George Monbiot in his Guardian article (11/09/19) about the power of ideology, and how it is always based on some philosophical ground, says,
“We make a mistake when we assume that money is the main motivation. Our unreformed, corrupt and corrupting political funding system ensures it is an important factor. But what counts above all else is ideology, as ideology successfully pursued is the means to power. You cannot exercise true power over other people unless you can shape the way they think, and shape their behaviour on the basis of that thought.” George Monbiot “The insidious ideology pushing us towards a Brexit cliff-edge.“
The Reagan / Thatcherite neoliberal philosophical ground that many in the Conservative party and U.K. media are still wedded to (i.e. in the book “Britain Unchained” by Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Liz Truss) diminishes suffering and vulnerability, it regards inequality as inevitable and advocates competition, personal responsibility, along with blame and punishment. There is a harshness which points towards its psychological underpinnings. It is an intellectual perspective based on a deeply unconscious emotional identification that flows from the need to avoid feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. The pursuit of wealth, and power over others, is so clearly motivated by the need to sooth the wounds of insecurity. Controlling what people think is just a sophisticated way of going about it, and those with wealth and power fight hard to protect it. As difficult it might be to believe it, these people are trapped in their own insecurity, fighting their own nightmares whilst causing untold damage in their selfish wake. Trump is just the most obvious example, but it seems there are many determinedly trying to manipulate the world from “behind the scenes”.
Such positions simply reflect how the heart has been split off and buried, leaving the intellect devoid of compassion and common sense. The heart then ends up in a disconnected bunker of cheap sentimentality. For such people there is very limited connection to compassion, with its openness to vulnerability, insecurity, suffering and love, or to a way of being that embodies a deep and generous open-heartedness. These defence / attack strategies are about the constant need to avoid traumatic wounds being re-activated, whether these came from a lack of love or a surplus of criticalness, whether from being dispatched to boarding school or from pernicious effects of poverty and deprivation. When we are wounded in this way, opening our hearts inevitably means facing the pain deep in our psyches. In many ways it is easier to continue denying it and project the problems onto “the other”, be it the E.U., immigrants, “benefit scroungers”, etc., or onto the idea of a powerful “saviour”, or even onto “Remain”. The power of the resistance and attachment to fixed positions can be understood from how, so often the first response of someone traumatised by the lack of love, to being offered it, is to reject it. Because to accept would mean opening the heart and meeting the pain, hurt, fear or distress that had been kept at bay. We often see this process resolve when people manage to feel the hurt and upset behind their anger or resistance.
This disconnection of the head, heart and body which trauma causes, is displayed when any perspective is overly identified with or attached to. Ideas deprived of the wisdom of the body and heart become fervently believed in and become the blinkered and entrenched perspectives in politics, philosophy and religion. Every stick has two ends and we so easily forget that our world is defined by duality and get seduced into identifying with one end or the other, when the more holistic perspective knows that light needs dark, that “in” is dependent on “out” for its existence. We need to hold all “sticks” lightly and in question, i.e. without compulsive attachment.
It is the curse of human nature that trauma causes us to get lost and unbalanced, with such tragic consequences. When the pain, hurt, fear, distress from trauma is denied and buried, it inevitably turns sour and negative within us. This then gets defensively projected out as negative and destructive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, either against the self, the “other” or the world. Add to this how trauma is so often passed from generation to generation and the tragedy only deepens. Although as a therapist I do see all the time, how, given half a chance, healing and repair can occur and the automatic generational transfer stopped.
The tenacious, and even violent, resistance to change that this defence process provokes only compounds our difficulties. However, in the wider scheme of things I see how all this is part of the situation whereby, as human beings, we have the extraordinary capacity of choice and self-consciousness. This is about our potential to develop the capacity to consciously take responsibility for ourselves, through choosing not to continue to unconsciously “act out” and inflict our trauma on ourselves, others, or the world. Indeed, we have a deep responsibility to make this choice and whilst we find this very hard, easy choices are not so meaningful.
There is though, thank goodness, one hugely mitigating aspect to our situation. This comes from how the evolutionary force of Life is always gently trying to push us towards healing, integration, development and health. This force tends to work slowly and steadily however, when our currently climate crisis seems to be getting desperate.
Our political struggles are not just about power, money, influence, control, (and psychology), they are, as Monbiot argued, fundamentally about philosophy. Marianne Williamson’s book “A Politics of Love” makes the case well for how our philosophy needs to be based on re-connecting with our hearts, however broken they are, so that we can make the step-change we need to of caring enough to really try and save the planet, to heal society, to have compassion for ourselves and each other. It is about acting from the passionate seeing of the need for change, but from love, not from getting caught into fighting and opposing. When we do that we have “lost the plot”. Opening to this love and healing is urgently needed if we are to repair our sick world, and our unhappy selves, in time. Whilst the future is obviously well beyond our ability to define or control, we are each responsible for it in our own tiny way.
Despite my understanding of the necessity for us to increasingly take responsibility for ourselves and our choices – (alongside understanding why we find “growing up” such an incredibly difficult task, deeply attached as we are to our “victim” self-stories in defence against the pain of trauma we have not yet been able to face) – I still end up on the left side of the political spectrum. This is because it is clear that unfettered capitalism inflicts so much suffering and is so profoundly undemocratic and unfair. We need a new radical left, not an old “hard” left wedded to outdated ideology, or some wishy-washy left that just facilitates the status quo. We need a new politics which has love and compassion at its heart, able to forge radically new and creative ways of organising society. At the moment those on the Left seem to be the only people even looking in this direction.
In order to find the wisdom and creativity required for this we need the twin processes of our developmental, of both “working hard” and “allowing”, in order to become increasingly integrated human beings. Through this work of integrating our head, heart and body we can better access our spiritual connection, it is about embodying a here and now “wholeness” which is greater than the sum of its parts. Such “wholeness” is more able to access to the creativity that arises from beyond our personal ego. I see how many people are, through their work of taking responsibility for themselves and expanding their consciousness, helping to turbo-charge our inherent evolutionary development. This is the hope.
The “accepted” and “practical” neoliberal economic policies of the centre and right of many Western democracies are the result of this disconnection with the heart, (as are policies of the “hard” left). The re-integration and re-sensitisation of the heart will inevitably give us new priorities, and I think this is slowly emerging as our society’s trauma is gradually healed, despite the current resurgence of the far right and all the anger around over Brexit.
There are of course all the practical physical constraints on what change is possible, especially around the spending of money we do not have, but it is as though we have all been under some huge hypnotic spell (spun in no small part by those with enormous wealth and power that control so much of our media) that has prevented us from being able to imagine alternatives to our outdated status quo. Love does not cost money, it is about organising society around priorities that have compassion at their core, rather than GDP or “Austerity”. It is surely possible to re-prioritising government spending, to increase taxes somewhat and to restructure civic society with equality, compassion and sustainability at its heart. Economics must take a subservient role, not a dominant one; not dismissed, but facilitative of the priorities that love and compassion provide. As part of this there needs to be a deepening of democracy, an essential part of which is developing a new emphasis on self-responsibility to replace bureaucracy wherever possible. Local communities need to be responsible and committed to caring for those in need within them, whilst being appropriately funded of course.
It seems that the last century’s experiments with socialism were all premature and bound to fail, the level of human consciousness within those societies were not yet sufficiently developed. Is it too over optimistic to see what is being painfully born out of our current dissatisfaction with capitalism, as a new level of consciousness, one that is more capable of bringing love and compassion into our politics? That Marianne Williamson stood as a presidential candidate in the US is surely a sign of something. Maybe we need a new name to replace “socialism”, perhaps “Integralism”? Whatever we call it, we desperately need this new integration to help us to save the planet and develop ourselves. It seems many people are exploring this in all sorts of ways, so perhaps a tipping point is closer than the cynical part of me dares to hope?