Whilst this is essentially an activist’s blog, I’d like to begin with a tribute to my cat (pictured above). His name was Jasper and he disappeared a few days ago. My intuition and local knowledge tells me he won’t be coming home again. Whilst I do my utmost to see the positive in others, I also have to face reality. The village I live in is cruel to cats. It’s a local thing – we have pigeon fanciers and other residents who poison or shoot them. In the past three years, I have lost three cats to this ‘final solution’. Jasper is the latest.
Cats have always found me if I have not been finding them first. We have an affinity to each other and like each other’s company. Jasper found me after my second cat vanished and my neighbour’s cat was poisoned. He was an opinionated criatura. He didn’t much take to the female cat I was asked to rescue or the kitten she produced but he never lost his affection for me. He would come to me in my distress and offer affection freely. My lap was his home and my bed was his next best choice. He took no nonsense from dogs and he made friends with all the local cat-lovers, visiting homes and seducing free meals out of each. And he was too young to have died naturally.
As an animal lover, we have to accept that our animal companions will leave us simply on the grounds of life-span. But they leave a hole in our souls when they do that is filled with grief. Now I have a Jasper-shaped hole in mine and it affects how I respond to human events. Yesterday was filled with those.
As some of my twitter follows are aware, I’ve been engaging with a Tory councillor recently. In truth, we have found we have a great deal in common, particularly when it comes to seeing trying to the best in people. Our difference – and it is a very great one – is that she can see the best in individuals but struggles to see any value in groups that are not her own. She is an intelligent, imaginative woman, who is committed to her local community – which is not mine (Tories are few and far between where I live). I can see the value of her chosen profession because I took a similar route out of my own problems when I was younger. Where we part company is in the matter of community.
From my perspective, the purpose of becoming an all-round ‘professional’ adult human being involves, at some point, a letting-go of personal ego for the ‘greater good’ of the community. It is a process of self-sacrifice which, if you happen to be the person inside the experience, teaches us that we are far more than just our ego. We learn that every time we do something, we affect and impact upon the entire living web around us. My own version now includes being willing to die for others like me – and I am not alone in this. Yesterday, whilst my Tory friend was explaining why she wanted me to learn how ‘not to envy’ those who are financially successful, another woman whom I really admire was putting her own life on the line for others in her position… again. If you want to understand why, check out #ESAEndGame on twitter. The voices there speak far more eloquently than I ever could about the depth and extent of the problems we are facing. I have made my own contribution but there are many others with similar tales who have been less fortunate than me. The fact that, following my GP’s intervention, Atos cancelled my WCA assessment and the DWP recategorised my ESA claim (which, to my astonishment, means an increase in my benefits) was only made possible by the hard work of people like @Suey2y, the Black Triangle campaign and many other individuals, known and unknown, seen and unseen. Their work was done, not for personal gain – all the campaigners want is enough to live on – but for their community. All that effort, intelligence, wisdom and experience given freely to those in genuine need, without charge – to me, this is the best a human being can aspire to and I feel honoured to be in their company. The sad part is that I believe my Tory friend doesn’t understand this and I fear I cannot teach her. All I can say is that, on a personal level, if I had to emulate either woman, I would choose to be like @Suey2y everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. I have tried the route my Tory friend is on and, for me, it “grows no corn” – hers are the teachings of selfishness, as far as I am concerned, and I’ve done my best to leave those behind me. With all due respect to her, I aspire to become someone better than that. The rewards of selfishness do not interest me anymore.
Interestingly, at the same time, the #MHChat twitter community also took to the airwaves on the subject of #Envy but not before @MentalHealthCop had created the hashtag #CasualStigma. That a serving police officer dedicated to providing a professional service to the public could come up with something so thoughtful and compassionate is wondrous to me. That he can see the connections between the casual stigma directed at women ( #EverySexism ) and what he sees in his own job working with those who have mental health problems restores my personal faith in the police as a whole. He sees the overall problem this kind of stigmatisation causes and has done something to raise our awareness of it in his own field. He could have chosen selfishness – many police officers do – but instead he’s given voice to a largely silenced community, mislabelled and misunderstood, perhaps because he knows that we can change nothing for the better without listening to everyone involved, not just those with money, power or influence. Which leads neatly into the subject of envy.
Whilst I do know something about the subject of envy, last night’s #MHChat helped me clarify the distinction between an envy that is benign from that which is malicious. Envy is a feeling that arises from lack. We experience it when we see others with talents, skills, abilities or ‘stuff’ we do not have ourselves and everyone will have these feelings at some point or another in their lives. None of us are exempt. It’s what we do with those feelings when they arrive that makes the difference. Benign envy understands the feeling as an indicator of where we need to grow next. When we envy, it remains possible to look to see how the envied got that way. As one of my old therapists put it; “Take a look at what the person had to do to get to the point where you envy them. Then you can decide whether you are willing to make the same effort yourself. If you’re not, then be grateful that someone has so you can enjoy their expertise and, if you are willing to make a go of it, be grateful to them for showing where you need to grow.” Benign envy is open to envy’s cure: gratitude. I suspect it is this version of envy my Tory friend is referring to when she talks about Labour envying her party. Malicious envy, on the other hand, is a very different criatura altogether.
Malicious envy occurs when we see someone with something we believe we can never have. The sense of loss created in us by this realisation triggers a furious rage. Somewhere along the line, we decide that if we can’t have it, they can’t either and we launch an envious attack in order to destroy the ‘object’ that highlights our ‘loss’ (note the dehumanising that occurs here). We treat the envied as our enemy – even though all they are probably doing is getting on with their lives. The declaration of war comes from the envier long before the envied realises what is happening to them and the results are usually catastrophic. Envious attacks contain no mercy. To effectively destroy the quality we envy, we must destroy the human being who has this quality. To justify our actions, our total lack of mercy or compassion towards the envied and the bitter resentment of our envious attacks, we must reduce that whole person to someone despised. Our selfish self cannot permit them to exist in our world – we want them gone, removed, dead, obliterated. The very existence of the envied is offensive to us because they are reminders of our inadequacy. When such feelings run rampant through governments, we start to see genocide.
Is there a cure for this? I really don’t know – it’s a personal choice. Are we willing to acknowledge the appalling outcomes of our darkest feelings? Not everyone is, but if we’re willing to try then a good place to start is with our own experiences of being envied. We all have those too. We have all had experiences of being envied; where others take an unexplained but intense dislike to us and act on it. Remembering what that felt like is a route to having empathy for the object of our envious attack. When empathy finally arrives – which must include an acceptance of the darkest of our nastier emotions – envy shifts into benign mode where it can be therapeutically transformed into personal growth. However, if an envier refuses to learn and persists in such destructive behaviour, then their behaviour needs to be managed, usually by the police and courts, because uncontrolled envious attacks are, literally, crimes. There are no boundaries to a full-blown envious attack and people often die as a result. For those interested in these subjects, #MHChat is suggesting a causal link between envy and next week’s topic of #Bullying – why not join in!
There is one aspect of Envy Dynamic that is worthy of attention here. Those who have explored this in greater depth that I describe it thus: the relationship between envier and envied can be likened to a rope-bridge between two mountain peaks. Within the dynamic, the envier severs the bridge ropes on their mountain top but then blames the envied for the lack of bridge. It is the ultimate win/lose, where the envier ‘wins all’ and the envied ‘loses all’. This is why envious attacks are so destructive and it stems from profoundly deep level of selfishness that believes itself to be justified and our actions, justifiable. It is my own understanding of the deeper dynamics of envy that leave me despairing about my Tory friend.
On a personal level, my friend understands benign envy as a spur to personal growth but get her on the subject of money and, from my perspective, she espouses opinions that are very firmly based in malicious envy. From what I can understand (and I may be wrong), she believes that folk like me envy Tory wealth and what we really need is to learn how to get our own. Very little compassion exists for the human elements of this demand. If we don’t, then according to the Tory Party propaganda she uses, it becomes justifiable to inflict the casual stigma of skivers, scroungers and other personally destructive epithets to people like me in order to confirm our lack of any material worth to society. We become leeches to their material wealth and this must not be permitted. I suspect she regards me as the exception to this rule because I have stepped beyond her labelling and have become human to her. In doing so, I have surprised her because I don’t appear to envy those that have riches. She’s right. I don’t envy them at all. In fact, I look at their behaviour and find myself repulsed.
I have no problem with people making money. My problem resides with those, who I believe envy folk like me, for whom no amount of money is ever enough. When it spins out of control it looks like this. How does anyone need so much money? How many houses, islands, continents, planets, does one ego need in order to prove their ‘worth’? To me, this is a level of personal selfishness that knows no bounds and has no problem depriving countless others of their very real life needs – food, shelter and a valued place in society. There is no honour in stealing your ‘worth’ from the vulnerable, hungry, needy and destitute. Honour comes from what we can give to our community regardless of money. @Suey2y and @MentalHealthCop have honour because they give of themselves freely to the communities they serve. Even very wealthy people can have honour, as Joanne Rowling has already demonstrated by falling off the Forbes list by giving her wealth away to charity. In all these examples, the qualities of mercy and compassion are plain to the naked eye and they provide a sharp contrast to the merciless attitudes and actions of our Tory-led government.
In all things, I aim to be spiritual and I have learned this: where any form of Mercy and Compassion are absent, there evil dwells. Jesus – who lived the destitute’s life – teaches that we can serve Love or we can serve Money, but we can’t serve both. He is the one, so it is claimed, who said “The love of money is the root of all evil”. Each and every authentic Spirituality I am aware of teaches that true worth depends on the quality of the Spirit within each person, no matter who or where they are in the world. In Spiritual terms, how much money we have in the bank is irrelevant. In fact, too much money has a corrosive impact upon the individual, because as their money grows so does their selfishness. Do I envy these rich people? Not a chance! My aspirations are rooted in my yearning to find acceptance and belonging in an inclusive community that recognises my value even as it sees my failings. If we have to use money, then let’s relegate it to its proper place – a simple means of energetic exchange within a healthy community. It is the same kind of exchange the planet shares freely with humanity and all other forms of life that dwell within Her. Only our narcissistic egos fail to see the value in this sharing and, like the tyrant Holdfast, seeks to gather it all to ourselves. But no individual ego is capable of experiencing this quality of sharing. Ego’s are too small, too limited, too selfish and, frequently, too lazy to make the effort to grow our Soul beyond the fascinations of self to the wonders of being part of a living planet. We learn these lessons when we dispense with our ego in favour of transcendence.
In reality, we are not separate from the planet we live in. We are an evolutionary miracle with, in my opinion, a far-too-high opinion of ourselves – especially in the West. The West’s Cult of Narcissism, however, severs us from this experience by destroying the rope bridge between self and soul by envious attacks upon anything that contains the Spirit of Life. Don’t believe me? Then it’s time you made the effort to research this yourself. Perhaps, in time, you may learn to be grateful for all those ‘valueless’ people who simply want a fairer distribution of this unearned and hoarded wealth. You see, when we understand community we realise that no single person is ever ‘more valuable’ than another and certainly not to the degree that current monetary wealth or corporate interests appear to be claiming. The endless destruction of people, habitats, environments and animal life, committed without mercy, bear all the hallmarks of an envious attack. I’m not interested in money for its own sake – God knows, money is finite because its influence ends with death. I’m interested in the kind of Spirit that will accompany me after death.
If, during life, I need to make use of money then what I seek is enough to meet my needs as a functioning and contributing adult member of my community; from people to work to cats. I, for one, need no more than that. In our present world, however, I take very strong issue with those who believe I should make do with less simply to satisfy their personal and misplaced narcissistic demands for something as ultimately meaningless as money. To them, I would say this:
I have not deprived you of anything. I don’t need to – you’ve done that all by yourself. If you envy my Spirit so much, why don’t you strive to find your own instead of seeking to destroy mine? And if you refuse the effort, who is lazy; you or me? Discover your own capacity for mercy and compassion for all kinds of others instead of just you and yours! Learn the kind of humility you demand of me because, from where I stand, you don’t look humble at all! I may be no better than you but, beyond doubt, I am definitely no worse! Finally, if you want to fund the same level of Spirit I am exhibiting here, albeit imperfectly, then the end game will be to give away your money because you will no longer need it and the community can put it to better uses than you will ever find on your own.
If we must judge envy, then let’s judge the consequences rather than the feeling. If my assessment that current Tory Party policy is currently fuelled by malicious envy towards ‘outsiders’ has any basis in fact, then we ought to be able to know by looking at outcomes. Last night’s #ESAEndGame twitter storm – which trended as the UK’s No. 1 for a time –can provide all the evidence necessary. There are other examples: #EverydaySexism #CasualStigma #Racism #Bullying to name but a very few. When people suffer and die in such ways, the fingerprints of an envious attack are not hard to find, especially when accompanied by blaming, justification and mercilessness resentment. This dynamic appears at all levels; from government policy to, in my view, the selfish interests of pigeon-fanciers who have no problem killing their neighbour’s cats. Today, that last one is enough evidence to satisfy me.
Goodbye, my beautiful cat. I still love you, Jasper – you were my friend-in-need and I am grateful for all the time we did spend together.
As for my Tory friend, she will have to make up her own mind.