Adapted from Wounded Leaders, there called
You’ve got to hand it Boris. What mastery at linking his normalised bully style with the great old traditions of state and religion, learned at places like Eton!
I remember a free moment in October 2011; I was skimming a copy of the Evening Standard, and there he was, ‘Boris’ (he doesn’t need a surname), larger than life, wearing his delighted-to-be-outraged look on his substantial face, looking like he has just stepped out of the pages of the Beano.
Hearken the words of Boris, pontificating on the Occupy protest campaign outside St Paul’s, calling for new laws to prevent “tent cities … erupting like boils” across London and telling the activists: “In the name of God and Mammon, go!”
Boris’s message is clear to those who can hear it. Just between the lines, with his choice of language, he is telling those people something very definite about who he is, how he thinks and who he is addressing.
There is a biblical reference, but Boris is not suggesting he is a religious man, as an innocent foreigner might imagine. No – a Christian in the UK these days would play his style down and use a secular, milder metaphor. Boris is actually telling us that he is someone who spent a good ten years listening to the language of the King James’ Bible in a chapel at an expensive boarding school – in his case the school, Eton. If you don’t immediately recognise that, then it just shows how much you can be taken seriously.
It is a bit like the old Gentlemen’s Clubs in central London. Once, they didn’t have name-plates outside them (and some still don’t) because if you didn’t know where the club was, you didn’t belong there. New boys at public school regularly spend many painful hours mugging up on little details to do with names and places that apply to in-school traditions and have to be learned very quickly.
What Boris wants you to know, through his sarcastic declaration, is that he is an authority figure, one of the Establishment, one who belongs. This is the Entitlement Illusion in full flow. This is how ‘top people’ talk, and Boris’s branch of the top have a kind of divine right. Now we arrive at what he really means, which is that this is their language, their cathedral, their city, their country, their money, perhaps even their God… so the rest of us can just f*** off back to ‘Prolesville’ and stay there!
Those few words from Boris, with all their packed messages, had me reeling. I began to feel sick and badly in need of some fresh air, so I headed out of my consulting room, walked up the road and climbed to the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, a favourite spot for countless Londoners. There, in the extraordinary panorama of the capital’s best view, was a new and shocking sight. Venerable St Paul’s Cathedral, untouched by the Blitz, usually sharply visible even among the high rises of the banker’s towers in the entitled enclave of our financial services industry, was now lost to the skyline. From my vantage point, I could see that directly behind St Paul’s, obscuring the perfect outlines of Wren’s dome – a symbol of real value in the City – had risen another new tower, grey and phallic. I did not know its name then (the Shard) but I had little doubt whether this one was in service of God or of Boris’s M-word.
Looking down on the city, I knew I had come full circle. This must be it – the answer to the question that had come to me as I stood on the parapets in India in 1972. This was how the British had ruled India.
We flattered their leaders, the Rajas, to imagine they could become part of the British Establishment, and got them to send their sons to Eton. We hardly ever intermarried with Indians but discreetly bought sex from them, the resulting children – known as ‘Tommies’ – being universally despised by Indians and British alike. We exploited India’s wealth, its natural resources, its labour and even its markets by reselling its own textiles back to it, finished by home-grown slaves in our dark Satanic northern mills.
But worse, much worse, we undermined the people from the inside to make them feel inferior – wrong at core, just like the little boarder, with a bully on the inside – to police themselves.
We did not need so many acts of outward cruelty – one Black Hole of Calcutta was quite enough – because we ruled India from inside the people, by getting them to believe they were inferior. We got them to do the job for us. We had the whole of India ‘fagging’ for us, as it were. We got them to install their own internal bully, meaning they were top-down bullied by parts of their own selves and the Brits could safely remain top dogs.
It is a breath-taking achievement, the most efficient imperial method ever devised.