Society and Leadership

Wilfred Bion believed that societies operate according to one of three basic assumptions. These are – dependent – broadly where society looks to a leader to depend upon; flight- flight – where there is a perceived external threat where the leader galvanises and curdles (my word) society; and the pairing group – where there are two leaders (archetypal parents). In this latter group system there is a hopeful expectation because the true leader, the future leader, is yet to be born. Bion termed this the messianic idea.

Bion observed that we are each as humans essentially social animals. We have these group structural tendencies within us, even before we are operating within a group.

“Our individual psychic make-up is intimately related to others, both the tendency to form constructively working groups and the potential for forming any of the basic assumption mental states when in a physical group setting with others”.

Societies do seem to me, practically to group as Bion suggests. It also seems to me that there is a tendency for dependent societies to flip to fight-flight and back, and that pairing groups emerge only after a period of stability. A quick personal review:

Russia (now) – under Putin. Dependent, but he introduces external enemies because he is failing to provide (the basic function of a dependent leader) – therefore moving toward fight-flight. This is also reflected across many middle-eastern countries, the difference being the “religious” archetype that their leaders draw upon, introducing a twisted and unreconstructed medieval view of Islam to create an enemy (all of the rest of the world). In Britain I would suggest we had a dependent/fight-fight society right through to Margaret Thatcher, but that this moved with Blair-Brown and now Cameron-Clegg toward a pairing group society. (Who will the future Messiah be for British politics, we sure are looking for one!). The USA was perhaps set up in the first place as a pairing group society (checks and balances!). It’s why it doesn’t (it seems to me) work so well when either the Democrats or Republicans have ALL the levers of power – Senate, President, Supreme Court, Congress – and why this happens so seldom. The leaders in Scotland, most recently of course attempted to carve out a new fiefdom by drawing on the dependent and fight-flight models. We are now moving back to a pairing group structure between Salmond-Sturgeon – which reflects the reality of the fundamental pairing group of Scotland-England. (Salmond as a UK MP, Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland).

Foundational to Bion’s view is that humans are interdependent, part of one-whole.

The chapter on Bion’s study of groups in Symington’s review of Bion’s work has a quote from Vladimir Soloviev (Russian 19th century Christian mystic and philosopher), which sums up this basic tenet.

“The self-deception in virtue of which a human individual regards himself as real in his separateness from all things, and presupposes this fictitious isolation to be the true ground and only starting-point for all his relations – this self-deception of abstract subjectivisim plays terrible havoc not only in the domain of metaphysics – which, indeed, it abolishes altogether – but also in the domain of the moral and political life”.

Soloviev, though, goes much further, and prefigures Teilhard de Chardin with his observation that all is connected and interdependent, all part of one.

Peace, Radicalisation and Progesterone

It was striking in the recent Scottish referendum that the young and male voted in a markedly different way from the old and female. The call to fight is an appeal to testosterone. It rouses people out of their beds, out of the apathy of materialism or despair. However, it comes at a cost. Division. Us – against yous. Our poor, our oil, our land, our nation.Not yours. Alongside the passion there is and has been a considerable degree of radicalisation. An awakened anger seeking outlet,  but to what purpose? Passion in pursuit of a just cause is good, necessary and admirable;  but nationalism is always wrong. The fruit of that plant is always bitter.

Whilst there is no doubting the motive power of the raw male, testosterone fuelled  radicalisation has unintended consequences. The best way to rouse the young male is to find and to caricature an enemy. One that must be fought. Winning is all. The world has witnessed that from age to age. It’s how wars start, it’s how repression is justified; and worse. We can see that in radical Islam. What has IS and their beheading culture really to do with the religion? Could these young men stay in charge unless they had the USA (great satan) as an enemy? Is the motive force amongst these radicalised young that of that great peaceful religion Islam? I suspect its more to do with  the desire of young men to fight, kill, win and control their enemies and women. To its great credit, in Scotland it wasn’t the noisy, the young and the men who carried their way. It was the old and above all it was women. Both groups with lower testosterone. That’s called democracy.  We must prize it. It was the testosterone-lite who quietly said no, at least not now and not like this. Those who have an eye to continuity and the future. It is of course particularly women who care passionately for community, compassion and an integrated society. Not exclusively thank goodness; but I wonder what a world would be like if it were run by  women, educated and empowered.  Do you really imagine that there would be noisy cars racing round Edinburgh? The turning away from the excluded parts of society in Liverpool, Manchester and rural England? The beheadings in Syria? No, of course not. On the other hand – there wouldn’t have been the degree of social injustice in the first place.

I have come and gone with feminism. A one time supporter, a some time doubter; but if we could evolve a world and society where testosterone was not the key to decision making, then put the women and the old in charge. Feminism as leadership rather than equality. Bring it on.

Is this the way to peaceful radicalisation?  Perhaps in a connected world where strutting masculinity were side-lined and channelled – then we could focus together on what really matters. I put it to you (as a mere man, but aging) – that the plight of women around the world and of the poor, oh and of our children’s environment – are somewhat more important than whether one male tribe in these British islands – covered in woad – triumphs over another.

When would reality dawn?

Scotland is an excitable place right now. Frenetic almost. There is a barrage of facebook and twitter activity directed particularly at the under 25 voter – all giving the impression that the majority want separation from the United Kingdom.

And if this marketing campaign were successful? What then..

The great majority of the facts – economic, social and historic firmly conclude that a separate Scotland would be poorer, more divided and alienated from many international institutions. EU, Nato, UK to name a few.

I wonder how long it would take before the Scottish electorate becom disillusioned. Before reality dawns. And what then – which part of society would get the blame I wonder?

Scottish Nationalism, playing with fire..

I have lived approximately half of my life in England and half in Scotland where I have married and brought up my family. There is an anti-English prejudice in Scotland which has never previously been reciprocated. I suppose this prejudice is not surprising given the history of enmity between the countries until James VI of Scotland united the crowns and introduce the concept of a Great Britain.

“English”  to Scots is thus the archetype of “Enemy”. Indeed it is to some extent bound up with class – the English being identified, unreasonably, with being “toffs”.   We all have prejudices. A key struggle of civilisation is to overcome and integrate them. I do not believe that on the facts we as voters in Scotland would  break the Kingdom that James V1 United. I believe that the only way that this can be accomplished is to release and play up the ancient prejudice against “The English”, and this is indeed happening.   Alex Salmond is a master at playing to the emotion of the crowd. My sorrow is that this in now stirring up anti-Scottish sentiment in our 60 million neighbours, cousins and previous friends. My hope is that we can quickly get through and past this episode without releasing the spectre of racism from the Pandora’s box that is foolishly being unlocked. It is not too late to put out this fire before it burns us all.

Acceptable Nationalism?

Can nationalism ever be more than a dirty word? An inward looking concept – fuelled by the identity with a particular group, and by the exclusion and minimisation of “the other”?

I was struck in reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes by the fragility of an accepting and tolerant society. The Austrian Empire up to Franz Joseph seems to have thrived on acceptance and tolerance, or many races – including the jews. And yet. The Nazi Putsch changed everything – in a heartbeat. The same could probably be applied to the Wehrmacht through to 1933.

Nationalism certainly has the potential to release an infectious plague of ugly emotions from the Pandora’s box of a tolerant pluralistic society. What are the balancing reasons for turning that key and letting fly those negative divisive emotions? They should necessarily be overwhelmingly powerful.

The thing is, living here in Scotland I just don’t see them.

Perhaps I’m confused or overly fearful, or maybe just missing something.

What was the quote – jingoism the last bastion or refuge of the scoundrel?

Scottish Independence – Economic Myth

Scotland will be wealthier as a independent nation. An independent Scotland will be one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

Statements that nats would have you believe. An intelligent friend of mine repeated these to me. So for her, and reprinted from David Smith’s article in the Sunday Times 22nd September (and not subsequently denied by the go-loners):

1. The UKs oil production has fallen steadily from a peak in 1998 of 125m tonnes to 40 m tonnes last year and is (independently) forecast to continue to fall
2. Scotland’s per capita public expenditure is 11% higher than the rest of the UK
3. Scotland has over 50% of GDP in the public sector (generating wealth?). This is 5 percentage points higher than the rest of the UK
4. Scotlands trade is 60% with the rest of the UK. In five years since split Czech and Slovak trading with each other fell by more than half. Over the decades since Ireland split with UK trading fell by more than 70%

Divorce from the UK that the Scots eg Keir Hadie built with the
rest of this island – fair enough if openly willed. Do that to be richer? I don’t think so.

We would all be impoverished. Oh, and yes I have an agenda. A man born in England – at home in Scotland over almost 30 years – I fear for an unnecessary release of racism. Continue reading

Scotland is an idea…

… a dream and a gift. Outgoing, passionate, vibrant, edgy, generous, educated, intellectual, yeasty.

What loss to the world if this were once again to be bound to the rock of jingoism and re-contained in the economics of a small land, with a declining and ageing population on the rainy margins of Europe.