Everyone knows there’s something wrong with politics in Britain. And, at long last, the psychotherapy profession has started to take note.
Two days after the general election, a conference The Establishment On The Couch will propose that a psychologically wounded elite runs our society and examine the implications for therapy. Analysing the politics of fear, blame, apathy and denial, finally this conference will give a chance to those interested in the unconscious motivations that drive our wretched politics to have a say. Audience participation is expected to be pretty lively.
It’s a first, for psychotherapy and politics haven’t been easy bedfellows. Politics is usually thought too messy for the hallowed consulting room, which cannot continue excluding the injustice that is the backdrop to many people’s lives. Moreover, as the politics of fear, blame and denial are on the rise, our profession has something important to offer, since these emotional dynamics are exactly our area of expertise.
Some in the political world our taking note, too, and I have twice been asked to write for the very interesting non-partisan on-line newspaper, politics.co.uk – see my new article on the conference there.
Many current political problems have a long history, but some are new, like political apathy, infecting vast numbers. The young, understanding Russell Brandt’s anarchic message, may forgo the one expression of power they possess – their vote. Remembering how long it took to achieve universal suffrage, some find this shocking; but many feel there are no real choices. And they are not wrong: the blurred distinctions of party politics are partly because global liberalisation of capital has rendered all parties effectively impotent, so that policies of the elected look pretty uniform.
Apathy, however, is a traceable side effect of the politics of blame, now ubiquitous. Media and politicians collude and no one dares to sidestep it; the electorate are bored by it. The politics of fear, meanwhile, is doing OK, embracing a good old English archetype – John Bull. Having magically reinvented himself as trustworthy man of the people, a hedonistic stockbroker’s son, ex-public school, peddles old-fashioned anti-foreigner doctrine to those shocked at how rapidly their world is changing, as the free movement of labour rewrites our familiar provincial landscape.
Scotland is the only place where there’s any genuine political enthusiasm. On first glance, this appears rooted in nationalism, but the wish for self-determination arises as much out of people’s satiation with the elite’s duplicitous self-reinvention, their Bullingdon Club entitlement mentality and the public-school bullying that deadlocks debate in Westminster. For central to our political culture lurks one crucial – and unique – pathology: Britain grooms its political elite by means of privileged abandonment in childhood.
Boarding and the politics of blame are built into in Westminster, whose crumbling fake medieval Victorian architecture recalls a public school chapel, whose adversarial layout ensures the braying ridicule of opponents maintains the electorate’s apathy. Not so the beautiful modern chamber at Holyrood I visited the morning of Nicola Sturgeon’s inaugural speech as First Minster. Like most new parliaments it is horseshoe-shaped, based on a principle dear to psychotherapists. Our group sessions are always in the round so that everyone can hear and see each other, feels part of the whole and belongs; even those with authority roles occupy equal seating.
We are told that millions of pounds will be needed to rebuild the Westminster monster. This at a time when the country is broke and confidence in politicians is at an all-time low! But we don’t need to. Here’s it what we can do:
We sell it off to the highest bidder who can convert it into a museum of democracy and luxury hotel. A partnership with Madame Tussaud’s could fill the gallery with wax dummies of well known politicians throughout the ages. The tourists (who won’t care whether there are real people in their or not ) will still come in their droves and take selfies everywhere.
They can be charged big entrance fees, a commission on which goes to finance MPs’ salaries, who can move to a beautiful new purpose-built round chamber on a green or brownfield site outside Birmingham. They’d surely save money on accommodation in Brum.
We get Kevin McCloud to help design the new building. If you have ever seen any of his Grand Designs programmes you will see that you can do incredibly beautiful energy-efficient buildings for surprisingly little (apart from the morons who want a £35,000 kitchen) when you start from scratch with good design. We’d save tons of money – maybe even make some, in the long run!
Then we get rid of the Speaker – it’s all getting controversial anyway – and his fees are a bit steep. We establish a revolving post for a couple of psychotherapists to be in charge of group dynamics instead – and save another fortune!
Worth a try?