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Friday, 26 February 2021

The Great Deflection: Gaslighting for Beginners

Gaslighting is an overused phrase in modern social media parlance largely because it is actually  the most successful form of getting away with it and has been for years.

The first of lesson in gaslighting is that it's never your fault. Especially if you are a man. Great examples of the ancient form, she's a witch who some how used her magic spells to make you want to have sex with her. Temptress, harlot, progressing neatly to the modern day golddigger or perhaps, if she hadn't worn that short skirt and flashed her eyes like that, you would never have noticed her. Her constant complaining made you want to have an affair. .

Second lesson of gaslighting is do not under any circumstances admit guilt. This is actually the hardest part. The whole point of gaslighting is exposing the weakness in other people. The worst think you can therefore do is let your own weakness come to the fore. Denial even in the face of absolute truth is very powerful. Because your accuser has to accuse you of lying or question her own evidence. The accusation of lying against a partner is almost the nuclear option. Partners are less likely to throw a bomb into a relationship because the consequence of such a truth is that the relationship has to end. By denying this truth, the accuser has to work backwards to explain away evidence. The self-doubt generated is extraordinary. Done once, a crack is opened in the door, it's easy to force the window wider and gaslighting is in full swing. Examples of this including, you being seen kissing a girl only to be explained as a quick peck on the cheek with a friend, persuading the accuser that they didn't see the kiss at all.

The third lesson is deflection. If the rules of blame and denial are failing, it's now better to create a diversion. Classic in this genre is to declare illness. Your partner will immediately be obliged to show sympathy and if they area already semi-gaslighted they will be happy to accept the excuse not to face the truth. The gaslit partner is the most caring ever. The other form of deflection is that common in the legal form. Blame the process, make them question procedure because whilst all your accusers are discussing which is the correct process, the rules of the game, you're still getting away with it.

It's an artform and can be taken to any extreme. Practice is the key. Once you experience and see how powerful it is to reduce your accuser to doubting their own self-worth, the game is won. Once you see it, it can't be unseen. it's everywhere in life, in the workplace, in politics, especially in the government. 

Government are the masters of  gaslighting, persuading a nation that the countries problems they created are somehow the fault of foreigners, bureaucracy, looney left councils, single mothers or anyone who gives a shit. 

Practice makes perfect. The gaslighter has nothing to fear from the truth because the truth is whatever you say it is.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

People who love the flag too much


I’ve never been a flag worshipper of any type. As someone growing up with the National Front and the British National Party hoarding the flag like a political accessory, I found it represented everything I wasn’t. Plus on the streets where I grew up I didn’t find the flag much of visible presence. The St George’s Cross I honestly would not have recognised until well into the eighties. Most flags I saw were football ones and even those I avoided because being openly partisan at school or in the street usually resulted in a punch on the nose.

That’s stuck with me despite being an England fan in sports and enjoying football. I never felt the need to wear the kit or the flag.

In 2003 when I went to work in The Hague national flags suddenly became of interest and I had to think about the flag that was supposed to represent me. The Dutch national flag which was visible quite often on people’s houses and they seemed far prouder of their flag than I was off my own. In a multinational office many people had their desk adorned with a neat national flag. Malaysia, Germany, France, Singapore, South Africa, USA. Flags abundant. But I was reluctant to get a Union Jack flag. Why was that? Here was all my colleagues quite proud of their country and here is me reticent of the same.

Eventually I brought out the flag as part of the frequent sports banter that adorns any office and became easier to showcase my colours. Plus it is fact that I cannot change. I am British and this flag is the most recognisable form to other people. England flag the same. I am as English, British as it comes and I cannot claim any other heritage of meaning. Such a claim would have been mighty hand come the Brexit years.

The striking thing I learnt in those years was not only people’s love of Britishness, Englishness and much of our traditions and habits, it was quite clear they often appreciated things I never did. The tourist sights, our habits, our ultra-long winded way of saying something simple. They seemed to delight in these quirks so I should too. It taught me to be own my heritage a little more. It wasn’t something to deny but actually celebrate.

It’s not easy to shake off those who feel patriotism only belongs to right wing politics. Especially in recent years as this theme has returned with a vengeance as identity politics grows. So I still have to fight the assumption that someone waving a British flag isn’t also a nationalist, a racist, someone full of hate for other nationalities. The thing I learnt more than anything in The Hague was, whilst we had some banter and fun poking about national traits it was never negative or competitive. No malice came with it. Loving your own country doesn’t mean hating another.

The union jack wavers I too often see at home and tattooed on arms frequently are not so altruistic. It’s a zero sum game.

I remember in the 80’s Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher’s right wing ideologists talked about his cricket test. This meant if you didn’t support England at the cricket then you were not a patriot, directly and deliberately challenging those of South Asian or Caribbean origins for being proud of their heritage. This divisiveness is still prevalent today though the EU flag being the recent enemy of choice is all about saying you can’t be both British and European. You can’t be both Indian and British.

It works as well. It plays wonderfully to those who believe that immigration has taken something from them. Also a complete insult to those who found love for the complex and fascinating idea of wanting to be both things at once. And why can’t we? We are none of us one thing so why does our nationality have to enforce a rigid and xenophobic approach to those not born to that flag. The deeper I think about it the more farcical and ridiculous it becomes. The fact that we test people’s patriotism or love of a country by a flag just becomes silly.

It’s not to say other countries don’t have similar problems with flags and what they represent. I remember being caught up in very brutal argument about Dutch racism. It was about Zwarte Pete and the representation of slave labour. The white Dutch telling the black Dutch how he should feel about it. Always an interesting lesson in point of view when I watch someone being denied their own experience.

I don’t believe I will ever have a love for the union jack or any single flag because I don’t want the flag to define me. If I had all the flags that represent me now it would be about 10 different ones from India to the EU. All of them represent a part of me and that is something I am proud of.   

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Priti Patel: Hero or Traitor to the liberal cause

 Clearly Priti Patel is no hero to liberalism so the question is easily answered. And in truth I don't want to waste this blog discussing her as an individual. I don't know her as a person and frankly care less about her. I am more interested in what she represents.

As a woman of South Asian ethnic origin in one of the three great positions of state she should be a role model, hero of women of similar origin. This is an Asian woman alongside other Asian male colleagues who are at senior levels of government. On all levels of achievement it is remarkable and refreshing to see in the seats of power. It should demonstrate the power of meritocracy in a multi-cultural society. All of us should be applauding and acknowledging the benefits of multi-culturism. 

And there lies the problem.

These people didn't land their jobs in government on the back of such values. They did not enter the government flying the flag of inclusive representation. In fact each one of them signed up to the opposite. 

Individually each of the progressions is remarkable in itself. That they have navigated the political environment and found a way to the top is some ways a lesson to us all .You can do it. But the point is, whatever route they took, it was opportune to them and probably fortuitous. One of the key eligibility criteria particularly for this government is to sign up to the message that the system works for them and therefore by default for everyone else.

Where other people falter, where statistics back up the absolute fundamental fact that women and Asians are so poorly represented at highest levels of organisations, it's obvious the system doesn't work. By denying that truth to their peers, they gaslight the nation into believing there is no problem.

This is the worst message for the country. It is the worse messages for the women and people of colour who are more than qualified for leadership but  they are denied opportunities. That their failure is their own fault for not working hard enough, not playing the game, not making the moral compromises they did. 

I remember Thatcher's attitude to other women in her party. She herself was totally dismissive of the female experience. She promoted a message  that not only were females generally flawed in leadership roles despite her position, she showed you had to be more ruthless and tough than men. What a poor legacy to leave behind?

All of this denial of the experience makes it much harder for anyone else. It gives power to the white establishment base to point to Priti or Rishi and say, they can do it, so anyone can. Therefore there is no problem. Discussion over.

There was a debate last year over racism experience in public life. Priti Patel spoke eloquently of her experience of racist abuse in her life.  Stark and horrific abuse. Empathy for that experience was all around except that she chose to weaponise that experience and deny the same voice to other black or Asian women. Her point was, I experienced it and survived, so it's alright then. Saying to every other dark skinned woman, get over it. As home Secretary this is astonishing. We almost expect it from an accused male to blame a raped woman for  his act because she was asking for it due to some clothing she wore. How often do we hear women as well as men, joining in the debate to side with the abuser and not the victim. Too often.  This just shows how those shielded from such experiences or having got over them, deny empathy to those who are suffering victims, making excuses for the abusers. 

Here we have a home secretary saying that women of colour, people of colour have to get over it rather than make the debate about the abusers. 

This is why she betrays her origins. With power comes responsibility and also opportunity. People such as the home secretary as a woman of colour could be a major cheer leader for her peers. But instead, to win favour with her government colleagues, she does the opposite. 

Fundamentally this is a double whammy of disappointment for her potential successors.  Not only to succeed do you have to make moral compromises to deny your own heritage, you have to deny the opportunity to others. It's sick, frightening and immensely frustrating. 

That those who should be role models are the worst advocates for their own peers could be a door closing hard on them.

Not only does that make her a traitor to her peers but the greatest ally of racists. The exception that proves the rule 

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Anti-Woke: Ignorance in a better suit

Confession: I'm a man and also astonishingly white as a boy from Manchester gets. My apparent Red Wall upbringing of hard core anti-liberalism, a vital dose of sexism and an education steeped in religious puritanism (or lets' call it what it is.. Racism) should be all that I am. At the age of 50 something I should be angry at statues, angry at foreigners, the EU and especially women. They've all apparently stole something from me. 

Only I've no idea what. I find that meeting new people and learning about their experience is good for me and good for them. 

As a white man I've always been a bit careful of commenting on affairs of race and sex. The temptation to preach and patronise is waiting for an invitation.  So I've stuck to a more individual approach avoiding being the smart ass.

But a friend spoke to me about being a stronger voice for minority groups. When victims of injustices speak out the response is to treat them as victims, at arms length and allow their individual stories to deny that their experience is common place.  In recent decades this victim blaming reduced and inequality campaigns found not only people listening but actually being inclusive was quite good for business. I thought my advocation was unnecessary.

But racists and sexists are not done yet. Realising that being called a racist was a bit 1970's they've come up with a new word. Woke. This allowed them to deny any progressive discussion on inequality. The trick is for them to be able to insult the good guys. Like remainer made the protection of the status quo a radical position, woke uses the same tactic to undermine those who like to be polite and tell positive stories of culture. 

Being anti-woke is a reversal of polarity giving favour to racists and sexists and anyone who wants to deny other human elements. It works. The word has grown in power and regularly appears in newspapers and tv media. Woke equals bad, establishment, token culture. Anti-woke is somehow enlightened position of the real world experience where bad behaviour has a get out of jail free card... something about free speech or natural order or the real money spinner, that somehow they are being denied something. Woke is theft of experience or freedom. Giving something to minority groups is taking away from white men. Utter bollocks but paranoid positions attract anyone looking to blame someone else for their failures. 

So being an advocate for minority positions, being an active supporter of victims and challenging those who chose hate instead of fairness is a good thing. I will endeavour not to hide my light under a bushel and use my privilege to do better.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Returning to the fray

 I took a few years off from writing seriously and blogging.

Part of that was circumstances with a busy job but also lacking confidence in my own place as a writer, my level of skill and whether I was playing at it or not.

Plus following my last dig into politics in Death of a Kingdom, the political debate around these topic lines went toxic and difficult to navigate. I commented on much of the matters in the books I wrote with an anti-nationalist verve and anti-hate. But following Brexit...the consensus I felt existed around this anti-nationalist sentiment was blown apart. I couldn't understand how much hate there was around, particularly for foreigners unleashed in open conversation. I confess to not being able to answer that question and probably never will. People call it 'woke' like it is kind of insult to look for good in people and try to be honest around our historical/national flaws. Nothing is ever perfect but the chance to learn from mistakes is what makes us intelligent beings. Plus the assumption that our neighbours only exist to rob us or possess us... where does that kind of paranoia leave us? See I'm doing it again.

But I have learnt to moderate my thinking, to accept that a different view of the world is prevalent. 

In writing, I have always found my heroes at the back of queue for greatness and used my words to give them a status they would never have found. I've broadened the net now and will try to talk more about that in this blog and try to avoid the bonfire of debate in the toxic hell of divisive politics.

I've also travelled a fair bit in last five years and my outlook is broader and more inspired. If that doesn't get me writing, what would.

Lots more to come in new blogs but for the moment will reinstate myself on the landscape and say hello once more

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Obama lights a fire

I’ve enjoyed the EU referendum debate for the most part because I’ve been wanting to argue the remain side as passionately as Exiters have dismissed our European neighbours in the superior, we know better tone, they love to use whilst wrapped in an Union Jack and a rack of military medals. I do find it odd that the instinctive military formed nationalism certain media love to portray is based around hatred of the continent many thought hard to defend. Our world war two heritage should give us moral authority in Europe but instead we wasted that with paranoia and a superiority complex. The world has moved on without caring for the opinions of the British.

That’s why it’s good to see Obama light a fire under the debate and tell us all, it’s not just about you little Britain. It’s about everyone and it’s about time you woke up to see that the civilised world does not stop at the white cliffs of Dover.

So now the debate has extra vim and gusto as the US tells us what’s right and Brexit screams in lame protest. It’s ok for the Daily Mail and it’s off shore media moguls to make up twaddle about the Europe and tell us what’s right but the US President… no way. His opinion doesn’t count at all.

American arrogance decorates his words which is often the thing that most winds us up across the Atlantic. But swap Obama for Trump or Clinton and do we really think the message would be any different. It’s only a few months ago we debated Trump's arrogance and blatant racism in Parliament so don’t expect him to be reaching hands across the water. I am confident American high opinions don't have any overt influence over us but it is worth remembering that if we are not in the EU we will need America more and more. To say differently is nonsense. Shun and hate it all you like, but switch on the TV, and flick through the channels. Tell me they don’t already dominate our language, our media, our lives. The price we pay for more trade will likely be on terms we won’t enjoy. The US may even demand equal employment terms for exporting companies. There goes the minimum wage. Take annual holidays. Many US corporations give employees two weeks leave a year. In the EU it’s a minimum of four weeks in most cases. I know what I’m voting for.  

Obama has waded into the debate with heavy boots but take heed not of the threat, but the reality of a world where we are on our own. Yes nations will want to sell us the same and more than they do today, but don’t pretend those nations will give a toss about our marvellous history. Think of Tesco’s doing a deal with a lowly farmer as they screw them into the ground and that’s pretty much how others will see the UK opportunity. Think of China licking their lips. Soon they will have influence over every major investment the UK has. No longer dominated by the EU but bought and paid for by China.

Like any bully, a threat says more about them then it does about us. But like most bully’s we can’t ignore them. We can reach a hand out to shake in friendship but the US is just as likely to pull a raspberry in our faces as reciprocate the handshake.

Vote remain, is about good sense not fear.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

2nd May – The great GBSD day out!

The political landscape changed forever. The clowns can no longer be ignored. The British people have spoken and the politicians of the major parties must listen. The day where the politics of GBSD came to life.
UKIP stand’s for UK independence party but also equally works as GBSD, the Great British Self Delusion. When you read a manifesto from the UKIP, which if you have, good luck to you, because it’s more than most of the party, you get a real handle on the extent of the delusion. To be honest the manifesto is pretty much taken from the editorial highlights of the Daily Mail. Pick up this journal every day and you’ll get the picture.
The question of why the 2nd May is such a big day comes back to the message of GBSD. This is a lot more than a protest vote, GBSD offers much more than that. It is the belief that somewhere on earth there is a place where we are better than anyone else. That because on our Island we are clearly better by breed, as long as we keep everyone else away from the shores, then we will do very well thank you very much and the rest of the world can drown in its own vial un-English hell.
Why do we believe this shit? It’s not like the established parties don’t peddle the same hogwash every day, but because we have a fresh nob saying it who doesn’t have to dress it up in pretty pictures we suddenly believe it. Why do we suddenly believe one pompous arse can do better than the pompous arses that are already decorating our TV screens? The only advantage Farage has is that he readily admits his own ridiculousness. For this 25% of the folk who could be bothered to step out of the comfort of their own sheds this is a message worth listening to.
The media essentially created GBSD as the alternative world of anti-everything. The place where everything you don’t like is taken away and you’re only left with whatever you like. GBSD is the party of perfection perception. The pretend world where reality is locked away in a Europe shaped box and the key thrown away.
GBSD works because reality is hard to manage. Dealing with the world as it is, recognising that decent people exist in all shades and languages, and that the bogeyman is far closer to home would break open the fallacy of GBSD.  But we don’t want to hear that. So GBSD sounds far better. Good luck to Farage for generating the GBSD debate. Perhaps only when reality breaks open the GBSD mould, we might start listening to politicians who deal with reality as reality and people as people.
We can hope that next time the 2nd May big day out occurs, it’s something to truly write about.