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Wounded Leaders – the low down

Despite the complexities needed to fully explain it and the controversy that it inspires, the chief point of this book is simple enough. Because the our elite are raised in boarding schools – away from families, out of the reach of love, far from the influence of any feminine values, and so on – we have been perpetuating a grave mistake to individuals and to the whole of our society. For we have been replicating, by means of a perfected, ‘industrialized’ process, a type of Wounded Leader without any longer knowing why we are doing it, or even that we are doing it.

Notwithstanding the costly privileges of such an education, it consistently turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are – especially in non-rational skills, such us sustaining relationships – and far more than even they themselves realise. This is the principle reason I use the surprising word ‘wounded.’ Our public life, especially politics, is overflowing with such types; consider the current cabinet, as John Le Carré suggested in July 2013.

A classic example from literature of such a wounded leader is DH Lawrence’s Clifford Chatterley, a paralysed landowner, confined to a wheelchair as a result of injuries sustained during the First World War. Clifford’s wounds are both real and metaphorical: it is his inability to love that drives his wife into the arms of another, more instinctual man. Even though Lady Chatterley’s Lover was written in the 1920s and was not released until the Sixties, when it famously went on trial for obscenity, the type of wounded leader described in Lawrence’s book is still very much with us. The kinds of problems Clifford exhibits domestically – a tendency to overvalue work or achievements, a lack of empathy, an inability to grieve, and so on – are still today being induced by an education system unique to Britain and her ex-colonies. I first described the clinical evidence for this in my 2000 book, The Making of Them: the British Attitude to Children and the Boarding School System. The issues still remain only partly recognised, because – for very complicated reasons – the British public has been loath to link them to their causes. In the current book I focus on their origin and how they affect us politically.


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