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Calm Down Dear

March 11, 2016

I’m in the middle of a fantastic book at the moment that I’d highly recommend. It’s “Wounded Leaders” by Nick Duffell. In the book, Duffell examines the impact that being sent to boarding school at aged seven has on our country’s leaders. Bear in mind that 2/3rd of the current Conservative party have been through this system, Duffell suggests that the legacy of this experience actually results in the antithesis of what makes a good leader. The commonalities that Duffell identifies are: constantly alert for attack; devoid of empathy; unable to work collaboratively, to name but three. Duffell talks about how the personality organises itself in a hyper defensive way, creating stress but unable to deal with it; being incapable of admitting mistakes or making long term decisions for the common good. Rather the opposite happens and instead we get short term, survival based and self interest dominated solutions. The exact opposite qualities of what a good leader needs. People who have been through this early system tend to have difficulty with emotions, so being authentic and maintaining authentic relationships becomes problematic. Anyone outside of this system is made into an object of derision and loathing. Because anyone outside is unfamiliar, fear strikes up and they have to be dominated rather than related to.

Does all of this sound familiar? Duffell claims that all these points are encapsulated in David Cameron’s infamous dispatch box hectoring of Angela Eagles, “Calm down dear”. Intuitively, feeling fear, he flipped it over and attacked Eagles, suggesting that she was the one feeling the anxiety. Check out the clip on YouTube and watch George Osbourne joining in with a satisfied but cruel laugh. It’s the epitome of ” leaders” bullying to disassociate from their own anxiety.

I believe that over the past few years this has become the model for all who hold power. In its own brittle way, it works very successfully. It’s got nothing to do with leadership but everything to do with entitled power.

Back in 2010, I took my work colleague Mary with me to the first DoLS challenge meeting. There were ten professionals present. After the meeting we went for a drink and I asked Mary for one word to sum up the corporate mood of the meeting. She said “frightened”. We couldn’t work out why they were so frightened. There were ten of them and two of us. They held all the power. We decided that the very fact that their duplicitous actions were being challenged was enough to produce an unbearable fear. The only response was to wield even more power and to crush the challengers.

Yesterday, a photo was all over the Internet of a Mencap support worker having a fag and talking on her phone. She had dumped several bags of shopping on the person in a wheelchair that she was meant to be supporting. Cue the Mencap spokesman delivering standard lines about ” lessons being learned” and “taking the needs of the service users very seriously”. Meaningless platitudes from ” The Voice of Learning Disability”. And then BAMM. Mr Mencap ends his statement with, “we offer the highest quality of care to our beneficiaries”. There it is. You are a beneficiary of our wonderfulness. Now get back in your place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the latest political scandal, a disaster like Hillsborough, a 1000+ unexpected, uninvestigated deaths at Southern Health. The sole purpose is to quash the challenge by exercising power, preferably achieving more power in the process.

If I got Steven to run these statements through his silly talking meter for their actual meaning, I know how he’d respond. ” Dad. Man’s saying Fuck Off, Dad. Big, massive, shouty FUCK OFF”.

Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt issued an utterly meaningless statement about investigating “accidents” in the NHS. It’s so offensively trite, I cannot bear trying to deconstruct it. Except he talked about “intelligent transparency”. It takes several years in boarding school, as Mr Hunt experienced, to believe that transparency needs an adjective. Transparency is the very thing that will strike fear in the guts of the people holding people. Their formative learning leads to self Protective duplicity. So let’s throw in an adjective like ” intelligent” that shuts you up and Reinforces our power.

In the fabulous film, The Tale of Laughing Boy, Rich Huggins called for us to be “more like Connor’s”. I think Rich has missed something because what makes Justice For LB so perfect (and threatening) is that it has evolved and is conducted just like Connor. Through its straight forwardness and possibly, it’s naivety, it is awe inspiringly threatening to the people who hold the power. It’s a heartbreaking, frustratingly long journey because each time a truth emerges, the doors slam even more firmly shut. But I’m sure Duffell would argue that was inevitable – a collision between the authentic and the duplicitous. The campaign, especially Sara Ryan, have had much worse than ” calm down dear” thrown at her.

But whether it’s Hunt with his “intelligent transparency”, Mencap with their ” beneficiaries” or Southern Health with their endless viral flotilla crap language, it’s all the same.

It’s a big, massive, shouty, Shut The Fuck Up.


From → Social Care

  1. weary mother permalink

    Breathtakingly powerfully brilliant Mark.
    At first glance I read ‘offensively trite’ as ‘offensive tripe’ …..both fit?

  2. Frannie permalink

    Brilliant as ever

  3. Reblogged this on danutag57.

  4. Captured in a Nutshell.

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