Monthly Archives: September 2012

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Three: Blood Sacrifice

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The rainbow seen over the Greater Manchester Police headquarters, photographed after the deaths of PC’s Bone and Hughes (Copyright: unknown)

Author’s Note:

Due to the sensitivity of this particular subject and the example used, I sought feedback from those likely to be most affected. It was, quite rightly, pointed out that there is a danger in suggesting that the murders of PC’s Bone and Hughes were somehow ‘necessary’. This is not, nor ever has been, my intention in writing about the psychological and spiritual implications of the scapegoat archetype. My concerns reside with the possible consequences of  unconsciously ‘acting out’ this archetypal energy, given the highly destructive power this can have on both  individuals and communities in a very literal way. It is a global human pattern of behaviour actively at work in the world at the present time. The purpose of my exploration is to heighten our awareness of these dangers as well as highlighting the creative and healing potentials available to all of us when we become ‘awake’ to how we are personally affected by this archetype.

There was no ‘need’ for PC Hughes and Bone to die such appalling deaths. There is a desperate need to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.

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To recap briefly, in the ancient Hebraic ritual of atonement, two goats were required to in order to successfully reconcile the community with God. (See “The Archetypal Scapegoat” Parts One and Two) This piece explores the role of the first goat; the blood sacrifice. Bearing in mind that the scapegoat archetype exists within the collective human psyche, it is important to remember that the ‘ritual’ can be enacted as sacred or profane at both conscious and unconscious levels.

To begin with the sacred, we need to understand that both scapegoats – the sacrifice and the exile – are not ‘dirty’ or ‘bad’. They are holy – each goat is an agent of atonement; a vessel for collective sins by which the community reconciles with the Divine – to become “at-one” with God. The sacrificed goat serves as a ‘sin-offering’ to placate the angry god for the ‘uncleanness’ of the community. In the ritual, the blood of the first goat cleanses and makes sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar which have been befouled by transgressions and sins of the people. The remains of this sin-offering were regarded at unclean and were burned outside the community.

Whilst, to modern secular minds, this might appear ancient and barbaric, it is nevertheless true that the ritual served a very important purpose because it cleansed the community of its psychic rubbish by openly acknowledging human faults and failings and taking steps to redress the balance from the worst we are capable of to the best. The sin-offering of the blood sacrifice was to atone with the Divine. Because this is an archetype within the human psyche, this cyclical pattern turns up in the history of many cultures and the blood sacrifice is not always an animal. We use humans too!

To understand why communities would enact such a ritual, it is important to realise the psychological components inherent within it. In Western culture, the greatest value within humanity resides within individual. Elsewhere the importance of the individual can be subsumed into the importance of the collective – the value is seen as belonging to the people as a whole, not to the individual themselves. To be selected as the blood sacrifice was regarded as an honour. To be chosen meant that, instead of merely being an ordinary part of the greater whole, the individual became a healing agent whose reward for their sacrifice was immediate union with God. The chosen one accepted the role because it meant they were sanctified as individuals, their sacrifice contributing to the reconciliation of the community as a whole with that deemed as sacred. They were never downtrodden tyrannised victims but honoured, holy volunteers whose gift of personal life enabled their community to survive. It is the ultimate sacrifice for the collective good, whether this is part of a cyclical cleansing or occurs as the result of some special crisis when the community realises it has lost its connection with the Divine.

In a secular, solar-focussed culture, the scapegoat archetype exists within both the individual and the collective psyche. None of us are ‘perfect’ and humanity wobbles between the best we can aspire to and the worst we are capable of. The archetype emerges during crises where we become severed from the best as a result of ‘sin’ or that which violates the essence of the sacred. Some rituals may result from ‘natural’ causes like famine or disaster but the pattern, as a psychological complex that compels us into the blood sacrifice, will always have its origins in human sin. What counts as ‘sin’ varies from culture to culture but, when the imbalance is experienced, we look for the necessary sacrifice required to redress the problem either consciously or unconsciously. We become ‘blood-thirsty’ priests, individually or collectively. It is important to remember that without the sacred aspect of the scapegoat ritual, the complex compels us into the ‘blood-bath’.

The initial creative impulse for this series came as the result of the murders of two unarmed police constables in Manchester, UK. Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were sent on what appeared to be a routine call, only to encounter a gunman who opened fire upon them with both bullets and a grenade. If these events are seen from a purely secular perspective, their untimely deaths might have little value and we could lose the sacred potentials inherent within the situation. If, however, the sacred element is seen and recognised for what it is, their deaths have the potential to act as a pharmakon, or healing agent, for a community that has lost its connection to the Divine-within. Bear in mind that the scapegoat is an archetype, not a religion – we need look to the spirit-within both the individuals and the community involved in order to grasp the concept at its deeper level of meaning. Whilst this event may have ramifications for UK society as a whole, the elements of the blood sacrifice are most obvious within the policing community.

The sacred element is already present within UK policing because each new constable is required to swear an Oath before they are permitted to work for and on behalf of the wider community. This is a collective requirement that imposes personal sacrifices upon each individual and sets the standards of behaviour necessary to discharge their public responsibilities. In terms of policing, the deepest sacred value belongs within the community, not the individual and is designed to protect that community from harm through prevention or ‘cure’.  The Office of Constable is therefore already a ‘pharmakon’ or healing agent for society – it is already sanctified.

In this instance, the scapegoat archetype or complex was triggered into existence by a special kind of crisis where the community itself had become so ‘unclean’ or sinful that the people had become disconnected from the sacred. Sadly, we do not have to look very far to see how that disconnection has and continues to occur within the UK police community. Whilst it is impossible to know what was going on in the mind of the perpetrator responsible, within the archetype itself both women meet the ritual requirements for a blood sacrifice. They were ‘chosen’ to answer a ‘shout’ and, by their oath, they had already accepted the possibility that they might find themselves in the role of sacrifice for the greater good of the community. From the wider understanding of the archetype, they became vessels for collective sin and the means by which the community reconnected with the sacred or divine. They became holy agents of atonement. Within this sacred dimension, to be chosen is an honour and the personal reward for accepting it means that their ‘souls’ or ‘essence’ go directly into the embrace of the Divine. Additionally, they become a ‘vessel’ for collective sin by which the community itself atones and reconciles with the Divine.

Given the close proximity in time that connects their deaths with the public exposure of corruption within the police, it is evident that the sacred element of the blood sacrifice has successfully impacted upon the collective psyche within the UK community. For the police themselves, levels of personal self-examination have been heightened as the word ‘vocation’ starts to be associated with the work itself. Although there are secular financial disputes between police and society, some constables are awakening to the realisation that they are called to this work simply because of who they are – a vocation contains a sacred quality that speaks to the best within us. Additionally, when officers were subsequently subject to aggression and verbal abuse by a member of government, the general public response was to support the police. I have to wonder if the public’s response would have been the same without the blood sacrifice of Nicola and Fiona, especially in the light of the contents of Hillsborough Report.

As a shaman, it is impossible not to notice the very close timing or synchronicity between the public exposure of ancient sins of the past (Hillsborough), a blood sacrifice and a subsequent ‘test’ to establish the veracity and sanctity of the sacrifice. However, the archetypal ritual/psychological complex of the scapegoat is not over. There is a second goat – the goat that escapes. This goat will be the focus of my next piece.

Nevertheless, given that the funerals of the two police constables are only a few days away, it is my hope that this piece contributes to and deepens the sanctity of these services, not just for the police but for the UK as a whole. We are all going to need this sacred energy if we are to find our way through the problems besetting us and we will need a ‘cleansed’ and sanctified police to help us to do this fairly.

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Two: Behold the High Priest

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High Priest Offering a Sacrifice of a Goat
(illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop. Treasures of the Bible. International Pub. Co., 1894.)

 

In “The Archetypal Scapegoat Part One” I explored evidence suggesting that the archetype of the Scapegoat was at work in Britain at the moment and the processes invoked when this occurs. This piece is the first step into the detail of the archetype as a whole and how it expresses itself in human terms.

 

The Scapegoat Archetype emerges during times of disruption and change, where those values we thought established and permanent suddenly fall apart and tumble us into confusion and uncertainty. It is a collective as well as a personal experience and is evoked as result of splitting that which was previously a ‘wholeness’ that served the community. Something ‘vital’ has failed and the community is suddenly unstable, vulnerable and endangered.

 

Instability forms a natural part of life but it also triggers terrible anxiety within the human collective. Suddenly, life is no longer ‘safe’ and our very survival is threatened. This survival may be our very life itself or it may be those things we rely upon to keep us safe. When this occurs, we reach out for that which might re-establish safety. It is within this frightening confusion that the Scapegoat archetype emerges. We look to remove the source of instability from within ourselves or our community through both sacrifice and expulsion.

 

At its deepest levels, the Scapegoat Ritual is sacred. It is about our relationship with ‘God’ and therefore, in human terms, requires a representative. Within the ‘primitive’ feelings aroused by threats to our survival, there is a sense that the community has ‘sinned’ and some form of atonement is necessary to heal the apparent rift. The vehicle for the solution is provided by the role of the High Priest and the purpose of the ritual is to realign the community with an offended God. The word ‘priest’ derives from the word ‘pontifex’, meaning ‘to bridge or to be a bridge’ between the sacred and secular. The priest, king or judge mediates between God and the community saying “this is what God wants from you” and the Scapegoat ritual forms part of the framework that renews the community through the ritual cleansing of sins. The Scapegoat archetype represents a cyclical recognition that something within us, both individually and collectively, is not ‘fit’ to be ‘at-one’ with the Deity; that somehow the community has offended ‘God’ and some sacrifice is required.

 

The vital essence of the ritual is that all aspects are sacred and therefore of great worth. This includes the priest, the sacrifice and the exile, all of whom contribute to the cleansing and healing of the community as a whole in order to realign it to the divine. If the divine quality is absent, what occurs instead is an incredibly destructive psychological pathology that affects both individuals and community alike. The split is not healed but heightened. When this occurs, we are not dealing with priests but persecutors and the sacrifices become victims.

 

Whilst the example of Andrew Mitchell at the Downing Street gate was the initial inspiration for this series of blogs, that event actually forms part of a far larger problem whose roots disappear back into history. If I were to look for a deeper cause for the appearance of the Scapegoat, I would probably look to the continuing collapse of the British economy. When an accustomed economy – which could be seen as the sharing out of resources – collapses, it is inevitable that community will feel that its survival is threatened. Individuals will experience deep feelings of shared helplessness, rage, fear, wrongness, anger, shame, guilt, madness together with a desire for perfection, rightness and redemption. In Britain, the economic high priests prescribed austerity (sacrifice) for the community which apparently seems to have resulted in a form of economic exile for those outside the world of high finance. The ‘priests’ have driven out those who do not ‘belong’ through economic persecution of the community as a whole up to and including human sacrifice, despite clear evidence that alternatives can be proven to exist elsewhere. This is part of the backdrop to GateGate.

 

“Within all of us is the capacity to turn our inner scapegoat into a persecutor, even if it is only a snide remark about someone we deem to be inferior to ourselves”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

 

When the sacred is missing from the scapegoating dynamic, we are in the realm of human pathology. The three roles remain but they sink into unhealthy versions of the persecutor, victim and rescuer. Because the dynamic represents a whole, each role is fluid and people shift from one to another depending upon the circumstances. None of us are exempt from this. When we identify with the persecutor, we are declaring that we know the difference between right and wrong. The inherent assumption is, because we can discern this difference, we are empowered to act upon our knowledge. The persecutor claims the moral high ground of ‘rightness’ and persecutes those they perceive as having violated this. It is a grandiose position that self-righteously claims the power to punish the violators. We are all subject to this, including me.

 

From personal experience, this persecutor is triggered by my own moral or ethical value system or ‘god’. When I see a clear transgression, I become outraged. It is an immediate and primitive reaction where I am wholly right and the ‘sinner’ is wholly wrong and I can be just as unpleasant as Andrew Mitchell is alleged to have been. The only thing that can interrupt this compulsion – for a compulsion it surely is – is to become conscious of it. There are a number of ways this can occur; for example, an input of facts can assist. In GateGate, I found the law itself to be helpful because, for the most part, healthy law is created by cool minds informed by warm hearts whereas my internal avenging persecutor is undoubtedly has a hothead and no heart for my victim. Another failsafe is to realise that my own behaviour now falls outside my own standards for moral or ethical behaviour. We are all capable of such transgressions when caught up in the complex of the persecutor-victim and we can only rescue ourselves, and our community, by becoming aware of it. Without doubt, we are all at our worst when we become self-righteous and claim the moral high-ground in order to visit calamity upon others. Becoming conscious of these aspects of self is our only means of redemption from such compulsions because the moment we acknowledge them, we shift the emphasis from the secular to the sacred. Redemption can only ever belong to the sacred because it requires us to forgive others as well as ourselves. Once that shift has been made, we open up the potential for creative solutions to the ethical and moral issues at the source of the problem. We deflate our over-inflated egos and begin to identify with the helpless victim, the scapegoat, within as well as the high priest seeking to heal the rift between values and human behaviour.

 

The persecutor is identified with collective authority, collective values and collective tastes; with whatever constitutes the highest values (the sacred) of both society and the individuals that make up that society. There is a psychological security in such values that only becomes apparent when they are threatened. When they become rigid and tyrannical, it creates a disastrous split within the community which, if unexamined, can result in the worst excesses of scapegoating humanity is capable of and the damage is inflicted by the unconscious persecutor in each and every one of us.

 

“If a nation is comprised of deeply unconscious individuals, that nation with enact… in very literal and compulsive ways. If a national has a certain percentage of relatively conscious individuals, the outcome is not so predictable. None of us, as individuals, can instantly affect world events, and we may all become victims of a collective eruption. But if our values, beliefs and actions are formulated from a place of individual consciousness rather than a place of mass unconsciousness, we do ultimately affect the future, and we can discover specific areas in our lives where we can do something constructive – even if our children and grandchildren, rather than we ourselves, are the beneficiaries of our efforts.” (ibid)

 

The shifting of roles within this fluid dynamic – where we can all become high priests, sacrifices and exiles; persecutors, victims and rescuers – needs to be understood in order to be able to grasp how the complex affects us. To do this, we have to understand next role; the sacrifice. This will be the subject of the next piece.

 

 

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part One: The Collective versus Andrew Mitchell

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Anyone following recent UK news will be aware of #GateGate and those who aren’t can simply search the name “Andrew Mitchell – UK MP” to find out more. What people may find, if they do take the trouble to look, is that the story is darkening into forms of ‘character assassination’. This might well be expected, given that the police officers involved appear to have been abandoned by their Chief Constable, Bernard Hogan-Howe, which carries the implication that they may have been lying about the events they recorded. For some reason, the police have been deemed unworthy of defence, whereas Mitchell’s ‘sin’ is seen as ‘forgiveable’.

For anyone with an interest in how mythic or archetypal patterns impact upon the collective human psychology, what is occurring is starting to look like a classic case of scapegoating. Before everyone leaps onto the ‘blame game’ bandwagon and starts tossing the word about in the hope of strengthening their own argument, it might be useful to understand how this archetypal pattern actually works. Any failure on our part to do this is liable to have very serious implications for everyone – when the spectre of collective scapegoating appears, everyone is in danger.

Whilst the most familiar scapegoat ritual can be found in the Hebraic book of Leviticus, it is important to remember that the Scapegoat is an archetype – a human pattern found in most cultures. It is a model of behaviour within the human collective as a whole, not just the Hebrew, and it tells the tale of what happens when communities are polarised into ‘us and them’. At this point, it becomes a psychological ‘complex’. But let’s start with the ritual itself and, because it has been written down, the information is drawn from Leviticus.

The Scapegoat Ritual

“The Hebraic image of the scapegoat is connected with the ritual of atonement. This extremely ancient ritual involved two goats. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, one goat was dedicated to Yahweh and was killed as a sin-offering, so that its blood might cleanse and make sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar. In Leviticus 16:16 we are told that the blood of this goat placated the angry god and atoned for the “uncleanness” of the people, “for their transgressions and for all their sins”. The goats’ remains were treated as unclean and were burned outside the boundaries of the community. The other goat was expelled from the community and was dedicated to Azazel, a chthonic god who was later considered to be a fallen angel. Over this goat’s head, the high priest confessed all the transgressions of the people, laying them to the goat’s charge. The living goat was then taken away and sent out into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:22 tells us, “And the goat will bear all their faults away with it to a desert place.” The blood of the sacrificed goat thus atones and purifies, while the wandering exiled goat removes the taint of guilt. As sin-bearer, it carries the confessed evils away from the community – or, in psychological terms, away from the collective consciousness. The “scape” in “scapegoat”, by the way, is a contraction of the word “escape”: the goat who escapes.”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

With knowledge of the disputed ‘facts’ and the undisputed emotions swirling around, the connections between GateGate and the scapegoat complex begin to become self-evident. For example, one party to the events – represented by the police officers involved – had recently experienced the psychological impact of the murder of two officers in cold blood. With the very deepest of respects to the Spirits of both Nicola Bone and Fiona Hughes, this looks like a blood sacrifice to me. When we refer to the ritual, the blood sacrifice “was killed as a sin-offering, so that its blood might cleanse and make sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar”. I have no idea whether this might be true in this particular case and it is inappropriate to explore such a possibility here because the whole matter is now subjudice. Nevertheless, there are cases elsewhere that show perpetrators of such murders exhibiting this belief of their roles very clearly.

Bearing in mind that the ritual is involved with community atonement, we might wonder what transgressions or sins the police could have committed in the collective ‘mind’ to warrant such a sacrifice. Regrettably, we don’t have to look very far for a potential collective reason. Given that within the ritual, there are two goats, the sacrifice and the exile, the very close timing of GateGate and the increasing public pressure for Andrew Mitchell’s resignation, dismissal or departure from government fits the pattern of the exiled sin-bearer. Someone needs to carry the sins into the wilderness so the collective can be properly cleansed and everyone ‘can forget about it’ until the next atonement is required. The problem is that all this is occurring in a secular setting. That these elements of the scapegoating are now apparent within UK politics does not bode well for the people of Britain as a whole.

This exploration of the Scapegoat dynamic aims to bring as much information about what we may all be dealing with into the collective consciousness. When we are aware of the dynamic in both ourselves and our community, we create opportunities for making different choices in how we tackle the problem. A refusal of awareness is extremely dangerous for everyone concerned. Without respecting the sacred aspect, the ritual deteriorates into the worst manifestations of both individual and collective persecutor/victim dynamic. I am deeply grateful to Liz Greene for clarifying this so clearly:

“All the characters within the dynamic of any complex are secretly interchangeable. They are all part of a unity and are inseparable. A society or an individual, in order to preserve stability, must repress, exclude, limit or expel those elements which constitute a threat to that stability. The rebellious, outlaw, “different”, inferior element – the scapegoat element – is part of the same entity as the persecutor…

The scapegoat complex always involves shadow projection. Whatever we deem to be sinful, wicked or inferior within ourselves or society, we tend to project on someone “outside”. The religious context of the ancient scapegoat ritual required the community to be conscious of its shadow, and the sacrificial goat, rather than carrying the shadow projection of the group, was a consciously chosen symbol meant to enact in ritual form the need for collective expiation. But the scapegoat complex as we see it exhibited in ordinary life has lost this connection with communal responsibility to God. The scapegoat, whether an individual or a group, is not a consciously chosen symbol, but is perceived as sinful, wicked or inferior because she or he carries the projection of the unconscious and unacceptable aspects of the persecutor. And the persecutor, in turn, carries the unconscious aggression and power-drive of the individual who is identified with the scapegoat who feels unable to fight back. That is why, in individual terms, they always find each other.

The issue with all complexes is how much we identify with them. Everyone has complexes and so does every collective. And it is possible that the scapegoat pattern, when it is not compulsive, may take quite a different form and generate many positive and creative expressions, not least in the helping and healing professions.  But unconscious identification turns a complex into a compulsion and, in turn, into fate…

When scapegoating occurs on a collective level, it is absurd to talk about individual responsibility or individual identification with a pattern. When great eruptions occur, the individual is subsumed and may be scapegoated whether or not there is any individual predisposition for it… Such events, like the Holocaust, are part of an unleashing of a collective process of scapegoating and we are not individually culpable. Yet, ultimately, as a collective, we all carry the responsibility.” (ibid)

If there is any accuracy to my concerns about a collective outbreak of British scapegoating, it becomes vital that as many of the affected individuals become aware of how the complex operates within their own personal psyche. Awareness is unlikely to affect the immediate impact of the complex which, from my own experience, can be visceral and compulsive; what it does offer is the capacity to reflect upon our own reactions in order to compensate for our personal failings. It brings the roles of persecutor and scapegoat into perspective where we can balance both the rational and irrational within ourselves. The greater the number of conscious individuals within the collective, the greater the opportunity the same collective has to avoid further repetitions of collective insanity or so the theory goes.

In Part Two, I will explore the role of the High Priest or persecutor which has a particularly compulsive quality, especially when we are faced with what appears to be the sins of others.

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The Custody Record

A young man comes unstuck. Tanked up on ale and buoyed by youthful exuberance he leaves the pub. The scene outside is one of confusion. Two police officers take another man to the floor and pin him down. Our boy doesn’t know what led to this situation but his alcohol fuelled confidence leads to assumed conclusions based on limited facts. He loses control, runs over and berates the officers for being out of order. “Leave him alone. He’s done f’ all wrong you bastards”. The disturbance and the arrival of further police cars with sirens wailing has drawn a crowd. Our man continues to rant and swear. Other officers now in attendance ask him to shut up and leave. They gently steer him away from the officers restraining the violent male on the floor. He resists this and pushes against the officers, gesticulating toward the arrest and hurls abuse. “You’re…

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Reflections on Grassroots Management

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One of great freedoms about being honest about my past is that I can draw on my experience of the consequences of good and bad management.

 

After I was sentenced, the Prison Service transferred me out of the Segregation Unit at HMP New Hall, where I had been for nine months, and sent me to the highest security prison wing for women in England and Wales. F Wing was a woman’s wing within the otherwise all-male high-security HMP Durham.  The wing overlooks the field where the Durham Miners’ Gala is held every year so sometimes, if you were lucky, you got to see a bit of green. Otherwise, it was walls or the other male wings. The windows of one male wing were so close to ours that the staff and some prisoners were driven crazy by the shouting of the window-warriors and their blooming romances complete with very precise biological descriptions.

 

In Reception at HMP Durham the day I arrived, was one of the prison officers I use as a benchmark for humane professionalism. I’m going to call him Ray; those who know me will know exactly who I am talking about but the rest of you will have to remain in the dark because that information is covered by the Official Secrets Act – for his sake alone, I will obey it. As he was dealing with paperwork, he said “Who did you piss off to get sent here then?” I don’t remember my reply but it wouldn’t have been the long story. It was an empathic question and I didn’t mind him asking. I was lucky that day. Ray sorted the cell I was located to, apologising all the while for the state of it and the wing helped me get acclimatised. It was an old-fashioned Victorian wing but it was as clean as some of the prisoners allowed it to be. Fortunately the clean outnumbered the unclean but the latter did a good version of ‘minging’. It had been a long-stay wing so there was enough ‘civilising’ energy around but otherwise it was an absolute nightmare.

 

The nightmare had been set in process by a previous Governor-In-Charge. I’d detested the man when I was obliged to meet him as Area Manager for New Hall. Some years later, the public inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarak took the highly unusual step of naming him – he’d been the Governor in charge or on duty for the conditions that allowed Zahid to be murdered by his racist ‘padmate’ at Feltham Young Offenders Unit. Perhaps I’m not the only one who disliked him. The changes he forced upon the women prisoners when Governor-in-Charge at HMP Durham resulted in 7 suicides and levels of self-harm so high the Prison Service was forced to close it down. But I was only there for seven months – I was ghosted out to HMP Low Newton on ten minutes notice to pack and leave when the bad staff found they were all on duty together.  Some years later, I bumped into the prison’s Suicide Prevention Officer who still wasn’t happy saying it would never have happened had he been on duty. He was away advising on prisons in Iraq after the Abu Graib scandal, so he did have a good reason not to be there but it obviously still irked him.  He was as honest with me when we met as he had been when I was a prisoner. Geoff is another benchmark for professional excellence. He was an officer that got things done properly. I could rely on him.

 

When I first arrived at F Wing, there was a highly competent Wing Governor. I had time for him but I knew I was in trouble when he told me that my discipline standards were too high, even though he agreed with me on a personal level. The wing had gone past the tipping-point into bad management and there was nothing either of us could do about it. The level of psychic destruction was too deep. It might have been ‘saved’ had someone done something about the poor standards of management, but the nepotism within the prison was too strong and the bad lot colluded with each other to make some of the prisoners’ lives hell. Nor did it help that the Chaplaincy was so weak – good chaplains (regardless of religion or spiritual practice), under a multi-faith umbrella, can make a huge difference when an organism is struggling.

 

This isn’t a sob story. I’m telling it for a reason. I’m an educator and this is a module in management analysis. I’m starting to see stories on Twitter of what looks like piss-poor management to me. These kinds of problems always depend upon who is in charge. There seems to be a person issuing orders that the public vehemently disagree with but I don’t know how high the problem goes. If it goes to the top, then matters are serious indeed. To borrow a naval metaphor, if the ship has a bad captain, the whole crew is sunk – unless there is an admiral you can appeal to.

 

I earned the reputation of being a complainer when I was a prisoner. In fact, once I had learned how to do it properly as a shop steward, I’ve never stopped since – not when I thought it was important. I complain about little things and big things. A little thing might be faulty cutlery in the dining hall. A big thing might be complaining about the behaviour of one of the officers or staff. By the time the system got used to me, most of my complaints were turned down by the bad lot or withdrawn because a good manager was dealing with the problem. The reason for my behaviour is not about being a colossal pain-in-the-arse – even though it does have that effect – it’s to get the matter down in writing. If something has gone wrong, somewhere, a complaint is a written record of what occurred. Those dealing with the complaint were either respectful or they gave the game away. You have no idea how unconscious some are of their behaviour and attitudes. All I did was get them to write down their reasoning and the problem showed up on paper. If nothing happened to fix a piss-poor decision, I made the only honourable choice and headed in the direction of Death because I was damned if I was going to live with what they were doing. In a woman’s prison, Death is a visitor amongst the prisoners. In the well-managed prisons, staff seem to ‘know’ how to arrive in the nick of time. In the badly-managed ones, the women die or go insane. By complaining, the prison hierarchy were forced to deal with what I saw but the levels of collusion seemed so high that they even reached, it seemed, into the Ombudsman’s Office. By complaining, I was making these things visible to the reading eye. When we force people to write down their reasoning, we can examine the kind of thinking that goes on behind any decision. It’s either that or they may seem to not reply at all, although I have sometimes found that letters appear on file that were never received.

 

The police have got a very severe management problem in some areas of the country. I would like to believe that other regions have very good management and suspect this might be true of Northumbria Police. The quality of the officers I have met points to that possibility. The tone of any organisation always comes from the top and when a bad lot is in charge the nightmare they create affects the whole organisation. Staff become oppressed and it shows. It also shows when organisations are well managed. It is important to remember that no organism is likely to survive if there is something wrong at the top. This is always the place of the tipping point. A good Governor-in-Charge or Chief Constable makes the difference because this trickles down into a healthy-enough prison or community.

 

With a good Chief Constable, there will always be a line-of-command between the coal face and the top. I always knew that if I took my problem to some officers, they’d turn the prison upside-down until they got the proper orders that accorded with the Rules. If there weren’t rules, they set about making them through the chain-of-command to the relevant Governor. If the Governor wasn’t up to scratch, the order would be given by the Governor-in-Charge because I’d have pulled him on it. It used to drive some staff crazy that this particular Governor took such an interest in me but I used to keep him entertained with prison stories and there was nothing they could do about it. When the top is willing to listen to the concerns at the coal-face, it means that the energy of the organisational organism is circulating. With a highly-disciplined and competent officer-in-charge most problems are resolvable. Ones that aren’t may belong to those not competent to do the job, for whatever reason. These people become blockages to communication and I’ve often found that telling them what they want to hear or using silence as the only way to get rid of them whilst I’m figuring out my next step. They are very hard to move unless you can catch them in a serious error of judgment but this is not particularly difficult if you feed their egos. The incompetent rarely have a problem in the ego department and they inflate easily to several times their natural size – it’s not difficult to push them over. The real problem starts when you are dealing with psychopaths.

 

The Mubarak Governor was a psychopath and this is clear from the trail of evidence he left behind him. Psychopaths frequently show up at the head of the feeding chain. The main problem they have is that they don’t seem to understand the law applies to them as well – particularly in places like policing and prison – which means that they have problems remaining within the rules. Obedience is not one of their strong points, although they often score high on the bullying and intimidation scales. Other symptoms are laziness or over-zealousness. Evidence for this usually shows up in paperwork where mysterious gaps appear where there ought to be records or records occur that ought not to be there. They are not particularly efficient when they choose to behave true to form. The other thing to remember is that they mix lies with truth quite liberally but have difficulty remembering which lies they’ve told and to whom. Another defence mechanism they use is distance – they are either ‘in-your-face’ or the invisible manager issuing written orders but they’re great at building their ‘reputation’. They give themselves away by their timing. Because they lack empathy, they will not understand the moment when they are supposed to step forward and take the lead. When they do catch up with the general feeling, their actions will seem somehow inappropriate to the moment.

 

I’m not saying anything that is not being said already – all I’m doing is putting it into a management training framework.

 

The thing to remember is that Crown servants, like any other UK public servant, can only do what the Law allows – they can go no further. The private sector can do what it likes apart from break the Law. These are two very different organisms entirely. A private sector company can choose to adopt the standards of public service and some have. What cannot be done is to transplant a strictly-private sector ‘head’ on to a public service body because the Law doesn’t work that way – especially with emergency and justice services. I found, when I understood this difference in Law, that it made all the difference between good and bad decisions in social issues. In order to know how to make a good decision, public services write everything down. It’s in Rules, Orders, Manuals, you name it. When you go to these rules, they are frequently very clear because they’ve been amended over time as a result of learning from past mistakes. Anyone who does go poking around in this kind of thing might find themselves suffering from cognitive dissonance when they realise how far their reality has strayed from how it’s supposed to be. I remember my own experience, in New Hall’s Segregation Unit, when I finally read what was supposed to happen in the relevant PSO. It was hard to believe what I was reading the difference between the ‘orders’ and reality was so vast.

 

There’s a lot of flak coming at the Police for the behaviour of the psychopaths-within. One theme involves following orders and the Nuremburg Trials and the collusion of good officers with this bad behaviour. What these observers don’t see is the reasoning behind the chain-of-command. The real work will always be done at the coal-face but the steps upwards are to ensure the safety of those below. Managers are responsible for the well-being of their staff in a healthy-enough environment. Those who fail to address this requirement are not good managers and may not be acting in the public interest. If public servants like the police and prison officers are questioning the orders they are being given, they had better know what they are doing because otherwise it can turn very nasty indeed. I know because I’ve been there. This designed to give you enough bench-marks to assess your own situation with pointers to solutions that have worked for me in the past. Bear in mind that I am only where I am today because I failed so often. A clever woman learns from every mistake she makes.

 

There’s a reason why this blog is so long. Those with a psychopathic ‘bent’ usually have little patience, especially with things they don’t understand. The way I am makes very little sense to them and I’m hoping they’ll have found me boring by now. Therefore I often leave the most useful information until last.

 

I don’t know which Chief Constable is presiding over this but it takes the really toxic order of a psychopath to start alienating a supportive public, particularly at this moment in time. If I were making recommendations, I’d suggest someone look into it – a good Chief Constable would not be a happy bunny having that kind of publicity. Not now. A bad Chief Constable won’t know how to manage the situation. If, in the unlikely event that everyone has forgotten how to manage anything, I’d suggest someone go have a word with Lord David Ramsbotham. Chief Inspectors of Prisons can be interesting people. I’ve met Anne Owers a couple of times when she turned up on Inspections and she did good work for women prisoners. Ramsbotham also has a very good pedigree. They are both accessible people and the experience they have around Prison Rules is both invaluable and transferable, especially among high-discipline professions.

 

What you do with all of this is entirely your responsibility. What I will say is that until something is done, matters will inevitably deteriorate further because that is all psychopathic management is capable of now, especially given that the country’s tipping point is David Cameron.

 

 

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This says it all.

Constable Chaos - UK Police Blog

fionanicola-wp

The last few days have, it’s fair to say, been a blur; sleep has become a distant memory. Like every decent person around the country, police officer, staff, family, friend or not, I felt physically sick when the news started coming out about the horrendous murders of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in Manchester on September 18th.

After writing my post on the matter, It Tomorrow Never Comes, and whilst watching one of the BBC News Channel live feeds from the scene I received a tweet from @ResponseSgt wondering if a small number of officers could be rallied to #CoverForGMP so their own teams could attend the funerals of the officers concerned. Shortly afterwards I had a similar tweet from @TheCustodySgt (or it may have been the other way round).

After a couple of minutes thinking about it, I reckoned that shouldn’t be too difficult, even to get 40…

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huxley06

This week in policing has certainly been a dark hour for the policing community or family. The murders of PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes shocked those of us who aren’t involved in policing as much as it wounded those who are part of the thin blue line.  There is a sense of community (as demonstrated by #coverforGMP) in policing which is positive, protective, brave, unselfish and necessary as they deal with people and situations in which you or I would leg it fast the other way: The people that spit on them, the wee, the puke, the grief. Mostly, 99% of time they deal fairly and humanely with people that we might avoid as mad, bad or too dangerous.

This vocation is not about pay or pensions but a sense of care for the public and to keep us safe. The death of PC Dibell last year demonstrates…

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Mental Health Cop

A particular dislike of mine is something I call the “Policy as Law” fallacy:  the pushing forward of a particular organisation’s policies or preferences, as a legal explanation for action or inaction in a way that suits them.  There are various examples in the police and mental health arena, some of them by the police:

  • “This hospital is not a place of safety” – that’s fine, but s135(6) says that hospitals are places of safety – whether you are ‘designated’ is quite a different matter, and even then, not a trump card for laws.
  • “AMHPs have no power to use force to detain and convey someone when they’re sectioned” – that’s fine, but s6 MHA says otherwise.
  • “Nurses can’t stop someone from leaving a place of safety if the police have already left.” – perhaps you’d like to take legal advice about s136(2)?
  • “Police officers can’t transport a mental health…

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