Powerful and accurate piece from Laurie, for which gratitude.
‘There is an urban legend about boiling frogs, and it goes like this. If you put a frog in a pan of cold water and slowly, slowly turn up the heat, the frog will sit there quite calmly until it boils to death. Creeping cultural change is like that. It’s hard to spot when you’re living inside it. You can stay very still while the mood of a society becomes harder and meaner and uglier by stages, telling yourself that everything is going to be fine as all around you, the water begins to bubble.’
Yes. The writer notices the ‘harder and meaner and uglier’, the strategic pushing of ‘us and them’, so we fail to see creeping cultural change which serves the rich and powerful, and turns the rest of us into a commodity, into cattle.
This may seem like an odd post for a therapy service – but every word, every act has a political dimension. It would make no sense to seek to support the individual human beings who come to this service in realizing a more meaningful, loving, holistic way of being with themselves and others, whilst ignoring our cultural context. There is, we think, an ethical imperative to speak and act, and a practical one – before it is too late.
‘The behaviour of the British and wider European elite towards migrants is not simple inhumanity. It is strategic inhumanity. It is weaponised inhumanity designed to convince populations fracturing under hammer-blows of austerity and economic chaos that the enemy is out there, that there is an “us” that must be protected from “them”. There is a reason why David Cameron’s precise suggestion as to how to deal with the desperate human beings coming across the channel is “more dogs and fences”. There is a reason that Angela Merkel’s response, in June, to a demonstration where the bodies of drowned migrants were buried on the front lawn of the Bundestag was stony silence. All of this has happened before. All of this, in fact, is precisely what the European Union was established to prevent.
Fascism happens when a culture fracturing along social lines is encouraged to unite against a perceived external threat. It’s the terrifying “not us” that gives the false impression that there is an “us” to defend.’
We have our own experiences at this service in recent years, graphically illustrating what happens on a personal or organisational fractal within this kind of a cultural change process. How willing people are simply to disregard facts and evidence, in favour of story – which rapidly takes so many steps sideways from the truth, that the truth becomes hopelessly buried. How people will step into the rhetoric of fear and hate, blame and punishment and ‘we must protect ourselves’ by controlling others, while the real issues go unnoticed. How reason vanishes from the debate, and the toxic press – Daily Mail in particular take a bow – throws logs on the fire, with utter disregard for facts, ethics, justice or humanity. It is urgent that those of us who do not sign up for this, say so, and somehow find ways not to allow personal fear to keep us silent and inert, as the collective shadow grows. The source of change lies – of course – in empathy, compassion, presence and authenticity.
‘Human decency, however, has been factored out of the equation – on purpose. Britain and the rest of Europe have deliberately been whipped up into a state of panic over migration, and when people are panicking, they don’t really listen to reason. No amount of reassuring statistics – for instance, that the number of refugees in Britain is not only low, but falling – is going to help when you have the Daily Mail drawing cartoons peopled with racist caricatures where drowned “illegals” are trying to jump the fence into heaven ahead of recently-deceased national treasures and a culture where this is considered publishable in the daily news. This is a debate that tore loose from the facts a long time ago.
So perhaps we should take a different approach. Perhaps those of us lucky enough to be European citizens should take a deep breath and realise that maybe, just maybe, our feelings might not be the most important thing here. That maybe if thousands of people are desperate enough to risk death to come to our shores, whether or not we’re entirely comfortable having them move to our area should not be the deciding factor in policymaking.’
Thank you to Reuben Woolley for posting this on Facebook and drawing our attention to it. Here’s Reuben, if you too are not a silent poet:-
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994