This morning I received two letters that I want to share with you.
Stroud-based Dr Richard House, who has been writing to national newspapers for several months pointing out the actions of our Wounded Leaders and often tracing them to the core issues, sent me his letter “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” just published in the Daily Mirror, 25 March 2016, p. 60.
“It takes big men to apologise and show genuine contrition – and Bullingdon Club ‘graduate’ George Osborne clearly isn’t one of them. Hundreds of thousands of disabled people across the land have been caused massive and needless anxiety by Osborne’s ‘mistake’. That he declines to apologise shows him to be singularly unfit to be one of our foremost political leaders.”
Great that some brave people are now really pointing the finger at the kind of dysfunctional leadership we have taken for granted! But the second letter seems to suggest that a sickly nostalgia keeps the majority stuck in the Entitlement Illusion, as David Redshaw points out, after looking at his old school’s website.
“I’ve just been perusing the Cutting Edge documentary ‘Leaving Home at 8′ by Nigel Gourlay and it did ring a few bells,” writes David.” It is worth a watch.
I went off to Christ’s Hospital just turned nine in the 1950s when it was pretty post-war Spartan, although I have to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad as your school sounded with its arbitrary beatings delivered by prefects.”
David is referring to a passage in my first book, The Making of Them, which is now available as an Audible actor-read audio-book – the perfect antidote to too many Easter Eggs.
“Ours were sometimes brutal in other more subtle ways. The Cutting Edge film though reminded me of the way that we harden up and internalise our homesickness. In my second term my parents came down to take me out to tea on one of the regulation three visits allowed. My mother said that I seemed quiet and withdrawn. She went on about it (she was very good at going on). When we got back she took me up to see the house matron who gave me a quick looking over and then laughed and said: ‘He seems alright to me’.
What had happened of course was that I had already learned to cover my back, keep my counsel, suppress my emotions and internalise everything.”
Or as we say, David had learned to adopt his ‘Strategic Survival Personality’, as mask that is much easier to put on than it is to take off. He continues:
“Going back to school the following term, before we left to connect with the school special leaving from Victoria, my father, a no-nonsense northerner, quietly asked if I could try to look more cheerful this time as it was upsetting my mother.
Years later, when I was working in journalism and under the impression that I was fairly well adjusted, I casually told a younger girl reporter on the staff about my education. ‘Good heavens,’ she said, ‘that accounts for a lot.’ This was a shock since I hadn’t realised my contained emotion was so obvious!
They are co-ed at my old school these days and I believe that the entry age is eleven. But they still look so young when I view them on You Tube, marching into lunch to the school’s splendid military-style band. I believe that it is much more civilised now and the replies to my barbs on the school discussion site tell me that the pastoral care that was missing in my day is there in spades today.
But of course you would say,” David is addressing me here, “that this is still no substitute for the unconditional love of the family, and that is what comes out in the Cutting Edge documentary. Young April finally comes to grips with school life, helped by her very close dorm-mates who seem to be very supportive, but Mum is aware enough to question what this separation from parents may mean in the future.
The posts on my old school discussion website are a continual source of wonder because so many of them seem stuck in an inwards-looking haze as they struggle to discuss future funding for the school. It’s as if the 1960s never happened and they are unaware of the anti-egalitarian, backwards drift of society ‘out there’, with some telling me that the beatings they received were good for them and that society will only be put to rights if the birch could be brought back for today’s hooligans. I give up.”
I feel for David, looking at his old-school website in vain hope that all his peers will reject the system that is so unfair to children and so damaging to our society. But they can’t afford to, without challenging the way they themselves have been surviving. The trance is deep and living without a Strategic Survival Personality is often too challenging, which is where the first letter comes in.
A public apology seems too much like being vulnerable and not enough like being a winner. Be vulnerable and the sharks will devour you, says his reptilian brain that is charge of his internal government. No choice at all for the unconsciously afraid un-reconstructed survivor.
So what do you think, gentle reader: is anything in our wounded land getting any better?