Category Archives: Police

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Six: “The Gift of the Exile”

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To @npowerhq

 

 

Dear ‘Executive’ Sirs,  (for I doubt you have many women in your higher echelons)

 

Re: Breach of Contract

 

This afternoon, I went to top up the existing credit on my pre-payment gas meter.  When I attempted to do so, I received the message “battery fail”. It meant that my gas central heating stopped working, even though I have already paid for gas I need to use. It snowed here overnight, so the weather is cold. I do understand that there are those at the top who really couldn’t give a toss whether poor people are cold but whilst I can still afford it, my gas account remains a contractual agreement with you. Replacing batteries in gas meters forms part of your contractual responsibilities to me because, without a battery, you cannot supply the gas I have already paid for.

 

When it came to contact you about this, I discovered that if I were wealthy-enough to operate a land-line, you would provide free calls to sort out your breach of contract. I am not wealthy-enough – the poor depend on mobile phones or call boxes. For those of you who have never been poor, you may not have noticed that, since BT privatisation, there are far fewer public phone boxes than there used to be. The closest one to me is on open hillside. Did I mention that it snowed last night?

 

Those of us without landlines have to use mobile phones. Did you know that (how very convenient for the mobile phone companies)? Some of us down here at the poor end on the social scale afford to pay monthly tariffs in order to get the free calls you mention. Others, like me, can only afford to use pay-as-you-go. When I rang your mobile number to inform you of your breach of contract, I was told the waiting time was 30 minutes plus. My neighbour, who had exactly the same problem only a few days ago, confirmed that all their free-call allocation had been used up trying to get either you or one like you to sort out your breach of contract. Batteries have a known ‘shelf-life’ so replacing them ought to form part of your regular maintenance. I might wonder what kind of business you are if you don’t have that kind of schedule because, without it, it begins to look as if you don’t give a shit about your poor customers at all. I tried to phone your ‘help-line’ later and my mobile used up all my carefully saved credit before I was able to talk to someone. I can’t afford to top-up again for a week. Supposing I have another emergency? But then you don’t appear to care about my kind of custom at all, do you?

 

At present, judging by your business practices, I have to conclude that your answer is No. Did you know that the government of this country treats poor people the same way by not providing free-call numbers for mobile phone users? Yet everything must be done by phone. Given how little people are living on now – especially after your most recent price rise – this all seems rather cruel. I’ve been subject to a lot of cruelty over the past few years and it causes PTSD flashbacks. It’s one of the reasons I am poor and on benefits. I am hoping to return to work but your business practices do not help. Despite the fact that you already have my money and it is you who are in breach of contract, I am the one who is cold, further impoverished and inconvenienced. Please understand that I ‘might’ be inclined to be more forgiving if you paid your full taxes but, if you are anything like the mobile phone companies, you probably don’t. Had you chosen to invest those tax savings in providing regular maintenance to your prepayment meters, that might have gone in your favour too – but I suspect you don’t do that either. I am also right in thinking that those of us with prepayment meters – which enable us to budget the pittance we receive – are charged more than those who pay by other methods? Don’t we pay for this maintenance then? Are we really such inconvenient customers that it’s Ok for you to charge me more, take my money in advance and only turn up to honour your contract after you’ve messed us around?

 

By the way – this is being written whilst I’m waiting for your engineer to turn up. The night sky is clear – it’s going to be another cold one. Unless it snows again, of course. There are people with no homes out there tonight and some who can’t afford food or warmth, so I count myself fortunate in comparison. When I look at those less fortunate than me and then I look at you, you’ll have to forgive me if I am a little frosty. There is this matter of your breach of contract. The more I consider what appears to be going on here, the more I’m starting to believe your behaviour is intentional, especially if I’m right about the regular maintenance issue. Given your general behaviour so far, I’ll be lucky if your engineer turns up at all even thought I was told I might have to wait up to four hours. That was three and a half hours ago. My pessimism is beginning to have some grounding in fact.

 

 

In order to require you to comply with your contract, I had to go out to the public phone and call from there. The phone-box itself is subject to open-fell weather. I had to wait over fifteen minutes before I actually got to speak to another human being. You are extremely fortunate that the woman at your call centre was both professional and as humane as your service allows. She took time to listen to how upset I was and how angry I felt at being treated this way. She did a good job but also had to require me to phone your company again – from the cold public phone box (no credit left, remember? Can’t afford more for a week?)– because I hadn’t complied with your rules! The account was in my landlady’s agent’s name and it should have been in mine. You require me to do business with you by phone yet you discriminate against me because I am poor and can only use mobile or the far fewer public phones. At the same time, you fail to maintain your supply to me.

 

Let’s give you one more reason to write off me off – just so we are all being honest around here. I’m a desister – a woman found guilty of wounding with intent and threatening to kill a police officer (1st offence age 48). I know exactly what it is like to be treated as if I have no worth and the only responsible thing I could do for society was die. I’ll tell you one thing. The system isn’t permitted to kill prisoners and when they try, however directly or indirectly, they can be shown to have broken the rules. The reason you won’t write me off, however, is that I got very good at spotting exactly where the ghost in the machine was lurking, especially in prison.

 

The reason I believe you intentionally discriminate against the poor is the ring-back service you don’t provide on mobile lines. You provide that service elsewhere – your call centre told me so. You breach your contract with me at every level. I will be looking to change to an ethical supplier who can meet my needs as far as prepayment is concerned. There was a doorstepper here this week offering that kind of service, except the more I think about that, the more I suspect it might have been a con. There seem to be a lot of such types in your business, don’t there?

 

You’d think, given that there are so many of us poor these days, what with our numbers increasing and all, that there’d be some successful kind of business made out of treating the poor fairly. Perhaps some of us might fund a few start-ups on the compensation we receive from you for the way you have been treating us. I’ve a mind to get those taxes out of you one way or another.

 

And I apologise for the disjointedness of this – I’m normally fairly eloquent (or so I’ve been told) – but I’m cold and experiencing the kind of ‘shock’ that comes with realising just how badly I’m being abused. When I was in prison, this was the time the formal complaints began flying. A lot got sorted when I reached officers and governors who knew, without being told, that you don’t treat prisoners like this. If you do, women die and men riot. My complaints were always aimed at seeking to head off the latter when I could see it happening. I wasn’t always successful and I have seen both outcomes manifest during my imprisonment – although it was YOs who ‘rioted’ in my case.  As a desister, I am no longer permitted to bystand, comply or consent to unlawful conditions once they can be proven unlawful. I have a social responsibility to oppose anything corrupt because it kills people and hurts others. You are actively discriminating against the poor in general and me in particular by subjecting me to hurt and suffering through neglect of whatever contractual duty applies between us – and if you decide you weren’t doing it to me, then you were doing it to my landlady’s agent and my landlady. It’s called a crime at my end of the social spectrum and I think it might well be a crime at your end too.

 

There’s no point in going through your complaints procedures because you’ve fixed them so they fail. There’ll be someone out there with evidence to prove it; if not, more. There are more like me – experiencing unmaintained service problems, experiencing total loss of paid-for service, denied equal communication access and being charged more for the privilege – which has to break some law and well as leaving you in breach of your contract to me.

 

I’m going to circulate this on the social media because I don’t think I’m alone in this – I just happen to be the one who can see stuff, make connections other people might miss and put it down in my own words. There’ll be things in this other people will recognise – whoever they are – but mainly, we’ll  all be poor or getting poorer. I want to know if I can sue you, npower, for this and whether there’s anyone amongst my legal follows who’d be willing to help, pro-bono for now but going for enough costs to create start-up legal aid social enterprises. God knows, we need them if we are to straighten this behaviour out.  I have smaller plans for a desistance-for-women social enterprise project needs funding plus I want to float the idea of a Police Social Enterprise that goes after tax evaders. Could my claim for compensation be for social gain – I’m not allowed to do personal gain as a desister. Can I do that to you, npower, because God knows I want to!.

 

I’m going to have to trust that society will see me alright – let them decide. I’d certainly like to be able to pay my landlady her full rent instead of her having to take the hit of my housing benefit cap. She prefers having me as a tenant and is willing to take the loss. I don’t think she should have to. I’m willing to work but I can’t if I keep getting hits like this one – as I sit here in the cold, waiting for your engineer to turn up. I feel punished for your failures.

 

There is one good thing about this kind of shock – it means I wobble all over the place. The one thing that keeps me steady is my focus on you. It doesn’t seem to matter what perspective my wobble gives me, I seem to be seeing the same thing. Even if everyone can’t follow everything, there are going to be some that will. The people who are seeing the same thing I am and just needed someone else’s story to confirm what they were suspecting themselves. I’m hoping that those who are ready to do something about this might pass it around. Is there a likely lawyer out there who thinks I might have a case because there’s definitely something wrong with me at the moment? I’m not usually like this. Am I?

 

As for you, npower executives. Is there really anything left to say?

 

Yours

 

Dee Wilde Walker

 

 

PS

Your four-hour promise has just been broken.

 

PPS

 

Anyone else having this problem?

The Adult Territory of Desistance

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(This first appeared as a Guest Blog on the No Offence Forum – 5th October 2012)

 

Desistance is a new concept to me having only stumbled across the idea in the last week or so but it speaks to and answers a great many arguments I have had with both society and the justice system. It’s the first authentic approach I’ve found that offers adult-to-adult contact between offender and community by confronting the failures of responsibility on both sides of the relationship. In doing so, desistance offers the potential for change, transformation and healing. An offender cannot transform themselves out of that label and into desistance without similar changes within society itself. By stepping into the adult responsibilities of fault, the desisting offender calls to the same within the community. These are therapeutic concepts I recognise and am very familiar with. In encountering desistance, I met an old friend.
Whilst society, in general, makes a big song-and-dance about adult responsibilities, this is not actually reflected in a lot of its behaviour. The best theoretical structure to ‘hang’ this on probably comes from Transactional Analysis. TA talks about the different approaches to interpersonal relationships from the perspective of Parent-Adult-Child. Responsibility issues are clarified and become accessible to both sides of the criminal justice relationship, creating attainable measures for both.
For example; the traditional relationship between system and offender can be seen to belong to the ‘Critical Parent to Adapted Child’ dynamic. This is the “You are bad and must do as I tell you or else” message of the system to the individual offender who is expected to comply by adapting themselves, not simply their behaviour, to these highly critical parentally-oriented demands. That it fails ought to come as no surprise to anyone because it reinforces irresponsibility on both sides. In adult-to-adult relationships, we have to recognise that neither is going to be perfect because perfection is unattainable to honest human beings. We are all imperfect. The only difference between me and most of my community and me is that I am fully qualified as imperfect. Presently, as a rehabilitating or desisting offender, if I am taking on the adult responsibilities for my own social redemption, I will inevitably confront those aspects of a critical-parent society that refuses to take responsibility for allowing me to do this. These are the obstructions faced by both the individual offender and the criminal justice system. The beauty of desistance, both as an idea and as practice, is that it enables discussion between the two. We are required to relate to each other in order to find the way through. That desisters clearly exist demonstrates this ‘intelligent framework’ has functioning ‘legs’ capable of producing the outcomes society claims it wants. At the same time, desistance challenges that same society to transform the attitudes that actively prevent such outcomes from occurring.
One of the problems within the criminal justice system are the judgmental and blaming qualities within its structural ‘DNA’. What is certain, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, is that nothing can change whilst judgement and blame remain in overall charge. Introducing an adult-to-adult interpersonal dynamic to this system does not mean responsibility issues relating to the offences themselves are ignored – far from it. These have to remain as central issues because they are the necessary seed from which desistance can grow. Without the offence, there can be no desistance and there can be no change in either offender or the offended society. What makes the transformational difference is that the offence is seen as an aspect of the human being who is also an offender, rather than the whole of their being. A therapeutic relationship looks for what else the offender is capable of. We know they can behave so badly that they attract legal punishment but what else is there about the individual that is healthy and could be supported to the point where this overshadows the offence. This is what Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard”.
By utilising ‘unconditional positive regard’, the onus is placed on the offender themselves to build upon what is being identified – to diminish the unwanted and antisocial aspects of their attitudes and behaviour in favour of healthier alternatives. The choice for change becomes the offender’s adult responsibility and those who decline to take up the offer can be confronted with the fact that their refusal then becomes society’s responsibility to manage. It’s not a case of wholesale abandonment of traditional ways but of introducing a choice. Desistance adds to what exists but does not replace it. Society needs to be able to deal effectively with irresponsible criminal behaviour but a healthy society recognises that this is not the only solution.  If an offender takes up the personal and social responsibilities inherent within the desistance challenge, society is confronted by the need to provide the necessary support to make it a realistic and achievable possibility. The responsibility becomes a shared project where each party teaches the other about the problems within the collective field by identifying the personal and social factors which result in offending behaviour coupled with a joint effort to resolve them.
For as long as society and the individuals who make up that society are caught up in parent/child attitudes, we are all contributing to the creation of offending behaviour. It is a vicious circle that helps no-one and does a great deal of social harm. Excluding offenders from determining what they need in order to be able to shoulder the responsibilities of becoming a functioning adult is highly controlling, unhealthily parental behaviour. It inevitably fails those who might be capable of desistance were they given the necessary support.  From my own perspective, this is as socially irresponsible as any offender’s crime because it actively contributes to recidivism. Equally, failure to address the issues that give rise to criminal behaviour is socially irresponsible and offenders can be forgiven for thinking our political and social leaders are hypocrites because they are required to shoulder the entire blame created by poor decisions over which they had no control. In psychotherapeutic terms, critical parenting is abusive and adding more social controls on to already abusive circumstances can only create more problems than it will ever solve.
When I entered personal therapy for the first time, almost thirty years ago, I began a journey that brought me face-to-face with all those aspects of self that had failed to ‘grow-up’ into adult responsibility. Anyone who has undergone such self-examination will tell you that this is the hardest road anyone can walk. It is excruciatingly painful to discover that reality falls well short of our beliefs about ourselves. If society wants its pound of flesh from those engaged in desistance, I really couldn’t recommend this route more highly. Nevertheless, the advantage to the individual for undertaking such a monumental task is a level of self-worth and self-determination like no other. In examining our self-beliefs, we often find that those aspects we thought valuable are worthless and vice-versa. An individual who has a realistic grasp of their own value and capabilities has a very great deal to offer, regardless of how they got to that point. In fact, I might suggest that those who have direct experience of the worst of themselves and the society they grew up in have far more to offer at the end of such a therapeutic journey than those who have not. We know where the problems are because we’ve lived them and we have a better idea of effective solutions because we’ve tried them.
To become a healthy-enough and functioning adult is probably the greatest challenge as well as the greatest achievement available to any individual, offender or otherwise. Without a framework that recognises this, we create the problems we face now as a society. What we can be certain of is that the old ways of thinking don’t work and everyone, community and offender alike, is paying a very heavy price for this failure. The question we all need to ask is whether we can afford to continue to treat each other this way?
I know what my answer is. Do you?

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Five: “Return of the Exile”

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Dear Dr Wollaston,

 

I’m writing to you because your name has appeared in dispatches about the Tory party again. Through you, I am trying to contact the kind of Tory who expresses the kind of view posted here on this Guardian thread. I am also deeply concerned about the class divisions occurring in this country and the levels of corruption being demonstrated by those who hold public office across all political parties.

 

To put it bluntly, your government is in the process of creating a crisis of social chaos and we, the people, have had enough. We told you this, politely, yesterday – October 20 – in Belfast, Glasgow and London. Whilst you might want to point to the small few who ‘invaded’ shops after the demonstration, I might point to the arresting officers and suggest they probably had no personal disagreement with the message “Pay Your Tax”. If this was the worst some 100k people could do in a confined space, then I think we are doing rather well, don’t you?

 

I am writing to you because I see what your government is about to do to the criminal justice system. As a desister, I cannot remain silent. Our country cannot afford this kind of criminal system any more – it is far too expensive, at every level, and has proven to fail each and every time it has been used. It is morally wrong to continue to punish those capable of rehabilitation and desistance because it denies the possibility of redemption. I sincerely hope there are those amongst your number that still understand what redemption means because, to be honest, it is very hard to see through the miasma of corruption that surrounds you. It is truly an act of faith that tells me decent Tories still exist and given that you, Dr Wollaston, appear to have all the right symptoms, I’m hoping this might reach as many like you as possible.

 

I don’t know how much can be done to start putting things right at your end, but I think I can see ways of doing it at mine. I would like to help but you are going to have to stop treating me as if I have no value. Whoever told you that was lying. I doubt very much if I would have retained the quality of my Twitter followers if that were true. This also means that other people like me have value too and the only way we can begin to deal with the problems we all face is through mutual respect. Until that is agreed, there is no point in even trying to talk to each other, even though I think it’s time we did.

I want to talk to the kind of Tories who recognise the importance and value of community. Any conversation would need to be ‘public’, via the social media, because as a desister I must be visible – people must be able to see what I am doing.

 

If you aren’t the right person to talk to, do you know anyone who will?

 

Yours sincerely

 

Dee Wilde-Walker

 

 

PS

The reason this letter appears as a part of a series on the archetype of the Scapegoat is that I am in a position to be able to demonstrate what I am teaching and how easy/difficult it can be for people to do this at the moment. We have exiled far too many people from our community – if I can find my way back, so can they.

 

You can find the previous posts on the subject here:

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

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

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Three: Blood Sacrifice

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Four: The Goat that Escapes

 

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Four: The Goat that Escapes

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Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Tommaso Cassai Masaccio

Before I embark upon the story of the second goat within the Scapegoat archetype or complex, I would like to briefly revisit the first one – the goat that dies. When I wrote about it here, I used a highly sensitive example that could easily have caused offence to all those involved in the events I described. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who felt uncomfortable with it as a result. What I was attempting to do – albeit badly – was raise awareness of the very powerful spiritual component within unfolding events. Nevertheless, I would invite readers to explore some of the strikingly beautiful creative responses from the community directly affected that I have reblogged here, here and here.

From within a community that was feeling undervalued and attacked, have emerged poets and dreamers, volunteering time and effort to enable the sacred aspects needed to ensure that two women’s deaths did not pass unnoticed or dishonoured. It would have been a very hard heart indeed that remained unmoved by the response of both the police nationally and the city of Greater Manchester to the funerals of PC’s Hughes and Bone. If ever there was an example of ‘sacrifice as pharmakon’ or healing agent, this was surely it. It serves as a reminder of our best in the face of the worst humanity can sink to. It is important to remember that, within the ancient ritual, the souls of the sacrificed are rewarded with immediate union with god. For those who remain behind, such events are the reminder and memory of what is finest within us, the human face of the divine spirit within, which are not just measured by our living but by our dying as well. For the community as a whole, all failings on my part have been more than compensated for by the work of those more closely involved. In this instance, I am very grateful for their corrections to my mistakes.

Nevertheless, my exploration of the scapegoat is not yet complete. We still have the second goat to study – the one who is exiled. Given the examples I have been using for this series, it is interesting to note that Andrew Mitchell, instigator of “GateGate”, appears to have exiled himself from the political debates of his party’s conference. This has greater significance because his constituency is in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party conference is being held. It would seem as if he has become an exiled goat – a mild example of what happens to a sin carrier for the community.

The exiled goat is the most familiar aspect of the scapegoat ritual in modern times and our personal response to its emergence says far more about us than we might feel comfortable with. In a world whose perceptions are dualistic, this is the issue of ‘right’ (the high priest) and ‘wrong’ (the exiled goat). When this kind of separation is occurs within a community, it is inevitable that we will be applying such divisions to our own internal selves too. We make judgmental decisions about which bits of us are acceptable or not. Many of us exile aspects of our personalities we dislike to our unconscious in our attempts to fit it with our society. We fool ourselves into believing that the problem of sin is somehow ‘out there’ by failing to acknowledge or respect our own dark side. It is worth remembering that within an ego-level psyche, when we occupy our own personal moral high-ground, whatever we may think or feel about others, is almost certainly something within ourselves too. This is why we know it so well when we point our fingers at others and can recognise it for what it is. We are talking about our true selves when our ego becomes ‘high priest’. The only time this may not hold true is at a social conscience level. This is where we can openly acknowledge both our dark and light aspects whilst working in the interests of our wider community – these are the kinds of ‘special’ aspects of difference associated with the scapegoated exile.

Where the sacrificed goat speaks to ‘unholy’ divisions within the community, the exiled goat speaks to our attitude towards ‘difference’ both personally and collectively. There is always going to be a quality of difference within each one of us simply because we all have the potential to be unique individuals. This quality of individual difference means that, regardless of how we try, at some point we are all likely to have an experience of becoming the exiled goat.

There are many reasons why an individual might find themselves in the role of the exiled goat. Within the archetypes we find the voluntary (Jesus) and involuntary (Orestes); sinners (Oedipus) and innocents (Orpheus); and we find those for whom this is a vocation – the sin-eaters, like the Aztec goddess, Tlazolteutl. In all cases, the individual involved will be marked out by some personal difference, identified by the collective as ‘undesirable’, about which the ‘exile’ can do little or nothing because it is who they are. These are the vital differences within us, within the archetype, that are capable of carrying the sins of an entire community – the exiled goat doesn’t bear its own sins alone into the wilderness, it carries everyone’s.  There is something about these differences that are ‘bigger’ than the individual and capable of bearing far more than just the guilt of personal ‘transgression’.

So what might we look for as ‘different’ enough to be able to bear the weight of collective ‘sin’ of scapegoating? The following are common markers:-

Royalty

Amongst archetypal scapegoats, many are royal in some form or another. It’s a difference that marks the individual out as special or ‘above’ the commons.  In a psychological setting, this can be termed ‘grandiosity’ when viewed negatively or it might be an emerging of social conscience within an individual desiring to give to the greater ‘good’ of the community. To act on such beliefs inevitably sets an individual apart from the collective in the same way as royalty is perceived as ‘outside’ the general whole. Both archetypal and historical examples exist of the royal sacrifice and/or exile deemed to be necessary for greater social good. This is difference as specialness.

 Physical Differences

Many archetypal scapegoats have physical differences that mark them out as ‘special’. For example, the name Oedipus actually means ‘swollen foot’ which, in addition to his royalty, marks him out as dissimilar. Others, like Jesus during the crucifixion, are maimed. Scapegoats may be ugly or deformed in some way and this particular aspect comes into very clear focus when we consider how the scapegoat complex plays out at the collective level. People of physical ‘otherness’ often become targets of collective persecution.

 Foreign

Many individuals who find themselves scapegoated, either in archetype or reality, are perceived as foreign in their difference or specialness. This applies to equally to groups if ‘difference’ within a greater society and it is not hard to name examples who have experienced this, whether it be Jews of the past or Muslims in the present.

 Magical

Within the archetype, individuals may be perceived as having magical powers. For example, Orpheus’s music was regarded as so exquisitely beautiful it caused trees and stones to weep. Jesus could heal the blind and raise the dead. A scapegoat may have a mysterious talent that can be perceived as a gift in a stable environment but which transforms into a threat during a crisis. When the community faces a catastrophe, such individuals may find themselves blamed and hunted down for the same talents, skills or gifts previously regarded as blessings.

 “Mad”

This feature of scapegoating comes from psychological differences where individual perception is seen to be so different from the norm as to be regarded as madness. This is the role of holy fool who is, in some cultures, regarded as sacred and the madness as ‘god-inflicted’. Sometimes the individual may be genuinely insane; at other times, they may simply be guilty of holding a different viewpoint from that of the scapegoating collective.

Outlaw

“The scapegoat in myth may also be an outlaw whose crime has turned the wrath of the gods against the community. The scapegoat is the one who has committed, or is believed to have committed, the murder, the theft, the rape, the breach of social taboos. But the motive behind the crime is never simple…

The crimes of this kind of scapegoat figure are different from ordinary garden variety crimes. These crimes challenge some universal authority, breaking collective law yet at the same time fulfilling a secret collective need. The scapegoat may enact the crime which all of us long to commit, which on the most profound level is the crime of individuality. The mythic outlaw is often an individual who defies the stagnant or unjust rules of society or the gods, and he or she is punished by those laws at the same time as being secretly admired and envied by the very people who have invoked the punishment.”

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

 

These are the qualities likely to be found within those who are individually ‘marked out’ for attention when scapegoating moves within both the collective conscious and unconscious. When it erupts as a collective social complex, this ‘marking’ takes on the ominous destructiveness of ethnic or other ‘special’ cleansing. This form of scapegoating becomes the sacrificing/exiling of entire groups which, unfortunately, has become all too familiar. Groups likely to be subject to scapegoating persecution frequently fall into the following categories: race; religion; class; sexuality; gender; and “non-human”, like animals or the environment. We can begin to get a sense of what community values are by looking at those who are sacrificed or exiled. For example, if a society routinely scapegoats black people, Muslims, the differently-abled, the poor, the mad, non-heterosexuals, women and nature, these provide very precise measures of what it does value. Using recent examples, it’s possible to perceive the outline of the offended god demanding appeasement as probably white, maybe Christian, physically perfect, rich, ‘sane’, misogynistic, heterosexually male and disconnected from nature.  As humans, we are inevitably going to fall short of such measures which means, especially within the scapegoat complex, that as one ‘difference’ is sacrificed or exiled, other individual differences emerge to be subject to the same. The complex morphs into wholesale collective xenophobic attrition capable of exterminating whole communities and peoples.

Having identified those individuals or groups likely to carry the scapegoat archetype when a community experiences a crisis, it is vital to look at what sins are being exiled.

“The reason the goat is exiled is not because the community doesn’t like goats. It is because the community has offended God, and the exile is carrying that which has caused offence. This goat bears not only the pain of alienation from the community, but also the pain of alienation from its spiritual source.” (ibid)

 In addition, it is important is to explore how the individual exile responds to their situation. Some may choose to reject the exiling community:

“The exiled goat may… turn its back on the collective. The anger may be too great, and personal pride may also be involved. The exiled goat may say, “I don’t need them anyway. In fact, I am going to do everything in my power to sabotage and destroy the collective which has rejected me…” The exiled goat can become an anarchist and a revolutionary. It is the lone gunman, the social outcast who consciously chooses the role of outlaw. In its most extreme form, it is Charles Manson, who gleefully accepts the projection of the collective shadow and says, “Since you will condemn me whatever I am or do, I may as well do what I have been accused of, and justify your condemnation of me.” That response provides a form of power and a feeling of being special, and this can compensate for the humiliation of rejection. Such exiled goats are necessary to a community which is unconscious of its own sins, because they carry the collective shadow.” (ibid)

This is the realm of the terrorist whom having, either individually or collectively, experienced the terrors of rejection and exile, returns to visit this shadow upon the community who perpetrated the expulsion. This is particularly true when the ‘unconscious’ high priest mercilessly heaps communal sins upon individuals or groups who are subsequently destroyed or exiled through blame, thereby avoiding conscious responsibility for their own sins. It creates a vicious circle. As the ‘sin’ is hidden within the unconsciousness of the community itself, no amount of projection,  sacrifice or exile can resolve the ‘loss of connection to the divine’ and the failure requires more ‘high priests’ to relentlessly seek out new victims to blame. The ultimate result leads to an ‘empty world’ as one difference after another is sacrificed on the altar of this insatiable, blood-thirsty ‘god’ until the whole community is dead. Sadly, we do not need to look far for real-life examples of this being acted out in the world at the present time.

There are other choices available to an exiled scapegoat. They might refuse revenge but reject the community by choosing to remain in exile. A third option is the role of pharmakon – the exiled goat as healer. This is the goat who not only who escapes death thereby becoming ‘the one who lives’, albeit in exile, it is also the goat who returns from the wilderness seeking to win back the acceptance of the rejecting community through service to others.

It is this particular scapegoat, ‘the one who returns’, which is the subject of my next piece.

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 1

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 2

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 3

“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.

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.

 

 

What is a “Social Conscience”?

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It’s not very often I repost other people’s blogs but this contains one of the most perfect examples of a social conscience in action, it would have been a crime not to. We can honour the sixty-nine victims of Hillsborough, and their family’s twenty-three year campaign to get at the truth, for giving us such a perfect and terrible example of how a social conscience works upon the individual.

When I decided to expand upon what ‘social conscience’ means, interesting things emerged from my brief research. The first, which came as a complete surprise, was that there was nothing about it in Wikipedia. The closest entry was ‘social consciousness’ which is not the same thing at all. The subjects are very different. So there needs to be a clarification of what is meant by the term. This is what I found:

Dictionary.com:     social conscience – definition:   an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society

Oxford Dictionaries:       social conscience – definition:   a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society

Before I embark on this exploration, it’s also worth considering the meaning of conscience in the personal sense, which goes something like this:

Conscience:       noun

  1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience.
  2. an inhibiting sense of what is prudent: I’d eat another piece of pie but my conscience would bother me.
  3. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

We know we have a conscience when we start feeling guilty, i.e: “to have something on one’s conscience, to feel guilty about something, as an act that one considers wrong”

 

It is probably fair to say that if we don’t have a personal conscience when it comes to our actions, then the chances of our having a social conscience are probably quite low but there are exceptions. The best example of this is probably mine!

As an ex-offender, I have a choice about whether I reveal this information to others or not. UK law requires that this be made available to potential employers but, in a social setting, if I want to hide the fact, I can. That I choose to disclose is a matter of both personal and social conscience.

On a personal level, if I am to be successful in my ambition to fully rehabilitate, hiding my immediate past is a road to disaster where mutual trust is concerned. We never know who knows what about us and my social conscience tells me that any trust that might be built will be destroyed altogether if those who trust me discover such a significant omission from my autobiography. To avoid this problem means, from my perspective, that it is far better that they hear it from me first. Any subsequent trust that might be built will have it’s foundations in solid reality and anyone who thinks to cause harm by disclosing my past will fail because the information is already out there. On occasions, this viewpoint has been a very strong point of contention especially when I was supervised by Probation. One officer I dealt with was convinced that my opinion and disclosures were just plain wrong. I disagreed and this probably figured among the reasons used to recall me to prison. Despite this, I still haven’t changed my mind. If someone honours me with their trust, I feel guilty if I don’t tell them. In this, I am guided by my conscience.

Given the obvious action of a guilty conscience in the above example, I am very interested in what appears to be my failure of guilt when it comes to the crime itself. It is quite true that my offense was wrong and I regret that it ever happened but, somehow, I’m not sorry. It was something I had never done before and will never do again. These points I freely accept and I have made strenuous adjustments to my behaviour as a result. Nevertheless, no matter how insane it might sound to others, I know that my guilty conscience would have been far worse if I had failed to act. I can appreciate the social viewpoint and know I will never act that way again because I have put an alternative in place. If the same situation arose, it would be me that got hurt and not anyone else. My social conscience tells me that as a result of my offence, I am required to be: honest about myself; truthful about my past; accept that there are social opportunities no longer available to me; and that I must always give priority to the safety of my community over and above any needs or concerns of my own.  These are how the issues of conscience function within me.

 

 

If I go back to the blog that inspired this, the experience of social conscience is described thus:

“I once heard a Townsend-Thoresen employee apologise for the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. He wasn’t on board but felt tainted by the mistakes. I now know what he meant.”

In some ways, this explains my problem with feeling guilty for my crime. At that time, the city I was living in had a lot of problems, some of which were being perpetrated by individuals responsible for the public good. They were not acts I had committed but I felt deeply for those who were victims and found myself unable to stand by without trying to do something about it. The result meant that the perpetrators turned their attention to me. It’s a long, painful and embarrassing story which can wait for another time but my experience resonates, in small part, with the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy. Although innocent, they were subject to sustained, long-term vilification in order to hide the failings of those truly responsible only now confirmed after twenty three years. Those responsible sought to hide their failings by blaming the victims. The amount of collective guilt contained within this appalling loss of life is so great that it can felt by those who were never involved.

To experience such guilt is the consequence of having a social conscience. It means that what harms one, harms everyone – participant and observer alike.

 

In a balanced world, we understand the true meaning of a quality like a social conscience not only through its definition but also through its opposite. If we accept my personal definition that a guilty conscience demands that I change how I behave, what are the measureable indicators for someone who is guilty but maybe has no conscience? Using Hillsborough as an example, what are the responses from those who thought to vilify the victims? Well, here are a few examples:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/12/hillsborough-disaster-david-cameron-apologises

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/13/boris-johnson-apologises-hillsborough-article

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/12/hillsborough-disaster-mackenzie-profuse-apologies-sun

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/13/fa-chairman-bernstein-apology-hillsborough

Apologies seem to be the order of the day, with one notable exception

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/13/hillsborough-report-norman-bettison-refuses-resign?intcmp=239

Bitter experience has taught me to be very careful about commenting on the behaviour of Chief Police Officers. Nevertheless, if an unconnected and innocent police officer can feel guilt over police actions, some twenty three years after the events, it might be interesting to wonder about the opinion expressed by Norman Bettison.

In my research for this piece, I came across a fascinating site that addressed these issues, albeit in relation to bullying amongst children. It describes three stages to the process of acquiring a social conscience. The first is ‘denial’ that there is a problem. The second, ‘acceptance’, acknowledges that there is a problem, however;

“The one who engages in bullying behavior is basically admitting to all that “I am honest about my actions, but I do not accept that my actions have a negative effect on anyone but see my actions as benefiting myself, and if there are punishments I manage to blame others.”

There’s another level to this stage wherein the one who engages in bullying behavior may also be saying, “I deserve this consequence because I broke the rules, but there is nothing deeply wrong with what I did except that I got caught.”

This is a key disconnect between actions and consequences.”

According to the author, the final stage is ‘awareness’ which may be correct for children, but I don’t believe it ends there for adults. The final measure for adults is, I believe, to change your behavior. An example of how that might work comes from amongst my peers:-

“One of her favourite “ups” was shortly after she had been studying the book ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver with some prisoners. A member of staff reported one of the prisoners had been talking in another group about how he’d suddenly realised the potential impact of his crimes (10 years later) on his family.”

From this, it would seem that one of the prerequisites to developing a social conscience in adults is empathy – the ability to stand in another person’s shoes and experience events from their perspective.

 

When considering the sudden flourish of apologies, after twenty three years of systematic scorn, I do wonder whether these are actually enough. During the years I was getting myself into therapeutic problems as a client, there came a point where the therapist said “I don’t want your apology. Your apology doesn’t mean anything. What I want is for you to stop doing what you are doing.” Whilst painful at the time, her intervention has informed me ever since because it was a fair comment. I’d been using apologies to get me off the hook of being caught rather than addressing the deeper need for change. Looking at this Hillsborough bouquet of them, it’s hard not to be reminded of this.

Do we believe these people mean it when they say they are sorry? In all honesty, with the possible exception of the Football Association, I’m not sure I do. My social conscience tells me that the responses from David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Kelvin MacKenzie fall into the category of;

“I deserve this consequence because I broke the rules, but there is nothing deeply wrong with what I did except that I got caught.”

As far as MacKenzie is concerned, I am not the only one who finds this unsatisfactory, given he was a participant in the impugning of Hillsborough victims.

 

With regard to David Cameron; his apology related to the cover-up of facts. Regrettably, Cameron has already found himself in political difficulty around similar issues. His willingness to accept apologies at face value and generously extend second chances to those he knows borders on parody. For those he doesn’t know, the story becomes very different. One of the manifestations of active conscience is balanced consistency of behavior. Cameron might be consistent but the evidence of balance is thin on the ground.

Boris Johnson also appears to have a history of cover-ups too.

 

In my reality, to have a personal conscience means we take responsibility for actions that may have caused harm to others. This may be remedied by an apology but this is not always the case. For example; I could apologise to my victim but I doubt she would accept it and, under those circumstances, it becomes disrespectful to offer one. Any possible forgiveness can only be attained by atonement. In matters of social conscience, I wonder if the same principles apply.

The answer to that question might well be found with the people of Liverpool. My own social conscience informs me I relinquished my right to comment on that when I offended.

 

There is one last step in the process of exercising my social conscience. As an outsider, uninvolved with the events of Hillsborough and its history, I have drawn a lot of information from the release of the report of the Panel. If I were one of the campaigners, I might feel invaded by this free use of their experiences. They have suffered enough and they certainly don’t need any more and definitely not from my hand. Yet my conscience feels the wrong they have suffered deeply enough to feel the guilt of inaction which says I could have done more for them.

A social conscience is more than just empathy. It is empathy that is going somewhere. If there is anything I could give to the families of Hillsborough and the people of Liverpool, it would be this: to make certain all those young people did not die in vain.

The ‘gift’ of Hillsborough has been to teach us all about what it means to have a social conscience. This is simply my opinion of what a social conscience looks like in action. May it contribute to ensuring society changes to ensure such events never happen again.