Ladies and gentlemen, where are we are the path of psychological recovery after learning, not only that our country is not only flat broke, but that our prosperity in the last ten years was a house built on sand?
Denial about the banking crisis is over
I believe we are out of denial. Do you agree? Not everyone understands the extent of our financial woes, or the rate that they are getting worse, but we have grasped that when we wake up in the morning, the problem will still be with us.
Anger about the banking crisis . . . still with us?
Much of the citizenry is still very angry about the financial crisis. We are still looking for someone to blame and somebody to hurt back in return for the hurt we have suffered?
Am I right so far?
Depression . . . the politicians are depressed about the crisis?
Politicians, to a man and woman, seem depressed about the crisis. They are busy having meetings and telephone conference calls. But by-and-large, they are being busy. Of course, they are busy. They are ‘shaking the tree’ or in the parlance of a domestic household, looking down the sofa for small change to pay the rent. That doesn’t put anyone in a good mood. But their gloom is the result of more than penny-pinching and cash flow management.
Do you think they are acting with a positive sense of the future or just getting-by?
Bargaining . . . what does bargaining look like?
What does bargaining look like anyway? I don’t really know.
In other countries and other crises, I have seen people protest a country’s position ‘between a rock and a hard place’ by going on ‘fasts’ (not, hunger strikes, ‘fasts’ or ‘pacts with God’). The country didn’t move forward very much but the fasters did get very slim and they learned to get up early in the morning. I can say that for their methods. Whether their lives improved in other ways, I doubt. Unsurprisingly, they did very little work. Their electronic diaries were pristine with the exception of their prayer schedules.
The secular equivalent of keeping one’s head down can be just as dangerous, by-the-way. It normally involves being very busy doing-the-boss’-bidding while he or she sits out of harm’s way- a bit as Carne Ross described in talk at LSE this week on life as British diplomat.
Does satire play the role of bargaining? Does laughing about ‘their idiocy’ without taking action not perform the same function of reducing emotional concerns without moving forward? Resignation rather than adjustment which is really a form of bargaining? If I laugh, then it will be alright?
Is writing this post a form of bargaining? I guess it is. I am being an observer of ‘them’.
Adjustment . . . is it possible? Can we just adjust and get on with it?
If I don’t really understand bargaining (as much because we think this stage of recovery is a delaying tactic rather than useful), I do know what adjustment is going to mean.
Adjustment is accepting that we were all part of the mess and are all part of the mess.
Adjustment rests on a foundation of “who we are”. Who are we loyal to? Who is ‘me and mine’? Until we really feel solidarity with each other and are willingly to form a new social compact based on that solidarity, then we aren’t going anywhere fast. We will ‘lurching from church to school’. I’ve no idea where the expression came from but it conveys the idea.
Our solutions will be in direct proportion to our solidarity. While we hate each other, our solutions will be correspondingly mean and inadequate.
Getting to adjustment in a country that is in trouble
Getting to ‘adjustment’ when a country is severe trouble is a tough one. The psychological key is our own good temper, or whatever kernel of good temper that we can find.
When we identify what we believe is good in Britain, when we can point to what is, rather than to what we want to be (usually through someone else’s efforts); until we believe the something is sufficiently good that we are willing to get out of bed to work on it, whether or not anyone else is working on it, we – I mean you, I mean me – are not going anywhere very fast.
The questions, to me, are three fold:
- What is, right now, is so good that it fills me with awe?
- What is, right now, that I can bounce out of bed to look after and nurture?
- What am I willing to do right now, whether or not you support me or not, but which can include you if you want to be included?
Keeping my good temper intact
So here I am writing a post ‘about’ Britain – and in a way about what is wrong with Britain. Here I am apparently procrastinating and avoiding doing some work which has shards of pleasure and the sharp edges of tedium.
Am I being a hypocrite? Or am I saying that I like to process the news and know what I think and feel? Am I saying that I like to read between the lines and see the big events that might be affecting us all (the government is looking for small change down the sofa)? Am I saying that I like to use the heuristics I have gathered over the years to think economically? Am I saying that I think people like Carne Ross (apostate diplomat) are right? Change in UK will not start in Whitehall. It will start at street-level with small matters, with whatever we care about executed, not an angry, contested manner (even when that is concealed under do-goodery), but in a respectful, collaborative manner that demonstrates democracy in the minute detail? Am I saying that I like Web2.0 (blogs etc) because they minimally give me a neat place to store my thoughts and writings and a place where others can read them if they choose?
And having cleared my mind, I can get back to work, because work is like hoovering the carpet – it’s not much fun but the results are pleasant.
And for every moment I spend doing work that matters, I might be building a foundation for future solidarity. And from there we might find solutions to build a Britain fit for the next 50 years.
So here ends my thoughts on where we are psychologically in making sense of the financial crisis using the well known heuristic of the grief cycle – denial/not us,anger/blame, depression/loss of direction, bargaining/magical thinking, action/affection. The kernel of your good temper is Britain’s future.