fear, judgment and bias; that conjures vulnerability in the other; to make us feel better; superior; to give us the justification we need to avoid recognizing our role in creating that very experience; to show us our state of consciousness.
Meanwhile, on some other occasion we’ve likely made the exact same unforgivable mistake as the moron who is currently invoking our wrath. But it was probably okay when we messed up. Oopsy. Whatever. We wonder why the accuser is getting so bent out of shape. “No big deal. Take it easy. Oh really? Well fuck you too…”, as we size them up and concoct a violent insult cocktail to deflect and protect from the over-the-top reaction that is being hurled our way. “Served them right for getting carried away.”
Empathy on life-support. This is RMP left-brain gymnastics at its finest and most ubiquitous. Many of us are masters at it. Ready to defend. The need to feel a semblance of control over something… anything that’s easier to latch on to than the confusion that reigns when we have limited access to our right-brains. We are perpetrator and victim all rolled into one, based on a recipe consisting of systemic, collective and personal betrayal and trauma; masculine and feminine, dissonant.
Our leaders? They are like you and me though the higher they go, and the deeper their childhood RMP training, the greater the RMP commitment. How else will they be able to justify taking advantage of people or having a hand in condemning soldiers and innocent civilians to experience hell on earth? I don’t envy our “privileged” leaders who are playing this role for us in our dysfunctional culture. It’s a heavy burden to bear when acting with a limited emotional toolbox. It lends itself to potentially deadly and immature tit-for-tat responses that encourage the worst in us, the endgame victory instead of cooperation, the greater good always sacrificed at the altar of perceived right and wrong.
What do we expect from our Leaders when so many of us can barely behave like adults in our little lives? Projecting our frustrations on to others; left-brain justification on over-drive; self-reflection and empathy an afterthought. There is a straight line between this low-level type of buck-passing and the mass-scale obfuscation and violence practiced by our leaders, in government and corporations.
The RMP culture creates an infinite stew of divisions among the people, personally and globally. Historically, but especially currently, race, which is an anachronistic concept, is unfortunately at the forefront.
Much has been made of the racist component of the Brexit vote and the notable uptick in racism towards immigrants since the vote. As is politicians’ wont, Mr. Farage has always sought to use whatever leverage, in this case race, in his efforts to exert his and his backers’ influence. Understandably, the majority of the country looks down upon xenophobic Brits as an embarrassment. They are rejected as being lesser than; less intelligent and progressive; dangerous anomalies.
The Age of Reason has glossed over what until very recently used to be naked racism. Let us recall that while America is always taken to task for slavery, it began with the arrival of the first slaves in 1619. American Independence occurred in 1776. It was under British rule that slavery began, expanded and thrived. It was under British rule that treaties with the Canadian First Nations were made and broken, and where children were forcibly removed from their parents, placed in Residential Schools, forbidden to speak their language and abused and murdered. The rational British mind did not understand or respect the traditions and ways of the heathens of the world. Whether they wanted it or not, the savages were not in a position to know better; they would be introduced to a superior mode of living and thinking, with a side dish of Christianity.
Africa: endlessly fascinating and historically devastated. In researching for this article I came upon information about Africa that twisted my head. How is it that I am relatively well-read, have attended university and have interest in the genuine history of humanity, and yet had NO IDEA about this information. The material in this link should be required reading for every single person in the world, especially those from the former colonial powers. There is nothing more shocking and revealing in my piece than understanding the history of Africa. If you only click on one link in this piece, let it be this one. The centuries of revisionist African history, as written by the victorious colonial powers, has allowed untold misery to be visited upon the very place where humanity originated from.
Except for Egypt, Africa has always been presented to us as having been a primitive, uncivilized and savage place. Because of centuries of this belief in the lesser-than nature of Africans it’s incredibly confusing and shameful when non-Africans are told by science and anthropology that humanity has its origins in Africa; that we are all actually Africans that gradually spread all around the world. There’s an awkward and bizarre incongruence when we look at African history of the last hundred years. It’s a catastrophe. How can we come from these people? If the history of Africa that has been presented were accurate then this question might have some legitimacy – especially from a limited left-brain perspective in which everything develops from a linear equation.
So what happens when we find out that Africa was actually always at the cutting edge of human knowledge, architecture, art and technology – that is until the 1800s when the colonial powers, including Britain, destroyed the African legacy. If only this were exaggeration then the reality, and the consequences, would not be so mortifying.
Please click on the link above to read about many examples of various advanced African empires, cities and cultures since medieval times. While Europe was suffering from plagues, famines and relentless religious and ethnic conflict during the Middle Ages, Africa was flourishing. With China and The Middle East, it was a world centre for cutting edge human existence.
It’s challenging to provide just a couple of examples of not only historical African excellence, but in some cases, superiority. The irony is so fantastic as to leave me speechless.
Some examples of actual African history:
(1) The 13th Century city of Benin (now in Nigeria) “was built to ‘a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China'”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totaling 10,000 miles in all. The 1974 edition of the Guinness Book of Records described the city as: ‘The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.’ Another European visitor wrote, “They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.” Another European visitor said, “These people are in no way inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness; they wash and scrub their houses so well that they are polished and shining like a looking glass.” Benin artwork and sculpture was, and is, regarded as comparable in quality and creativity to any produced in Europe. So, what happened to the kingdom of Benin that had been flourishing for centuries? British Industry wanted control of their palm oil, rubber and ivory resources. Benin refused to become a colony so the British wiped out their entire kingdom. In 1897, led by Admiral Harry Rawson (who attended Boarding School at Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy), Benin was invaded, looted and razed to the ground.
(2) The City of Timbuktu – In modern culture, Timbuktu has been utilized in humour and jokes. After all, it’s a funny sounding word, right? How many people know that the city of Timbuktu was the capital of one of the great empires of human history, that it has been called the Paris of the medieval world? In the 14th Century, it was ruled by Mansa Musa. Heard of him? Probably not. Some facts about Mansa Musa and Timbuktu: (a) The richest empire in the world at the time, when Mansa Musa “went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, he carried so much gold, and spent them so lavishly that the price of gold fell for ten years. 60,000 people accompanied him.” (b) He founded the legendary Timbuktu Library. Despite French Colonial treachery between 1894 and 1956, whereby thousands of manuscripts were looted or burned, it is estimated that some 700,000 ancient books still survive, largely within private collections. “The most profitable trade items in Timbuktu were books. Buying them was considered a socially acceptable way of displaying wealth and a great source of prestige”. Trading in books? Doesn’t sound very savage does it? According to Michael Palin, in his series, Sahara, The Imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years… It’s convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.” Again, how does this square with the notion that Africans are lesser-than?
There are many more examples of African excellence, from all areas of the continent, in the link provided. The startling truth of the history of Africa shatters the myths that have been peddled by the colonial powers that it was a backward place that was in need of their superior knowledge and rule. As is often the case, the truth is the direct opposite, but in the days of colonial conquest, highly inconvenient. Because the only way for the colonial powers, who have pillaged Africa for its incredible wealth of gold, diamonds and resources (and continue to do so), to justify their horrors was to paint the African as being savage – so primitive that even their mass murder and destruction of their cultures was justified.
Does this mean that the wide range of Africans were all exemplary humans before colonisation? Obviously not, but whatever activities they may have participated in were certainly no more brutal than anything engaged in by Europeans. In fact, as we’ll see in Part 7, African transgressions paled in comparison to those of Europeans.
The British (French, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese) people have never been presented with the well-documented evidence of their genocides in Africa (and elsewhere). For the Germans, The Jewish Holocaust happened in the middle of Europe; there was no hiding it. Of course, as the victor earns the right to record the “official” history, if the Germans had won the war, the Holocaust would certainly not have the place it has in the world today. It would have been glossed over, as has been done in Africa.
Many wonder how so many regular Germans didn’t know about what was being done in their names. After all, it took many thousands of German soldiers to run all the concentration camps. How did these soldiers’ families not know? As we have already heard, very few of us discuss massive trauma. Why? Regardless of the type of trauma, revealing it entails divulging the shame associated with it – whether one was the perpetrator or the victim. Germans had for a decade been on the receiving end of propaganda that painted Jews and Slavs and Gypsies as less than humans; as rats. Of course, it’s one thing to start to believe that, it’s quite another to be one of thousands of German soldiers who participated in the mass extermination of human beings.
The reason why the Holocaust was even possible was that Germany as a nation was so traumatized and humiliated because: (1) firstly they had been pushed by their leadership into an absolutely unnecessary war (WWI) with an unprecedented loss of life and destruction of property; (2) the aftermath of WWI, where the Treaty of Versailles saddled them with decades long and debilitating reparations and economic catastrophe; and (3) the coup de grace which was the global Great Depression. Millions of Germans were living in desperation. They were vulnerable to manipulation. Enter: Hitler, who appealed to the former glory of the Germanic people and lay the sole blame for the country’s ills at the feet of the outside world – and the Jews (self-reflection be damned).
Despite how deep the indoctrination went, it makes sense that the unconscious shame Germans must have felt was not something most of them would allow to come to the surface – for them to actually feel it and share it with their friends and family back home. If they allowed themselves to feel what they were doing it would be impossible to continue. This is the hyper-compartmentalization that is possible when we succumb to the twisted logic of the left-brain. It allows us, any of us, to abandon our humanity. That is why it is incumbent on us to take care of ourselves and each other – so that extreme circumstances are not allowed to arise whereby the unthinkable can occur.
The defeated Germans were shamed before the world for their atrocities (by the other Great Powers who have absolutely no business taking any country to task for their misdeeds). The vast majority of Germans know the real history of what their recent ancestors wrought. Though one can argue about the sincerity and depth of German repentance, there has been extensive discussion of the subject in Germany and the world, and many Germans feel profound remorse. Germans, rightly so, are not permitted to forget what they did; and there is a visible monument in the form of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, though some suggest it is not explicit enough in outlining the wrong-doing.
Now, let us discuss the various African and Colonial Holocaust Memorials in London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Lisbon and Amsterdam… Any large memorials in the UK, US, Canada and Australia to show the colonial brutality committed against the Indigenous Peoples; against Africans?
Needless to say, the white-washing by the Great Powers of their many global atrocities (more on the specifics later in the piece) was much easier when their victims were half a world away – and during the 1800s and early 1900s when access to information was infinitely less available.
Some present day Europeans are aghast at what is transpiring on their continent, beset as they are by the threatening, dark-skinned hordes. If they knew the history, they would cease to wonder why, and take the difficult steps required to address the horrors that their recent ancestors inflicted on the world. They would readily recognize that we are witnessing the long-term consequences of inhumane actions. For example, how many Belgians – or any us for that matter – know that a little over 100 years ago their forces murdered an estimated 10 million Congolese over a 23 year period ending in 1908 – half of the entire population. 10 million. 10 million. Pause and think about how deeply we are affected in the present day when terrorism claims 50 or 100 lives in a major European city. While these attacks are undoubtedly devastating, how can we even fathom 10 million people, including millions of women and children, massacred? Furthermore, the Belgiansinstigated a system of punishment whereby many thousands of Congolese who resisted or who did not manage to meet their rubber quotas had their hands and feet chopped off as a deterrent.
Mass Rape was also a staple of the Belgian way. Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness is based on these Belgian atrocities, except the reality of the situation was far more heinous than in Conrad’s shocking novel. This is what the traumatized hyper-masculine mind is capable of.
“He [King Leopold II] used great sums of the money from this exploitation for public and private construction projects in Belgium during this period. He donated the private buildings to the state before his death.”
In the West, we relentlessly attempt to lessen and relegate our nations’ misdeeds to the distant past. Meanwhile, the Belgian people today unconsciously benefit from and utilize buildings that were built upon the mountain of mutilated and massacred Congolese – without an iota of admission or remorse. And while this mind-numbing level of brutality under King Leopold II came to an end in 1908, Belgian colonial rule, which continued to subjugate and abuse the population, persisted until the Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence in 1960. The Belgians also controlled next door Rwanda. So many in the west decry the violence that they have seen from Congo and Rwanda in the last 30 years. Only the compartmentalized Western mind is unable to recognize the barbaric levels of trauma that these poor Africans endured for decades under white rule. Instead, in warped irony we dub them savages – for perpetuating the policies and actions they learned from their colonial masters. How could it be otherwise from RMP societies that live in perpetual denial and avoidance?
In almost every case, British and colonial powers first established friendly and trade relationships with the “natives”. But as time went on and the visitors learned the lay of the land, they eventually did what they knew best. They betrayed their new friends. It was not personal. It was just the way of the world. If the savage was too naïve and unsophisticated to comprehend the rules of the game, they did not deserve what they had. It would be taken from them and if they resisted, as any people would do, they would be made to suffer.
Why were the British the most successful of all the Great Powers? How did they build the grandest empire the world had ever seen? Because their colonial leaders received the very best RMP training available from the time they were young boys – Boarding School. Their indoctrination happened early and it was comprehensive, which allowed them to be least effected by potentially irksome influences such as conscience, morals, ethics, feelings, etc.
“… the role of such schools was clear: they broke boys’ attachment to their families and re-attached them to the institutions – the colonial service, the government, the armed forces – through which the British ruling class projected its power. Every year they released into the world a cadre of kamikazes, young men fanatically devoted to their caste and culture…”
What is the legacy of such an approach? The three greatest areas of conflict in the world in the last thirty years have been Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine – all former British Colonies. Syria “belonged” to the French. And Nigeria, the location of the former Empire of Benin, is in freefall.
The abject shame of those returning British soldiers from Africa ended up being an energetic match for the betrayal and the shame that was, and is, inherent in the culture. Hence, moving right along. Nothing to see here. Meanwhile, the returning soldiers of past and present, without an outlet to address their trauma, slip back into normal life. They become husbands and fathers; their confusion and rage leaking out into every aspect of their lives; seamlessly absorbed into society as a whole.
As with the German soldiers, what of the thousands upon thousands of British soldiers who, over a 250 year period, returned home having participated in the brutal subjugation, exploitation and murder of countless humans? This is the reality, and most Brits have no idea. No idea of many generations of young, working class British men who were obliged by elite British men to carry out heinous acts in the name of Empire. War and genocide was, and still remains, an exercise in political and economic control; though the foot-soldiers are always led to believe that there are more noble reasons behind the madness.
Then these poor soldiers returned home and re-integrated back into society. Unlike the German soldiers in WWII, their ethics and morals were not questioned; victors rarely ever are. On the contrary, they would have been praised for serving their country, the Empire. And yet, it is practically inconceivable the immense trauma they would have experienced in destroying, maiming and murdering. On an infinitely smaller scale we can see the effects of recent, and unjust, wars on our returning soldiers. Beyond the thousands of injured, there is rampant PTSD. A major component of that PTSD is the inhumanity these poor soldiers are forced to confront in themselves – the self-betrayal – in order to carry out the machinations of their leadership – against people who are only doing exactly what the British would do, and have done, if they were attacked on their own soil: defend themselves. The shame is unbearable for some, including those who commit suicide.
Veterans in Britain, America, Canada and Australia are all in the same boat. The care for returning soldiers is, and has always been, woefully inadequate. The reason for this is obvious. How can the unconscious RMP leadership that betrays their young men by sending them into morally confusing and repugnant circumstances then take proper care of them when they return? Consequently, they are abandoned and left to their own devices; dealing with rampant depression and suicide; their families left to pick up the shattered pieces.
At every turn, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) seeks to minimize the issues, nonsensical double-speak always the order of the day. In one breath, the MoD says that there is a downward trend in soldier suicides, while in the next it “blames administrative difficulties in keeping tabs on hundreds of thousands of ex-military personnel spread across the globe” Actually, the MoD“doesn’t track what happens to veterans, no one knows how many are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or have taken their own lives.” This glaring contradiction is allowed to persist. Why? Because the entire society is beset with normalized contradiction in which most people can readily see the incongruity, but are not moved to act – because to be moved would be to feel. Instead, the family and friends of these poor returning souls are often hopelessly left to standby as their irretrievably ravaged loved ones try to reconcile the insanity of what they have experienced. If it were even possible, how could they share the crushing shame they live with? How can they admit that following orders entailed them betraying their own souls? ‘What will Mum and Dad think of me?’ Invariably they will undertake this bleak journey alone. For some it is much too much, let alone for the thousands who will walk through the rest of their lives as damaged goods.
One mother of a Soldier who was diagnosed with PTSD and hanged himself one year after being discharged says, “I rang his platoon after he died as I was angry. I spoke to a desk sergeant. All he said was he was no longer their responsibility.” What of the poor Desk Sergeant who is burdened with representing a system that abandons his brothers-in-arms?
In addition, the vast majority of the discussion by the authorities and families of the thousands of troubled soldiers, especially the ones who take their own lives, is how they were damaged primarily because of witnessing the killing and maiming of their fellow soldiers, their friends. No doubt this is true, but isn’t there something missing? How about the effect on the soldiers from witnessing, and sometimes perpetrating, the suffering of the people in those countries they are occupying? It’s almost never mentioned by anyone. Can you feel the incongruence? Can you feel the historical racism that values the life of the Brit over the foreign unmentionables? Might our poor soldiers not be even more adversely affected by the anguish and killing of locals, especially children? We don’t know. We don’t ask that question. That question is not within the realm of acceptable inquiry. The answer to that question introduces far too many extra variables into the equation than is possible for RMP systems to compute. It is not even attempted. This bypass is not on purpose. It is endemic to the system. It is not being consciously ignored. It is unseen. Once in a while, under duress, the blinders involuntarily fly open, only to be glued back shut as quickly as possible, lest we dip in to that shameful place. This is collective moral and soul self-preservation. This is survival.
For the British, unjust war and mass murder has for centuries merely been the furthest, logical extension of the unconsciousness fomented in a Boarding School-influenced leadership and culture. Naturally, leadership that perpetually betrays and takes advantage of its own complicit people will readily do the same to those far away people that are racially and culturally different. Who in the culture are tasked with carrying out the eternally noble RMP actions in distant lands? Who in our culture will pay the highest price for our distorted ways of being? Who will represent those most unconscious and violent aspects of us? Who will be the sacrificial lambs sent to the front lines, forced to deal with what can only be imagined as the insanity of it all? Our Soldiers: the very same working class folk whom the leadership has, by default, already betrayed; the very same people who have been abandoned and disenfranchised; those deemed to have less to lose; those whose lives are undoubtedly valued less. We are not equipped to comprehend quite what that means. If we did; if we could feel what the consequences are for our Soldiers, the “enemy” and our society as a whole, we would stop the killing. Granted, from a deeply embedded RMP perspective, this can only sound like a naïve fantasy.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Boarding School and a Predictable Culture of Sanctioned Bullying as an outgrowth of Systemic Betrayal
“Shit Rolls Downhill”: “In military parlance it means anything crappy coming from the top of the chain of command will hit everyone down to the bottom. This includes dumbass decision making, disciplinary actions, or simply a superior taking his frustrations out on subordinates.”
The bullying and betrayal that is a hallmark of the privileged class has over centuries been bequeathed to the rest of the people, enveloping us all. ‘Trickle-down Economics’ was always nonsense; but shit rolling downhill is axiomatic. It’s all happened over such a long period of time that we have no idea how and why we got here or that anything is out of the ordinary. When, as a leader, you are able to betray your closest friends for your own ambitions, how difficult will it be to betray the people you represent, when betrayal is at the core of your being?
In March and May of this year, I attended a Boarding School Trauma Workshop in London. Fifteen British men and me. Apparently, I had been searching for my Brothers for my entire life. I found them. Discovering the Boarding School Trauma information was a liberation (maybe I wasn’t just a random angry asshole after all); meeting my workshop mates was a revelation because our experiences echoed in the room. Heads bobbed in unison at stories told. Eyes glistened over. Men who had hitherto been largely closed off from their emotions (other than anger) allowed in feelings, in some cases for the very first time.
We touched into the startling grace and familiar terror of our feelings. To be understood for the first time ever by those who know your score better than anyone else is quite something. With verification of what we faced and who we became, arrived the inevitable and official mourning – for what was taken from us, what is still withheld from us, what we have taken from others, and how we have engaged with the world, with our partners, with our families and with our communities. Devastating, humbling and cathartic.
Practically to a man, and totally understandably, our parents and siblings are having a lot of trouble with our explorations. Not surprising because our families, like so many of your families, are simply microcosms of the Rational Man Project at large, that is, each person dealing with their own personal and generational betrayal, trauma, avoidance, denial and revisionist history.
A few days after the first weekend, I aimlessly walked in London for six hours, heavy with the intense knowledge and feeling that had been unearthed in the workshop. I shudder at what some of my workshop brothers have endured – in school and in life. It’s almost too much to bear the thought. On my excursion, I happened into a Waterstone’s bookstore to pick up a book for my daughter (Founder, Tim Waterstone boarded at the age of six and has said of his experience, “It was a simply terrible place, though not all that unusual in those days… We were barely educated and barely fed; the food was totally repellent.” ) When I went to pay, the diffident chap behind the counter, maybe early 50s, British, noticed that another book had caught my eye. He asked if I had heard of it, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. I hadn’t. He had read it and thought it was brilliant. He said it follows the lives of four male friends in New York, though it delved further into one of their lives in particular. He said it was harrowing. I suggested that maybe I wasn’t quite in the mood for harrowing considering I had just attended a Boarding School Survivors workshop. An almost involuntary look of incredulity came over his face. Racing past his confusion, he then said, “Oh what happens to the character in the book is far worse than anything one would experience in boarding school.” It was fortunate that I was in a receptive mood. The old Bard might have torn him two new assholes. Mercifully, I shrugged and went on my way, though I noted that it was the second such incident of the day. Earlier in the day, I was on the phone with someone I knew, who comes from relative privilege. She didn’t know why I was in London. She was taken aback. Boarding School… Trauma? She had a distant bemusement which I believe I now understand and have compassion for. As with her, there was not an iota of maliciousness on the bookseller’s part. He, like most, including, ironically, many of those who have attended Boarding Schools, either don’t know or have forgotten. Forgotten out of necessity.
This last sentence will rankle some ex-boarders. I have no desire to question the sincerity of my fellow brothers and sisters who went to these schools at a young age, and who will insist that they had a jolly old time. In fact, they are undoubtedly being genuine because, in a way, they did have a ‘good’ time. The question is, what does a good time mean?
Guardian Journalist, George Monbiot, a champion of Environmental Protection and Social Justice and an ex-boarder, has for years spoken about his own experience and has called for a national conversation on the topic; labelling Boarding School as producing “acceptable cruelty” and “artificial orphans”. Here he makes a compelling case:
What is really interesting are the comments to Mr. Monbiot’s video. It appears that about half of the comments agree with Mr. Monbiot while the other half think he might just be a “libtard looking for a cause”. Some of the negative comments are revealing:
(1) “I boarded from the age of 8. I had a great time. Pillow fights, midnight feasts, always being with my best mates – way more fun than I would have had at home. Yeah, sometimes homesick. I cried when my parents dropped me off a few times, as did others. But it was such a great experience. Really I have no idea what he’s talking about. All my friends who boarded loved it. Maybe he went to a shit school? Maybe a queer teacher took a fancy to him? I’m confused by this whiney rant.”
(2) “Well… I think it’s just another system we have, there’s good and there’s bad. The endemic bullying that was a problem is maybe on its way out, certainly at my former school, they are certainly less closed off than they were. I think watching your own family being shot in front of you would be worse, and give you more problems later in life.”
(3) “Completely disagree! I went to boarding school when i was 7 years old and it was the best thing for me and I would recommend it to anyone and will send my kids to one too.”
(4) “What a load of tosh. I boarded from 8 as well and it actually helped me form relationships with those around me.”
(5) “What a load of old shit! I went to boarding school aged 11 onwards and I can tell you it was the best place in the world! DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS TOSSER.”
To the last comment a person responded with, “Wow totally disregarding other people’s emotions! This guy’s right! Boarding school is EVIL!!!” Notwithstanding the embellished language, he hits the nail on the head. Where is the empathy? It’s one thing to say that one had a good experience at Boarding School; it’s quite another to be so heartless, especially when one doesn’t know the details, which in some cases involve the rape of little boys.
In return for Mr. Monbiot and commenters sharing their experiences they are met with sarcasm and dismissiveness. Is this not “Acceptable Cruelty”? Is this bullying not the very thing so many ex-boarders are thoroughly familiar with?
Some observations on what the commenters have said:
(1) The crying and homesickness was trauma that has been relegated to the emotional dustbin. Also, he is confused by the ‘whiney rant’, even as he suggests the very reasons why someone might not have liked Boarding
(2) Comparison is often a left-brained reductive process that nullifies feelings. Should we not feel badly or have any feelings because someone else out in the world is seemingly suffering more than we are? A neglected or abused child, regardless of station or global positioning, does not have this frame of reference, nor is it relevant, except in the case of exonerating ourselves from feeling badly for ourselves and others. This kind of comparison promotes the tragedy of self-betrayal and betrayal of others.
(3) How can we ‘completely disagree’ with someone who has clearly had a different experience, unless we are unable to listen and empathize?
(4&5) Same as the third comment, with a kick to the liver.
But again, I say that it’s not the bully’s fault, per se. Yes, now that they are adults they should be responsible for their behaviour. But when it’s all you’ve ever known, from home and/or at school, when it was “eat or be eaten” and they did what any of us would have done if we were up for it, if we could muster the perverse courage required to protect ourselves; we would lash out at others. That’s what I did. After a year of taking it, once I turned seven, a switch flipped in me and I became a bully. And a bully I remained until, at the age of 43, the endless delving I did finally brought me to the information about Boarding School Syndrome.
The bully has lost the bulk of his power. He’s increasingly running on fumes now. But he’s still very much there, waiting to pounce when I feel afraid and insecure; like the commenters who are so uncaring. Their worldview is threatened, the one that says our normalized system of bullying is well… normal; that it’s inevitable. It’s so acceptable that we don’t even notice it. It’s not that we can’t, we just don’t know – or more accurately, feel – that there is another option. The other option is to look within and that is terrifying. Hence, the cutting defensiveness. The adult bully unconsciously seeks to provide cover for their long-term bullying ways by suggesting that Boarding School was just wonderful. In many cases, they actually believe it. It is not a lie. It has to be true, otherwise they might have to look in the mirror and understand that maybe they thought it was all good because they made it ‘good’ for themselves at the expense of others.
I’d be interested to know what percentage of the ex-boarders who, in the face of direct and heartbreaking evidence to the contrary, callously proclaim the over-arching munificence of boarding school, are bullies. It’s an awful position to be in: to have victimized others in order to save ourselves; to survive. I know this feeling first hand. When you’re young and that happens, it’s incredibly difficult to work your way out of it. Most young bullies do not manage to break down the wall, and some of them become our leaders.
To the unprivileged masses, like the bookseller, impressed as many are by the veneer of privilege, Boarding School equates with advantage. The glossy veneer makes the regular folk think that the rich don’t have the same problems they do; and if they do, their riches mitigate against the pain. Hence, the privileged don’t deserve any compassion or pity.
To the affluent, the bullying-privileged have no patience for the whining-privileged who can’t pull their weight. The bully did what was required. In fact, they sacrificed themselves to the game; they accepted the role of the bad guy. So, ‘fuck off’ to the wankers who couldn’t, and still can’t, figure it out.
Regarding some who claim that Boarding School was just fine, there are a large contingent of attendees, including bullies and victims, whose home life very much mirrored their school life: some combination of aloof or angry father, with un-maternal or voiceless mother. The result is a wide range of RMP children of all classes who are sent out into the RMP world and find themselves in familiar surroundings. Boarding School, however, introduces a special variable into the equation; an aspect that brings the dissonance of our society into sharp relief. Namely, the abandoning of children.
The Boarding School Industry in all Anglo locales (Britain, The United States, Canada and Australia) insist that things are different now than twenty or thirty or a hundred years ago, and according to their RMP perspective, they assuredly believe that to be the case, especially since they are thriving. When you look at the consistency of the messaging that appears on all of the countries’ industry websites, you might be led to believe that it’s all just a blast; smiles and great times all around.
The British Boarding School Association came up with #iloveboarding. They have a promo video which paints an intensely one-dimensional and ebullient picture of boarding. In the video, a Boarding School Association spokesperson says,
“Good modern British boarding is no longer sending your children away to Boarding School, it’s an option so that families have flexibility. It’s place where children can go and be safe.”
As within the rest of our RMP culture, euphemistic language blends in to such a degree that it is no longer identified as euphemistic. You’re no longer “sending your children away”, you are promoting flexibility for your family. As for being “safe”, are we to believe that the sexual abuse of children, which has been going on for centuries in Britain, especially in Boarding Schools, is no longer an issue, especially as Operation Hydrant cannot keep up with the complaints?
There is a lot of talk of community in the video. One headmaster says that Boarding School is a place that will, “still have that parental, that family, that community feel”. A headmistress says that “boarding has re-invented itself and it’s come back to life thinking that actually what it’s like for the young people who benefit from a community experience.” More euphemism as the boarding community is presented as effortlessly replacing parents, family and our home community, or at least coming in a close second.
The Canadian Boarding School Association (CAIS) says: “The boarding experience gives students and parents the gift of time – less time spent in the car and more time focusing on education, extra-curricular activities and character development.” We are living in bizarro world when the “gift of time” means spending no time with your parents and family. Boarding School frees the parents from their jobs as… parents. “Less time in the car” for everybody. Less time altogether. Actually, no time together, other than the occasional visit.
There is no doubt that placing children within the confines of the ultimate RMP training ground of Boarding School sets them up for financial and/or political success – but the cost is, and for centuries has been, largely hidden from view. One of these costs is the normalised and voluntary abdication of the role of parents, which, regardless of the purported benefits of Boarding School, necessarily involves an inherent neglect – despite the familiar rationalizations used to justify passing off the raising of one’s child to an institution. In fact, wouldn’t it be negligence to not give your child such an advantage? For the privileged, out of touch as they often are with their own disowned trauma and betrayal, the costs are easily outweighed by the knowledge and contacts their children will accrue in Boarding School. Their trauma was not acknowledged when they were growing up, and neither will their children’s.
The unconsciously ignored costs eventually produce debilitating long-term consequences for many ex-boarders, who are emotionally unprepared to deal with hollowness that often accompanies a materially successful life; hence, avoidance, denial and addiction. When it comes to interpersonal relationships, personally and professionally, the culture is beset with endemic failure that is fueled by this initial and continuing abandonment and betrayal. Love, community and spirit are so undermined as to seem frivolous and naive. Centuries of programming have us believe that this sacrifice is normal; the price of admission for success the world.
No one is expecting the industry to market itself in any way other than being a positive experience but it’s clear that many children have had, and continue to have, an awful time boarding; though as has already been discussed, few children end up sharing their trauma with anyone. Meanwhile, a good number of our power-brokers are still being produced in these schools all around the world. Certainly, improvements have been made but in real terms these are superficial changes that have not, and cannot, address the fundamental issue of depriving children of their parents and homes. Recently, one 15 year old Boarding School attendee sums up her experience thusly: “It is a truly amazing place. And I hate it.” All the vaunted improvements, bells and whistles, the amazing facilities and glossy marketing amounts to a classic case of putting lipstick on pig. Even still, one way or another, almost every kid will get used to it, except those who don’t. Here is one boy’s recollection of his time at school:
“So, at age 15 I was sent to boarding school in England. My stepdad… insisted it would ‘help the boy grow up, and make a man of him’… Frankly, those were– and remain to this day– the most nightmarish years of my life… My most vivid memory dates to one cold winter morning. On that morning, I was the first to make it to the showers (which were in a separate building, across a courtyard), in my dorm of some 70-odd boys. I turned the corner… and found one of the junior boys who had hung himself with the belt from his Judo kit. He was a quiet, sensitive boy who’d had few friends… and I distinctly remember thinking that it could as well have been me.”
He follows that up right away with, “In retrospect, I can’t deny that the academics were excellent…” Firstly, what of the poor boy, all alone, who took his own life? Secondly, what of this boy, and the how many others, who saw that scene? Well, he comes from an RMP family and spent time at the most focused RMP institution you can attend as a child. What is a child to do with that kind of trauma, in that kind of place? Bury it and latch on to anything that will distract you from your own pain, from thinking “that it could have been me”.
As discussed earlier, outside of extreme physical and sexual abuse at home, your parents are still your parents – and the young child doesn’t have any other frame of reference. As far as they are concerned they have typical Mums and Dads, regardless of their deficiencies as parents. So, even in the case where the energy and framework of the home closely matches that of the Boarding School, the loss of parents is still devastating, regardless of the child’s ability to cut off from their heart, rationalize it and make the best of it.
A wonderful example of this appears in the 1994 short documentary film entitled The Making of Them. It follows four boys as they prepare to go to Boarding School for the first time. They are all eight years old. The film only scratches the surface of the Boarding experience but so dramatic is the actual experience that even witnessing the scratched surface is jarring.
The title of the documentary comes from one of the mothers, Lady Caroline Lindsay-Bethune Wrey, who is interviewed and suggests Boarding School will be the “making” of her boy, Harry. At another point (20:30 – 22:30), Harry’s father, Sir George Bourchier Wrey, 15th Baronet, drink in hand, reminisces about a friend who had to be heavily sedated every time he was dropped off at his Boarding School. He chuckles awkwardly as he recalls his friend being in a “virtual state of coma” and wonders what upset him so much. The chuckle turns into a full laugh at his friend being drugged and “dragged off to school”. He wipes his moist eyes at the thought because it’s what… funny? It’s all good though since decades later they are still friends and he’s “a perfectly normal chap now”. No doubt he would say the same thing about himself. Why? Because it’s true. They are indeed both “normal”; though as we see him fumble his drink we might wonder if “normal” is the best we can do when “normal” can easily be a euphemism for traumatized.
Then Lady Caroline tells us that her brother actually ran away from his Boarding School. “Something was worrying him but they never got to the bottom of it.” It didn’t matter what was wrong. Her parents wouldn’t listen or understand anyway, just like she won’t listen or recognize her own boy’s trauma. She then says she spoke with Harry before dropping him off and asked him to tell her if anything odd or “beastly” is visited on him. Her voice trails off as she wonders if he would tell her. She’s right to wonder because deep down she knows if anything “beastly” does happen, her child will likely tell her nothing. And her use of the word “beastly” suggests she knows that such things happen – maybe even from personal experience. And yet, she and her husband have sent off Harry, all alone. In the film, Harry can’t even look at her when she leaves him. The level of unconsciousness is truly staggering and yet absolutely “normal”. A culture of intelligent people reduced to ignorance emanating from what Mr. Monbiot calls being “emotionally disabled”, especially where the aristocracy is concerned.
The irony of a privileged, noble, lineage is that you have far less freedom than commoners to forge your own path. Harry is the scion to the Wrey Baronet. Now 32 years old, he may not even feel pressure to conform to that lofty position; it is simply assumed by him and all. Or not. I found Harry’s Facebook page and guess what the profile picture is? His 8 or 9 year old self – at Boarding School. The trauma, frozen in time? At another point during the film, Harry’s mother says that some of her friends’ children, who have also recently been dropped off at Boarding School, have phone access to their parents. Lady Caroline is happy that Harry’s school does not allow phone calls in the first few weeks. She’d rather not speak with him because it’s obvious that boys are going to say they want to come home even though “they are not unhappy at all”. There you have it. A child’s feelings are not only irrelevant, they are actually non-existent. Another mother in the film says that leaving her boy at school where she has met the teachers and staff on a few occasions is like leaving him with her best friends. This one anechdote exemplifies the centuries-long unconsciousness of British culture, especially where children are concerned.
The film represents a small sample size but the trauma that all four children, and other boys, undergo is there in plain sight. It’s agonizing to watch the betrayal setting in, in slow motion (see 22:35 of the film). It won’t take long for them to succumb, but the self-betrayal is never totally complete, as we can see from the boy at 26:26. The rationalization that this “child” is having to go through to make the experience palatable is disturbing, especially at the end of his monologue when we see the little boy in him emerge. I say “emerge” because until that point, even though he is a boy, he has been working hard to present himself as a man, already pigeonholing his future life as a business man.
Will one or more of these damaged boys adjust and have a ‘good time’. Very likely yes. Why? Because they will learn that their feelings do not count. The feelings of children do not count in our culture. Why? Because our own feelings do not count. And we are unable to recognize the signs of trauma that will be buried somewhere very deep, with life-long consequences.
Despite their stylistic differences, note that David and Boris have remarkably similar foundations: Profound early life personal trauma compounded by abandonment at Boarding School.
It is our lack of empathy that prevents us from grasping the suffering they’ve endured, and continue to endure. There is no abatement when you remain firmly ensconced within the RMP system. At these lofty political heights, you are either on top and have to deal with the immense and constant pressure to maintain your position, or you are knifed from behind and while you’re bleeding to death on the ground you are kicked in the stomach and mocked for good measure; the exact same finger-pointing we saw at all schools, let alone Boarding School. Almost everyone joins in lest you attract the wrong kind of attention. Except possibly in rare circumstances, up until the recent and marginally effective anti-bullying campaigns came about, school was not the place where anyone stood up for the meek and vulnerable. Every student was unconsciously consumed with their own protection.
Bullying often conjures images of physical aggression. But, as in the home, subtle emotional bullying can be just as harmful; as when the coolest kid in the playground shoots a look of disgust towards the victim of the moment, some poor child at the receiving end of a poison-tipped spear; as when your parent shames you for something they themselves are perpetually guilty of (though they don’t have the self-awareness to know it).
And lest you think this piece is focused largely on Boarding School and the issues that it presents, the very same issues are clearly ever-present at all levels of the education and social system; the same rigid, left-brain approach that caters to some, neglects others and is rife with bullying. How could it be otherwise? Only a culture steeped in the Rational Man Project could place such emphasis on curtailing bullying in school while bullying is rife in all areas of adult life – which only causes more confusion for our poor children.
Look at the political process. Look at Parliament. Look at the school playground. We lament the bad behaviour of our representatives but, with betrayal at the forefront, what do we expect? It is entirely predictable that young, traumatized boys who grow up to become our leaders act out the patterning they learned at school, especially Boarding and Private School. In the case of Boarding School, in the first few weeks of attendance, often within the first couple of days, as your Strategic Survival Personality takes firm root, the betrayal becomes frozen in time. You were 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 or 13 years old. Now you are 35 or 45 or 55 or 65 or 75 years old.
As we have seen from the inequality figures, betrayal does not discriminate between political parties. ‘Reservoir-Dogs-style’ betrayal within the Conservative Party. Betrayal within Labour. The betrayal of a disappearing Nigel Farage.
And then there were two, until Andrea Leadsom, who only entered the race after being betrayed by Boris, decided to attack her remaining competition, Theresa May, by pointing out what she thought was the strongest vulnerability to be exploited – lack of motherhood – only for it to blow back in her face. Her lack of empathy (not surprising since she apparently has a portrait of Margaret Thatcher hanging on her office wall) was again par for the course, without any regard for the myriad reasons why Ms. May does not have a child.
The bully always identifies the greatest weakness – and goes for the jugular. You must. It is the prime directive: kill or be killed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May has been described as being, “the nearest thing you could find in British politics today to Margaret Thatcher.” Some may take comfort that a female Prime Minister (and President) might do better by the people. Maybe, but surely not if there is any resemblance to Margaret Thatcher.
In the same way that African-Americans and the poor have failed to benefit from an Obama presidency, it is highly unlikely that women in the UK or US will benefit from having females, such as Hillary Clinton, as leaders. Once you arrive at the upper echelons of the Rational Man Project your gender becomes irrelevant. In the climb up the ladder whoever doesn’t understand the game gets weeded out. If you make it to the top it is because you believe hook, line and sinker in the RMP. It’s all you know. You are not even aware of it, because you don’t see it, because you can’t feel it, because it is you.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
David Cameron and Boris Johnson: Boarding School, Systemic Betrayal and the Subjugation of the Feminine as Outgrowths of The Age of Reason
With more of the disenfranchised having voted to Leave, those on the opposite side of the ledger, with relative privilege, bristled at the thought of their and their children’s mobility and job opportunities being hampered by Brexit. Who would want to jeopardize such an advantage? Probably the aforementioned disenfranchised citizens who lack the education and resources to take advantage of this largesse – and who are increasingly pissed off about it. At what point does taking advantage of the people go too far? Both in the United States and Great Britain, we seem to be reaching the tipping point. Something has to give. Brexit is the current avenue of response.
So, what happens when, especially in the age of information, the masses are increasingly realizing that the futility of their economic positions are coming up against grotesque levels of wealth for the elite? Logically, these two positions seem patently at odds with each other. Paradoxically, they are not. Both positions are outgrowths of the very same centuries old Rational Man Project (RMP), which has Britain, and much of the world, by the bollocks. Few, whether rich or poor, are immune from its clutches, but scarcely anyone realizes the hold it has over them, personally and globally. So, what is the RMP?
The Rational Man Project, a term coined by British Psychologist, Nick Duffell, involves a brain that is:
“over-trained in rationality, has turned away from Empathy and has mastered and normalized dissociation in its most severe dimensions; it is consequently incapable of recognizing the fault in its own system… Rational Man was (and still is) permanently at war. He was at war with himself and with the world he created. The self he was at war with was his own indigenous self, the natural, emotional, innocent, spontaneous, sometimes lazy, sometimes erotic self.” (Nick Duffell, “Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and The Entitlement Illusion”, 2014)
To varying degrees, Western men and women have exiled this poor self, leaving it to fill the void with a fusion of addictions (food, shopping, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, sports teams, sex, news, cell phone, alcohol, cigarettes, dieting, working, pain, working out, coffee, surfing the internet and social media, pornography, sugar, television, video games).
“The fallout from the British Rational Man Project is alive and well” in Britain and the colonial world. “It causes our society grave problems as: It maintains the inherited class structure with its… male elitism intact; It prevents emerging new paradigms” from coming to the fore – “due to fear of foreigners and fear of losing the status quo; and we do not notice the Rational Man Project’s grip on us because we are too close to it, like the fish who do not know the water; identified with it, we believe it to be our hallowed tradition.” (Duffell, 2014)
The foundation of the RMP is the disastrous, though still little understood, British Boarding School System which produced the likes of David Cameron, Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and as of 2014 about two-thirds of the cabinet.
I attended a British Boarding School from the ages of 6 to 10 years old. This, from a piece I wrote earlier in the year that discussed the boarding experience:
“Boys who attend these Boarding and Private schools live in hyper-Masculine, unfeeling and unsupportive environments; places that are built upon the foundations of parental abandonment and betrayal. Your parents, your Gods, desert you. You won’t get to have any contact with them for 3 weeks – so you can acclimate (ie) succumb. They tell you they are doing you a favour – and they believe it. You, the child, don’t ‘feel’ that but your feelings and thoughts don’t count, especially as they come up against the fact that you are ‘lucky’ to be so privileged. Enter what Duffell calls the Strategic Survival Personality (SSP) – a facade to mask the sudden and profound emotional void; to protect what little remains; “to try to make the madness somehow manageable – all the while in constant proximity to the abyss within. The abandonment of the parent is directly correlated to the child’s commensurate abandonment of their feelings. Fear now a constant, if unconscious, companion. Many of these kids,” like David Cameron and Boris Johnson, “grow up to be our corporate and government leaders, with the predictable consequences we see all around us (ie) Institutional Misogyny, Classism and Racism. The SSP is so firmly in place that if you don’t know what to look for you might readily accept that anyone who complains about their boarding school experience is just a big whiner. As for the rest of the kids in our societies who are not ‘privileged’ enough to attend these schools, they are led to believe they should aspire to the material wealth and power that the elite enjoy. So, as a population, we court their ways and energies. We connect to them. And it all trickles down into the masses via our Media and Institutions.”
With the arrival of the ‘The Age of Reason’ in the 17th century Western world, spirit was supplanted by science and reason. Man now controlled his own destiny. The British created their own particular brand of the Rational Man Project. The British boarding and private school system had two roles: (1) churn out men who would be sent around the world to run the greatest empire the world had ever seen; and (2) be a ‘home’ for the children of these very same men who were far away from England. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. For centuries.
Regardless of circumstances, when God was at the centre of most people’s lives there was a direct connection with the unknown, the mysterious, the feminine. The Rational Man Project kind of ‘civilized’ and sanitized the misogyny (and racism) which had always been there, and then exported it to the colonial world. With succeeding generations of abandoned and betrayed boys running the world, including the United States, Canada and Australia, logic became bereft of feeling.
Further to the alienation of the feminine, Psychiatrist and Oxford Professor, Iain McGilchrist, writes in his book “The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”, about the respective roles of the left- and right-brains and how our culture, having been overrun by the Rational Man Project, has become predominantly left-brained. Unfortunately, while the left-brain approach “facilitated the accumulation of knowledge and skills, its downside has resulted in a crisis of Compartmentalization.” Duffell further reports on McGilchrist’s position, “there is a precise order to how the two hemispheres work: thought and language are born… on the Right, then grow up… on the Left, to provide the ‘necessary difference’ for self-reflection.” Crucially, what is sent to the Left then returns back to the Right, “where a new synthesis can be made.” (Duffell, 2014)
The right-brain is more concerned with the feminine, visual, non-linear, heart connection, receptivity, softness, sensitivity, creativity, the instinctual, the unexplainable, the conscience, the feelings, emotional IQ, big picture, cooperation and doubt. The left-brain is more concerned with the masculine, verbal, linear, logical, details, organization, structure, labeling, analysis, specialization and hierarchy.
The ‘Return’ is the key to balanced thinking and good choices. Without that the left-brain creates its own micro-contexts and parses things so finely that it can “eliminate all contradictions and leave us with [seemingly] clear and distinct ideas.” (Duffell, 2014)
So, we men – and women – grow up in a saturated Rational Man Project environment, which is overwhelmingly persuasive in pulling us into the left-brain – and keeping us there. Happiness is more of a concept than an experienced feeling. Throw in our own personal and lineal traumas on top of that, especially ones from childhood, and we’re left with a population of people who have had to create their own Strategic Survival Personalities (SSP) in order to manage. The issue is that the SSP might have served us well as children but is problematic if we don’t recognize and jettison it as adults. If the protective wall remains in place, it makes it challenging for us to become mature and emotionally balanced adults. This is why so many of us become defensive so easily. It’s our SSP kicking into action when we feel a threat. Depending on the level of our trauma, our facade is that much more convincing – and impenetrable. The protective wall that is built can lead to isolation, violence and the epidemic of mental illness in our society.
There is an epidemic of alienation in our culture. One major foundational cause of this isolation is the influence of Boarding School, which has churned out so many of our political and cultural leaders, who back when they were neophyte boarders tried to reconcile the strange paradox of at once feeling appallingly alone, while being in the presence of their fellow boarders. Sounds a little like Social Media doesn’t it. Alas, it is an interminably unsolvable riddle that has for centuries been passed down to society at large, fostering, arguably, the most individualistic society in human history; with the commensurate paucity of community and social connection.
The statistics with respect to our societal health are sobering. “Mental health issues are costing Britain £70bn a year… Mental health was the cause of 40% of the 370,000 new [British] claims for disability benefit each year – the highest recorded among the 34 nations that belong to the so-called ‘rich man’s club’…” Another article states, “More than eight million people in Britain suffer from anxiety disorders… Anxiety disorders are now very common and are increasing… “There needs to be more research to identify new treatments. If we do not do something soon we will be overwhelmed by brain disorders.” 28% of women have mental health issues. We regularly hear about epidemics that might come our way, all of which amount to nothing. Has this fragile mental health environment not reached tangible and clearly epidemic proportions? Or, has it just become the norm?
“I told the doctor I was over-tired, anxiety-ridden, compulsively active, constantly depressed, with recurring fits of paranoia. Turns out I’m normal.” Jules Feiffer
Not to worry, Stiff Upper Lip to the rescue:
There is a sweeping call for more research and preventative measures to stem the tide of this precipitous decline in the mental health of the nation, which has coincided, seemingly paradoxically, with a doubling of antidepressant use in the country in the last decade, to no avail. Unfortunately, because our RMP culture and institutions have great difficulty looking within for the root causes of this worsening situation, we are only left with reactive and ineffective band-aid solutions.
This is the language and limits of our system’s inability to feel, understand or care for its citizens. Hence, even with a credible threat to the economic system as a whole, the solutions we come up with, after many studies and much discussion, do little or nothing to stem the tide. This inertia/decline is, of course, systemic, cutting through all aspects of the culture. Hence, Brexit. At some point, people start to connect with a statement that has been attributed to Einstein: “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” And yet, so many of us move through life unconsciously governed by our patterns, which, not surprisingly, produce much the same results.
These patterns become magnified and exacerbated within focused RMP institutions like Boarding Schools and the Military. Boris, David and I, have thoughtlessly slipped through life thinking and acting as if the world is a battleground. Win or Die. Defend at all cost because if… when you lose, you will touch into that place, the abyss. Like when you were a young David Cameron; maybe a lovely lad.
David. You are 7 years old. You don’t really have a grasp of time and space yet. You courageously, like all children, engage with the world you are getting to know; but you constantly and naturally experience fear and uncertainty as well. Fortunately you have Mummy and/or Daddy close-by for reassurance and love before heading out again – repeatedly. At their best your parents help guide you through the obstacle course of life while taking care of your heart. At their ‘good enough’ or even ‘pathetic’ levels they will at least be there in the vicinity doing the basics. Even when they physically or verbally abuse you, it’s just par for the course for you as a young child. It’s all you know. They’re still your Mum and Dad. You still want their acknowledgement and appreciation, however limited it might be. One day you are in the familiar confines of your home, the next you are dropped off at what for you must be a strange and, for some boys and girls, a frightening place. You scarcely know what this all means because…
You are 7 years old. It has likely been explained to you that you are a lucky boy indeed. You will be at the best preparatory school in the country. The opportunities will be endless. You’ll make so many friends. You will learn so much. The sports facilities are fabulous. You’re going to love it. Suddenly you find yourself there on the first day. Maybe your mother has some trepidation about leaving her little boy there. Maybe Father tells her it’s fine. After all, he went to Boarding School as well and while he had a tough go of it, he emerged a fighter. This was a major accomplishment since your Father’s legs were severely deformed from birth, “requiring him to undergo several operations and to wear special raised boots… Because of his disability, he was made to have an extra hour’s rest every day. At home, his mother treated him with much affection, but also believed that the effect of his disability had to be minimised, that he had to develop a sense of independence.” That’s what you’ll do as well David. There is no choice. You’ll suck it up. You’ll become independent. This place will make a man out of you, David. Why, you’re practically a man already even though…
You are 7 years old. You won’t be able to speak with Mummy or Daddy for a few weeks upon your arrival because that is about the length of time it will take for you to succumb; to submit; to embrace whatever Strategic Survival Personality is going to get you through the day. Don’t worry if you cry. You will likely stop crying yourself to sleep because you’ll sever whatever level of heart connection you have; because to ‘feel’ the loss will be unbearable. Suddenly you’ll turn around and… they’re gone. Your entire life, all you’ve ever known… Gone. So, you will relegate your feelings and empathy to a netherworld. The quicker you do that the better because you’ll be in a dormitory with a bunch of other boys who are strangers; who are all in the same insane predicament as you. All in one room, feeling that same numbing panic that must be contained because if you give in to it what will happen? You’ll be in a room full of other humans, but, for as long as you allow yourself to feel it, you’ll feel preposterously alone. Nobody is there to hold you; to tell you everything is going to be alright. It’s becoming clear by the minute that it’s not going to be alright. Emotions are dangerous indulgences now. They might get you beaten up, humiliated and/or marginalized. As an adult, a return to the netherworld to recover your long lost empathy will entail decoding a maze that would challenge the very gods themselves. But that’s a long way off and like most unconscious participants in the Rational Man Project, the adult you probably won’t have a clue that there is a problem. After all, you will become the Prime Minister. Yes, this place will be the making of you. But that is still a long way off. At this point…
You are 7 years old. You will build a wall, like the wall in Game of Thrones. You won’t have to wait for winter; it has arrived – for the rest of your life. No one must get past this wall. If they do they will see your shame. They will see your weakness and use it against you. So, you will refuse to be vulnerable. As an adult, you can’t or won’t connect with others in a deep-feeling way – because that will leave you open, again, to abandonment and betrayal. You will go to great lengths to avoid this. Unfortunately, your amigo Boris will end up betraying you. But hey, betrayal is unavoidable isn’t it? Boris did it to you. Michael did it to him. You know by now, ‘That’s Life’. It has been this way since you were…
7 years old… when you were likely forced to endure the greatest betrayal of all; not inflicted by your parents or the school but by yourself. Because despite the convincing parental and institutional sales job confirming the wonder of this place, you’re probably just not feeling it. It is so not like in Harry Potter. In fact, you might be absolutely terrified. But this is so damn confusing. How can your parents, your everythings, be wrong about this place? They are the adults. You are the child. Right… it must be you. Or wait… is it because there’s something wrong with you? That must be why they’ve put you here – they don’t love you. These Great-Fire-of-London feelings threatening to overwhelm you, that seem to be trying to tell you that something is very wrong… but well, you’re only…
7 years old. What do you know about life? You must be the one that’s wrong. Your feelings must be wrong. They are not to be trusted. Nothing and no one, most especially you, is ever to be trusted again. Alas, the wall you’ll build will also serve to keep you outside of yourself; out of reach. It’s the only way to survive. It all started on that fateful day when you were…
7 years old. Sleep may become an exercise in terror – nights only falling asleep at the point of exhaustion as you lie in wait, blankets pulled up to just below your eyes, for the ghosts and demons (or the older boys pretending to be beastly) to get you. Nobody is there to comfort you; to let you know they’re just nightmares; to hold you within their strong arms. You are in a huge house with tens of boys. Yet, you are abjectly alone. Sleep will never be the same again. Sometimes sleep will be optional, including when you become an adult, which is handy because you’ll have more important things to do than rest, like working yourself into the ground for that house and car. Thank God for sleeping pills. But you won’t really need much sleep anyway because it scarcely matters how you’ll be ‘feeling’ about anything, because you probably won’t be able to feel it anyway, even as it tugs on you from the recesses of your being. It doesn’t matter because this is stuff that ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ is made of when you’re…
7 years old. Maybe you’ll become the Bully or the Jester or the Jock or even more of a Victim. Or… Oh, I’m so sorry David but you, it turns out, you will be the ‘Dunce’. Last overall in your class when you’re 12 years old. I’m afraid it’s inevitable that you will be mocked for that by other lads and you will likely feel the deep shame of being such a disappointment to your family. Whatever. Enjoy the many amenities and the fact that you’ll only be hobnobbing with other lads who come from massive wealth. You’ll feast on caviar and Dom Perignon. And when your parents come to visit, they’ll arrive via helicopter. How cool is that? Good to get an early start on the Dom because alcohol will be a big part of your life, as it is for many Brits of all stripes. It will help dull the senses, the pain. You will be well prepared for the alcohol-fuelled destruction that is the Bullingdon Club. Nary a public event will unfold without a drink passing by your lips. Drinks will help you make up with Boris. In a stunning bit of unconscious irony, as Prime Minister, you will make it your mission to cut down on binge-drinking in Britain, unable to see the government overreach as being a naked projection of your own inner desire to stop drinking. To stop everything. To feel again, like when you were…
7 years old… before you were dropped off. With limited access to your right-brain, life will be perpetually confusing though you will fool yourself and others by compensating with your sharp intellect and outward success – after suffering through your Dunce period. You will overcome the disability of your dunciness in spectacular fashion; at least until it all falls apart. Until Boris and the old boys sniff blood and leave you stranded, like when you were…
7 years old. Poor boy. Poor, poor darling David.
This is the epitome of what privilege often looks like in practice. It has been this way for centuries. How can this produce anything other than a traumatized, unconscious and un-empathetic soul? Running a country? Leading human beings? Does what I have described seem appealing to anyone? The extreme privilege? Do you get a sense of what David’s experience might have been? Doesn’t it sound awful? Well, in general, as we will see from the rest of this piece, this is not unusual.
Here are some snippets from Boris’s story: (1) He suffered from severe deafness and at aged eight underwent several operations to have grommets inserted in his ears (2) His Mother “had a nervous breakdown due to suffering over Boris’s father’s repeated infidelities; she was hospitalised with clinical depression.” (3) With his Mother unable to fulfil her duties Boris was sent away at the age of 11 to board at Ashdown House where “he was appalled at the physical abuse that teachers gave the students, and became a strong critic of corporal punishment.” (4) Mother and Father’s “relationship broke down in December 1978 and they divorced in 1980. [Mother] moved into a flat in Notting Hill, where her children spent much of their time with her.” (5) Strong allegations that he posed as an SDP supporter in Oxford in order to win a campaign to become Union President. (6) “Johnson graduated from Balliol College with an upper second-class degree. He was deeply unhappy that he did not receive a first, losing sleep over the issue.” (7) Boris has been a serial philanderer, just like his Father.
Some may surmise that Boris, or any child, being sent away to board at the age of 11 is not really a big deal. It’s all good by then, right? But that fails to take into consideration the circumstances surrounding the timing, and what has come before, such as being sent away because your mother has crumbled before your eyes and she can no longer take care of herself, let alone you. Our RMP system, for which self-reflection is frightening and to be avoided like the plague, has grave difficulties in taking things into consideration that don’t fit into a neat and tidy narrative. For Boris it was a life within a family in which paternal betrayal of his mother was a hallmark. Simultaneously, he experienced what one can only imagine was a terribly challenging early childhood in which he could barely hear anything until he was 8 years old when he had to endure several undoubtedly difficult operations to restore his hearing. Think of the stigma that goes with being disabled in our culture. Think of how that must have been in the mid-70s. Think of how Boris probably sounded to others. Think of how cruel young children can be to each other. That alone would scar most of us for life. After braving all of this, Boris said bye to Mum as they were both sent away to their respective institutions.
Father was also gone but it appears he may not have been very present anyway. Boris was 11 years old. He either received or witnessed physical abuse at Boarding School. Either way, he ‘experienced’ it. If it happened to him it was brutal. Yet the damage is significant as well if abuse has ‘only’ been seen or heard about. Like second-hand smoke, it permeates you – in any arena in life. What of boys at school who witness their friends being abused, physically and sexually, but don’t or can’t do anything to help? What of the shame you’d feel for the rest of your life in not coming to the aid of a friend – of betraying him. This scenario has played out countless times over hundreds of years.
Meanwhile, Boris arrived at Boarding School not only with a tremendous amount of baggage but smack dab in the midst of one of the major developmental stages of his life – puberty. Hormones raging, surrounded by only boys, all the time. Puberty within an institutional framework of which, as we have learned in recent years, and keep hearing about, is generally rife with sexual abuse. What of the abused who have had to build a life around that? What of the teachers, ‘caregivers’ or boys who were the perpetrators? What of the teachers, caregivers or boys who were abused, then became perpetrators? What happened to their souls? This scenario has played out countless times over hundreds of years.
It is a testament to the resilience of humanity that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world endure brutality and survive – and in a few cases thrive – unless you’re one of the many who don’t survive; who can’t just get on with it; who have continued suffering; maybe with the Reaper your constant companion.
The trauma doesn’t go away. It gets entombed in some other dimension – within some version of the Strategic Survival Personality. And the pattern, centuries old, remains firmly in place as Boris unwittingly passes on his generational trauma, cheating on his wife and his children, siring at least an additional two known children with different women. If we actually require studies to confirm what is pretty obvious, a “study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes”.
In the meantime, the segment of the press, and corporate backers, who are not his supporters, savagely cut him down at every opportunity; Boris synonymous with ‘Buffoon’.
And then, in what can only be regarded as predictable, comes the coup de grace – the stuff of legend – delivered by one of Boris’s (and David’s) oldest friends. Machiavelli would approve. When you are the Prince, Boris, even if for only a few days, you cannot lose your focus. After all, the dog will eat the dog – it’s inevitable. You must be ever-vigilant to ensure that you are the former and not the latter. No doubt, it is absolutely exhausting to maintain this un-blinking guard. Too bad. You’ve got this. You are in control. Besides, you have had the best training to handle this. That’s why you went through all that shit at Boarding School. So you could take care of business as required. Boris has been at DEFCON 1 since that day long ago when he was 11 years old, when whatever care-freeness still inhabited him was blown out of the water.
Decades later, like that other naïve fool, Othello, betrayed by his trusted lieutenant, Iago, Boris was shanked by the false blade of his friend and suddenly erstwhile political ally, Michael Gove (incidentally, a godparent to one of David Cameron’s children). No mercy for David. No mercy for Boris. The cut clean, straight through the heart – from behind. “For Johnson, to be abandoned by the guarantor of his candidacy and his most exalted supporter – and at this particular stage – is the worst setback in his political career. He faced direct competition with a man who, so to speak, knows where all the ballots are buried.”
The Betrayed becomes the Betrayer who becomes the Betrayed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Poor boy. Poor, poor Boris.
In 2008, Boris said, “I think all food is delicious. I just can’t understand why people go on and on about it, especially restaurant critics. I mean, food is good, isn’t it? My favourite thing is probably bangers, mash and mustard, with red wine. I do drink quite a lot of wine: red, white, or champagne. It doesn’t matter if it’s expensive or not because all wine is good.” He also loves “a few chocolate croissants mid-morning to keep the wolf from the door” – Cake or lamb chops for breakfast, plus a litre of Diet Coke a day. For lunch he’ll eat “any old thing”. Here we have the classic addictive personality, a true epidemic in our culture. For Boris, this includes pretty clear abuse of Alcohol, Food, Sweets, Sex and who knows what else. Of course, the issue is not that the Prime Minister should not have addictions because that is a practical certainty. Welcome to the Addiction Club that is Anglo culture; one of the few areas in which Class is irrelevant. Membership is open to all. For a moment it appeared that Boris’s recklessness and lack of discrimination had finally been his undoing. ‘But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?’ Oh the sweet reprieve as Boris somehow rises from the ashes and assumes the position of Foreign Secretary. Back in the Game. Despite the amusing facade, he knows the game. He is a consummate survivor, trained as he has been in the trenches of Boarding School. DEFCON 1 in full swing again.
And what of Boris’s children, their father constantly ridiculed; called a buffoon; a laughing stock; lambasted. Back at school. Will they be bullied? Have they already been bullied? Will they become bullies? Either way, the trauma gets passed down yet again.
Did Boris Johnson really believe in Brexit or, like his buddy David Cameron, did he only hop on the Leave bandwagon because it gave him the most politically expedient route? Some were shocked by Mr. Johnson’s appointment as Foreign Secretary, being that he was the most ardent cheerleader for Brexit, and he was now suddenly a high-ranking member of Theresa May’s cabinet (the new Prime Minister having been firmly in the Remain camp). Some saw it as a sign of respect to the Leave camp. Surely Boris will hold their feet to the fire! Google “Boris Johnson Brexit” to see just how visible and outspoken he has been since his appointment; there is nothing at all from August on the front page). This is the great old political standby: Be present yet invisible. Really, how else would one attain his present position? Watch Theresa May’s brief and expertly obfuscating response to a German journalist who asks why she would pick a player who doesn’t even want to play. Her non-answer is actually perfectly revealing: Obviously, Boris is fully on board. Based on his previous flip-flopping and betrayals, is it too much of a stretch to suggest that outside of hollow platitudes that he is turning his back on millions of Brexiters who viewed him as one of their own?
I wrote the above paragraph soon after Mr. Johnson was name to his current post. Ten weeks later and he is has gone from quiet to potentially mutinous as he regularly undermines the Prime Minister. Based on extremely recent history, isn’t Mr. Johnson’s behaviour totally predictable? Did he pretend to fall in line in order to bide his time. Maybe for the Prime Minister it’s more a case of “…keeping your enemies closer”; though who knows what is going on at this point, what with the Prime Minister having to fend off hardliners from both camps within her own party.
Meanwhile, sixteen weeks later we learn that Mr. Johnson wrote a secret unpublished column before the vote extolling the virtues of remaining in the EU, which he now describes as both: (1) semi-parodic; and (2) “One of the most powerful cases that could possibly have been made to Leave.” RMP doublespeak at its nonsensical best. The bar is set so low for our representatives that they can consistently contradict themselves in the most absurd ways while still allowed to keep making important decision on behalf of the people. Alas, it is, in general, consistent with how little faith we have in ourselves as citizens that this state of affairs is allowed to persist.
In the end, why did Mr. Johnson end up publishing the article calling for Britain to leave the EU? Isn’t it obvious by now that he wanted, and still wants, to be Prime Minister and he knew that the only way that could happen in short order would be to back the Leave Camp because if the Remain Camp prevailed David Cameron would still be the Conservative Party standard bearer for some time to come?
One thing is for sure, in an unprecedentedly obvious way: the best interests of the people are, once again, and always, falling victim to inner- and inter-party intrigues.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Income Inequality as the most significant, yet overlooked, economic component of Brexit
While there is much more to Brexit than the economy, the economy is relevant, though not in the way typically presented in the media.
Patrick Collinson, writing in the Guardian before the vote:
“The mundane reality is that a Brexit is likely to result in either a small net economic benefit or a small net economic loss… What will Brexit mean for the pound in your pocket? Like the economy, the boring answer is that it probably doesn’t mean much at all. Your pension, if you’re a private sector worker, is largely down to the performance of the stock market. Most of the big FTSE 100 companies are already fantastically globalised; the profits and dividends from the likes of BP or Glaxo have relatively little to do with the UK economy. Britain in or out of the EU will have a limited impact on their earnings… The next few months will see hysterical claims about the economic impact of a Brexit by both sides, and both can be safely ignored. My vote will come down to the pros and cons of the EU political project. This is one issue where it’s not about the economy, stupid.”
Mr. Collinson’s conclusion does seem rather simplistic considering most people know by this point that, in the current and historical context, the ‘political project’ is always subservient to the ‘economic project’.
Mr. Collinson is correct in the sense that corporations are now global entities. With the trade deals that have been signed in the last thirty years, corporations have gained more power than Governments and borders are all but irrelevant. So, despite the economic Armageddon that was predicted by some before the vote, and though the markets reacted violently in the first few days, three months later the FTSE100 is within earshot its record closing of 6959, which occurred in December, 2015.
So, as Mr. Collinson predicted, business as usual… except for the millions of Britons who are under the financial gun, and many of whom voted to Leave the European Union. Business as usual does them no good at all. Surely, the vote, and its aftermath, reveals the relative irrelevance of the stock market as a useful indicator of the economic reality on the ground, where the people are, as opposed to up in the sky, where the FTSE100 resides.
So, why have the people rebelled in such an apparently surprising way against the interests of the majority of the political and economic leadership? Economically, at least, the answer is obvious – too obvious it seems to be acknowledged. The reality is that the current system is wantonly skewed in favour of the wealthy and powerful. The average citizen knows they are being neglected, and they have had enough.
One month after the Vote, a survey of British CEOs suggested, “there wasn’t an increase in business costs, which some are fearing as the plunge in the pound since the vote will make fuel, raw materials and imports more expensive. Those rises were offset in part by subdued wage inflation.” (ie) weaker profits offset by workers receiving less real wages. Of course: “The cost of living is rising faster in the UK than anywhere in Europe, with soaring food and energy bills blamed”.
Britain joined the European Union in 1973, right at the time when the top 1% ‘suffered’ their lowest share of the British National Income; in other words, when the economy was more equitable. Note that for both the United States and Britain, their current levels of Income Inequality are close to the same levels as just before the Great Depression of 1929. This is why, perhaps, we are witnessing the current global economic upheaval that culminated in the recent financial meltdown, and which we have not recovered from, despite assurances from our financial leaders, and the emergence of the Occupy Movement a few years back. Enter: Brexit, not because being out of Europe will necessarily mean less inequality and more opportunity for people but because the status quo is leaving the masses behind.
This chart further reveals Income Inequality within the richest Western Nations.
In the Western World, 4 out of the worst 6 countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, can be categorized as “Anglo Nations”. What if the current inequality in Britain has little to do with being in the EU and more to do with the British/Anglo approach?
The social impact of income inequality, as measured by health and social problems, are currently as follows:
Not surprisingly, the two countries in the first graph with the largest income inequality, the US and UK, both have notably higher rates of Health and Social Problems than France or Sweden. Amazingly, even Greece, with its disastrous recent history, has better health outcomes than the UK. So, while stock market performance is relevant to the affluent, the masses are seeing that no matter what they do, they keep falling behind – with the concomitant stress and health issues that ensue.
Compare these two maps, the one on the left detailing Regional Income, the other the Brexit vote:
With a few exceptions, it’s easy to see that, on the whole, Britons voted along income, or lack thereof, lines. So, again, contrary to Mr. Collinson’s protestations, the economy is most certainly a factor in the Brexit outcome.
Some might point to the fact that the economy on the whole – GDP, etc. – has expanded since Britain joined the EU, but this position presupposes that perpetual ‘growth’ is necessarily a good and desired outcome, especially when it goes disproportionally to a tiny group of people. Increasingly, people are beginning to realize the hollowness of this hyper-capitalist system in which all other considerations, such as community, camaraderie and peace, are crushed under the mighty thumb of the primacy of a Rational Economy.
If, in real terms, the growth in GDP since joining the EU was distributed a little more evenly, even discussions of Brexit would likely not happen, let alone a vote. Conversely, Brexit might not have even had a chance to happen, at least at this point, if it hadn’t been for one thing; there are those who stand to make a great deal of money from it.
Politics today, in most jurisdictions, but especially in the ‘peaceful’ Anglo countries, is a constant and relatively benign redistribution of wealth between two or more sets of elites. As Mr. Collinson alluded to, depending on which Party attains power, Conservative or Labour, Democrat or Republican, the economic deck becomes slightly stacked in favour of their corporate backers – backers who incidentally often play both sides, at times simultaneously. As we can see from the next graph, the rise in income inequality does not discriminate between political parties:
Where economics are concerned, the general irrelevance of political affiliation can readily be seen in the Brexit vote as the likes of David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, John Major, Nick Clegg and Tony Blair were all in bed together in the ‘Remain’ camp.
And lest anyone think this is a partisan piece that focuses on the shortcomings of the current Conservative Leadership, many of the following arguments can be made against the previous Labour leadership, which did nothing to stem the tide of inequality. As Equity Trust has noted:
“Wealth in Great Britain is even more unequally divided than income. The richest 10% of households hold 45% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 8.7%.” The Independent noted the same phenomena: “The majority of the UK population (66 per cent) hold no positive financial assets at all – with the combined £9 Trillion held privately in the UK spread between the remaining 34 per cent.”
And then there is the laughable Taxation system whereby the struggling citizenry is milked to the maximum while corporations and the wealthy manage to contribute little or nothing, as noted by the Daily Mail:
“The outrageous reality that the corporate sector provides him (Osborne) with a pitiful amount of revenue – just £43 billion a year… Too many of the tax dodges indulged in by multinationals are achieved by sleight of hand using subsidiaries in low-tax areas to offset the money they earn in countries where they might have to contribute more.”
Examples of this perverse situation include the absurdly low amounts of tax paid by multinational corporations such as Google and Starbucks, which:
“has paid just £8.6m in taxes on a reported £3bn in UK sales since 1998, when it launched its first UK coffee shop, despite having opened 735 outlets… A year after filing a £26m loss in the UK, Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Schultz, told investors the business here was so successful he planned to apply the lessons to the company’s biggest market in the US.”
Only in a topsy-turvy economic system can a CEO be so chuffed with their company’s ‘losses’. This entertaining and informative video spells out how corporations legally, but morally reprehensibly, avoid contributing to the well-being of the nation:
There are regular calls to close the loopholes that these companies so easily, and quite legally, exploit; but government, beholden as it is to corporate power, predictably does nothing. Some hugely profitable companies manage to pay nothing at all. Do we need any studies to know that if corporations were paying their fair share of taxes, we would not have the constant deficits, which, when injury turns into insult, results in austerity?
In the meantime, those who wield the levers of power keep hoping that somehow the people will not notice; that they will keep taking it on the chin and soldiering on.
Enter David Cameron and his cohort. In one of Britain’s historically greatest political miscalculations, Mr. Cameron, confidently assuming that the voters would choose to Remain, triggered the vote in order to mollify the right wing of his party and to maintain power. The cynical nature of this political masturbation was staggering, not least because it was so transparent. Well, to the chagrin of those who would put short-term political gain ahead of the long-term health of the nation, millions of Britons took notice. When the citizens, shockingly, were actually given a say, they said ‘enough’. The people were allowed to twist in the wind and that wind transformed into a hurricane.
There has been much finger-pointing since the Vote. Who is at fault for this apparent disaster? That this is even a legitimate question reveals the unawareness that many in the Remain camp have of how millions of Britons are living. The Leave camp have been labelled as ignorant and backward. They have been ridiculed and parodied for their foolishness – and, in some cases, their racism. Xenophobia is certainly a factor (more on this later), but what underpinned this Vote was economics. Brexit would have failed miserably had there been more collective economic justice; actually, it probably would not have even come up.
Based on the many abovementioned charts and statistics, the concerns and frustrations of those in the Leave camp are well warranted, even if they don’t speak the Queen’s English. Yes, Britain is now isolated, which is simply a reflection of just how so many of the people are feeling. Have some Brexiters shot themselves in the foot? Maybe, but they had already been shot in the foot seven times. Might this lead to further instability, financially and socially? Maybe. If so, the scale of the disruption will be commensurate with what the irresponsible and self-serving leadership have foisted on the people.
Yet, the real question here is how on earth did the country’s leadership even allow itself to take such a massive risk, let alone fail? Where does this personal (Cameron) and institutional (Government) lack of judgment and sense come from? How could Mr. Cameron have been so reckless with his country?
This leads us to another question: How is Brexit NOT about the economy, or, maybe more accurately, about much more than the economy?
The British People endured months of a contentious, hyperbolic and sometimes vitriolic Brexit campaign that served to stir mass fear and confusion, which continues unabated post-vote. As the average citizen was bamboozled by the din of debate, a myriad of people were pitted against each other, taking polarized positions as if their very souls depended on it. The voters were distracted and stirred up by issues such as immigration (manipulated by the Far Right) and travel and employment restrictions (appealing more to the privileged) – important issues to be sure but trumped by a more foundational and influential force.
Some disenfranchised, low-income citizens (the largest contingent of Brexiters) were manipulated into believing that immigration and the influx of refugees due to EU membership was the cause of their economic desperation and security fears. In fact, the real issue was rampant inequality as a by-product of a normalized and unconscious system of betrayal.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.