It’s been a fair old while since I’ve contributed anything to this blog! I’m fine, in case anyone thought I’d been bundled into the back of a dodgy white van and surreptitiously buried under the concrete foundations of an industrial wind turbine.
The truth is, these last few weeks I’ve tried my hardest to stop rising to the bait, and to look into myself for whatever internal solutions I can put in place to prevent wind turbines making me so destructively angry. I’m still on hand to lend my support to a worthy case like Hendy, but all in all for the time being I’m trying my best not to let wind energy impact on my mental health and well-being. There are so many other people fighting the same battle as me, and I’ve been deliberately putting myself through stress and anger in the name of research for almost five years now, that I need to recharge my batteries and concentrate more on the things in life I love, not hate!
Meanwhile, all around me is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. I’ve touched on the topic briefly, but it’s not been my main issue, certainly causing me nowhere near as much direct psychological torture as wind farms. I think that’s telling for a number of reasons. Firstly it proves that I’m not, in general, an angry man. I’m not going around looking for topics to rail against. I’m not what is known in left-wing circles, somewhat hypocritically, as a “gammon”, as my default emotional resonance is more aligned with the dreamlike alpha state rather than any chronic state of jaded irritation. When anger strikes me, it comes in from nowhere, and then disappears a few hours after the stimulus has retreated.
This is what has made my blog so interesting and revealing to me – and maybe what some of the namecallers don’t realise, despite me having said it over and over again. It’s ONLY wind farms that bring out this insane rage within me. All the usual issues that make people angry I am able to look at calmly and objectively. Including Brexit! I didn’t even vote in the Referendum, as I was moving from Stockport to Leeds on that day and literally didn’t have time nor inclination to get involved. I thought it’d be a shoo-in for Remain and wasn’t sufficiently motivated to get out and vote Leave. So I was genuinely 100% objective and neutral at the time of the Referendum.
This is my first off-topic (ish) entry, but at the same time I think it is germane because it draws upon the psychological aspect of this blog and applies it to the mental health of the country as a whole, from an objective, dispassionate perspective. Compare the following writing style to one of my famous anti-wind rants, and you’ll see this piece comes from the higher cognitive functionality of the neocortex, rather than the furious ravings of an amygdala hijack. However, a lot of the terms have been used before in relation to how wind farms have affected me, so although I’m not a psychologist and am giving these diagnoses without any real qualification, I have at least examined my own mind first before holding forth on the mental problems of wider society!
Here we go then…
We have some serious psychological issues in our country.
(1) Gaslighting: the class system is alive and kicking in the UK. Anyone who denies that the Referendum happened, or plays down its significance, is gaslighting the working class and left-behind, trying to keep them in their box and literally denying the true reality of the mathematics of the referendum. A “checksum error” I call it – in IT a checksum is when you verify the integrity of data transferred across a network. In this case the Referendum was a sociopolitical checksum – do the public agree with the politicians on Europe?
The imbalance between public and political opinion is a symptom of a breakdown in the integrity of our democratic system, and anyone who ignores the significance of this self-evident mathematical mismatch is deluded and not acting in accordance with Nature. Maths is Nature, after all. The Referendum was the true Voice of Nature, and people who ignore that warning sign are not living in the real world. Like ignoring the “fuel empty” light and continuing to drive on regardless.
Ignoring the Referendum result and its significance is either a bad case of denial, or, far more disturbingly, a horrifying example of gaslighting; psychological torture by making the victim doubt their own senses. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was persuading the world he didn’t exist.” The Referendum DID happen, and more people voted to disagree with the Establishment than to agree with them. The acceptance of this scientific fact is a sine qua non of good mental health and right thinking; to knowingly play it down, or to obfuscate it in any way, is to gaslight.
Now, accepting that the Referendum result reveals a serious fault with our politics doesn’t automatically equate to believing that leaving the EU is the best solution. What’s important to understand, regardless of your opinion on Brexit itself, is that more of the public rejected the strong advice of Parliament (as a whole) than followed it. We were recommended by all the major parties to do one thing, and a majority of voters chose the exact opposite. We no longer trust the judgement of our Parliament. THAT is the fundamental issue.
(2) Lack Of Critical Thinking / Hegelian Dialectic: the buck stops with Theresa May as Prime Minister, but all parties on all sides are guilty. The art of politics is to reach out and persuade those with the opposite point of view. Theresa May’s skills at this were very lacking indeed – she was able to persuade almost nobody on the Labour side to change their views. Ditto Jeremy Corbyn. Ergo bad leadership on both sides, lack of critical thinking and synthesis (ie taking the best bits from Remain, the best bits of Leave, and combining them to form a new, 3D version of Brexit that keeps everyone happy.
From the top down, indeed enshrined in the very format of the referendum itself, the issue of our relationship with the EU was framed in a 2D Us vs Them paradigm, instead of thinking three-dimensionally and proactively seeking to reach out beyond one’s tribal loyalties to pull in people from all sides. As I say, the buck ultimately stops with Theresa May for her reductive rather than expansive attempts to synthesise all-round support for the deal on offer, though Jeremy Corbyn was also about as much help as a sick headache. Jonathan Pie, the comedy reporter, is about the only public figure I know who is able to reach out and say things that both Remainers and Brexiteers can agree on!
(3) Magical Thinking: similar to above but potentially even more dangerous. Non-logical, non-rational support or hatred for the EU rather than a nuanced analysis. More feels than thoughts. It’s very worrying to see naive young people falling over themselves to sign up for a totalitarian globalist elite with some very, very authoritarian policies (Article 13 for example).
Equally and oppositely, it’s magical thinking on behalf of Brexiteers to assume that an undefined Brexit is a panacea to all our political ills. My own interpretation is that the Referendum result says as much, if not more, about our internal relationship with our politicians as it does about our external relationship with the EU. Ultimately, it’s that internal breakdown that concerns me more. [EDIT: Indeed, the eco-carnage at Hendy didn’t stem from our membership of the EU; it derives entirely from the greed of Welsh Labour, possibly hiding behind the fig-leaf of EU regulations, but in reality all about the Benjamins.]
Qualified approval or disapproval of our membership of the EU, with an admission of its strengths and weaknesses and some suggested solutions or alternatives, would be less magical thinking and more of a rounded opinion either way. And many of the axioms used to explain away the Referendum result simply don’t hold water – eg “Oh millions of Brexiteers have died since then”: well, as young people get older they generally become more Eurosceptic, so I can guarantee that over those three years, for each old person who has died, there will be someone who’s just hit pension age to take their place.
Also, when people call it “Theresa May’s deal” – this shows a lack of logic. It was Theresa May AND THE EU’s deal. The EU helped draw it up, helped sign it, as a soft Brexit document that would easily allow the UK to re-enter the EU. I can understand the logic behind Brexiteers rejecting it for not being a strong enough exit, but I simply cannot get my head around the logic of why Labour didn’t back the deal, other than the most cynical form of destructive opposition, not out of any principles, but merely to sabotage Brexit.
If the deal failed, clearly most of the blame goes to May, but it’s also a snub to the EU’s lawyers who helped draw the whole thing up. How can people claim to support the EU, then when presented with a deal they’ve agreed works for them, oppose it for no good reason? How does that help either the EU or the UK? It implies Labour think they know better than the EU what’s good for them, and if I was in the EU I’d probably be more annoyed at Corbyn than May, who at least came to an agreement with the EU in good faith. Labour have, by contrast, contributed NOTHING! Just cynicism in those at the top, exploiting the magical thinking of those down at the bottom. Exactly the same modus operandi as at Hendy. Horrendous.
(4) Transference: we all do this, I know I’m prone to it. Anger and stress can affect judgement and make it easy for us to get angry or misdiagnose the root of the problem. Brexit is a national Barnum statement – so called after circusmaster P.T. Barnum’s claim to have “something for everyone” – meaning that each of us will read into it something that relates to us and our own individual circumstances. For instance, my own interpretation of Brexit might be entirely down to whether it means more or less wind farms. The success and failure of each aspect of Brexit is viewed entirely through the prism of the individual, thus throwing up some unlikely alliances and strange bedfellows, such as the TIGgers. Theresa May’s failure to secure a deal can therefore equally be viewed as a success, both by those who want No Deal and those who want to Remain.
It’s very easy to confuse frustration at those who are botching the job with wanting to abort the job; once again, this can easily be manipulated to make people think we should scrap Brexit rather than improve the skillstack of those implementing it. I had to dismiss one of my team earlier in the month; his failure to do his job properly does not mean the job no longer needs doing, just that he’s not the right one to do it! Being frustrated with the government’s handling of Brexit should not be confused with the central aim. Conversely, it’s a perfectly valid counterargument to say frustrations with some of the dubious characters in the EU Parliament shouldn’t necessarily be mixed up with a fundamental trashing of the overall project. The same logic applies on both sides equally: make sure you pick the right target.
(5) Stockholm Syndrome: as soon as I heard the threat of “No Brexit At All” uttered from May’s mouth I realised she was done for. The rejection outright of No Deal, indeed its entire NLP framing as “crashing out”, is like something straight out of an emotionally abusive relationship designed to lower the victim’s self-confidence, to the point where they become submissive and lack the desire to leave by their own free will. Cults work like this! People have every right to come and go as they please, and it’s wrong to deny them the freedom to make that decision. Sure, I know what it’s like to watch someone abandon a team when you’d love them to stick around. It is difficult, and it’s always worth trying your hardest to persuade them to stay. However actively threatening them if they try to walk away is toxic behaviour. If you love someone, set them free….
Now I don’t necessarily see the EU as the abusive partner here; after all, as I outlined above, they have put pen to paper to come up with a soft Brexit deal that’s acceptable to them. They’re happy for us to leave on friendly terms! They’re happy for us to then come back again later if we want. Let’s be logical, if there is psychological abuse, it comes from those who want to impose “No Brexit At All” on the public, rather than even accepting the soft Brexit deal approved by the EU themselves.
There aren’t that many politicians publicly backing “No Brexit It All”, for the same reason that an emotional abuser knows how to cover up their toxic behaviour in public. Instead, their motives are hidden, only detected when their words don’t match their actions. Theresa May herself has been accused of secretly wanting to cancel Brexit. I’m not convinced, even though her handling of the job has been so amateurish that one can easily imagine it’s been deliberately so.
Anybody who has been browbeaten into accepting Brexit is impossible is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. And if it is literally impossible, then the EU is an abusive partner after all. Either way, in a good, healthy relationship, it should NEVER be thought of as impossible to leave. As I say, the line of dysfunctional behaviour is crossed when persuading someone to stay becomes threatening to stop them leaving.
(6) External Locus Of Control: unfortunately this is the mistake a lot of Brexiteers are making, as well as neutrals who don’t realise they’re being played. There are still an awful lot of people in the UK whose locus of control lies with the government – what the MPs decide dictates what we do. “STUFF AND NONSENSE!” says this person with an internal locus of control. We should set the agenda – the politicians are supposed to do what WE tell THEM to do. For those of us with an internal locus of control, the future started yesterday. I don’t need Theresa May’s permission to change what’s in my head and heart, on any issue. The left generally gets this. The right I suppose are still quite attached to hierarchies. Which is good in terms of law and order, but bad in terms of intellectual freedom and social justice.
When change is coming, it starts inside people’s souls but can take a while before manifesting itself in the material world. That change has already happened now within the soul of many inhabitants of Brexit Britain, but there are many more who are still waiting for the official go-ahead before changing their thinking. I say: think your way to the future you want to see!
(7) Finally, this is the scariest of the lot: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This for me is the main underlying factor we as a nation need to address. Clearly, based on the above, we have a lot of psychological issues as a country. Clearly there is a breakdown and mismatch between the majority of the public and the political class as a whole. The democratic process is currently being pushed to the limit. I’m an optimist, and I believe ultimately the force of democracy WILL prevail, but it’s scary how many people, spurred on by several politicians, simply have no concept of what democracy means. This is a classic symptom of NPD.
Whilst democracy isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it does revolve around the ethically and psychologically sound axiom that we don’t always know best. If more people disagree with us than agree on an issue, then we may not get our own way. I constantly remind myself of this regarding wind farms: the ones I target are those that did NOT have democratic approval. It’s this overriding of democracy that bugs me almost as much as the infrasound, shadow flicker, torture of living beings and eco-destruction on an industrial scale. It’s the sheer narcissism of some huge wind farm dominating surroundings and forcing the public to have to look at it, even if they proactively voted against it. Hendy is a case in point. [Although local Ovenden Moor Wind Farm has often borne the brunt of my written opprobrium, you’ll also find I have a (grudging) respect for the fact that Calderdale Council actually voted for it; it wasn’t imposed on them against their will and without their consent.]
The whole point of the Referendum was that we as a society DID give our consent, via all the correct channels, for leaving the EU. In 2015 we were offered the choice between a Referendum under the Conservatives, or no Referendum and continued EU membership under Labour. A majority chose the former. We voted to have the Referendum, and then voted to leave the EU. Them’s the facts. Nothing else matters.
Those who believe their superior understanding of Brexit renders their opinions more important than the majority of voters are exhibiting classic symptoms of NPD, specifically “cerebral narcissism”. Look it up (as indeed I hope you are looking up all these terms). You see it in online comments everywhere. So does that make my own pontificating an example of cerebral narcissism too? Hmm, I hope not – I’m just thinking aloud, showing my workings in public for those who might be interested. The amount of Socratic Questioning I do is, I hope, the very antidote to NPD. Do I ask more questions than come up with big statements? You decide!
No, there’s a certain tone to NPD that, once you spot it, you recognise instantly. Sure I go OTT in my rants sometimes, but it’s mostly just honest anger, underpinned by a genuine interest in what makes other people think oppositely from me; I find it fascinating how we humans each see the same old world in such different ways. What I’m referring to are those rather emotionally detached, smug, snarky, condescending and callous remarks that attempt to belittle other people; you especially find this type of narcissistic bigotry on the Guardian’s (increasingly locked down) comments sections.
Perhaps the best examples of NPD at the heart of the Brexit debate come from those grandstanding politicians who think they know better than the electorate. And this runs deep. Maybe it does in all politics, all around the world. Maybe politics just generally attracts people who think they know best and love to see their faces splashed all across the newspapers. Certainly, Brexit has seen a mass outpouring of cerebral narcissism reflected in our politicians’ sheer lack of respect for the views of the public, their employers.
So where does it come from, this narcissistic personality disorder that is currently so rampant in British political discourse? Well, lots of potential causes: anything from bad parenting to lack of competitive sports. Maybe from growing up without ever learning how to share, or how to lose graciously, or how to show compassion for others…
To conclude this evaluation, I’d like to move beyond the “psycho” towards the “logical”, and wrap up with some troubleshooting tips and rational solutions.
The flawed thinking made by people promoting revocation of Article 50, or another referendum BEFORE we respect the result of the first is this: I agree that people can change their mind – indeed Theresa May was banking on that herself – but we have to implement the results of the democratic decision first, then maybe vote on whether it’s working out or not. You can’t have another referendum before you’ve implemented the results of the first. People opposed to Brexit might have good reason, but to be a true democrat, indeed a logical thinker, they should allow the result of the referendum to stand, watch us leave the EU, then decide again in a few years if we’d prefer to rejoin.
This stance derives directly from my job as an IT technician: the golden rule of troubleshooting is that you change only one variable at a time, then analyse any difference in behaviour, and if no improvement change back the variable you first changed to its original setting before trying to change another variable. We can’t truly test the hypothesis that we’d be better or worse off out of the EU until we actually carry out the experiment. OK, do I have to put my theory that it’d be pretty painful getting knocked down by a bus to the test? No, others have unfortunately researched that theory for themselves. But someone, somewhere in the EU, needs to smoketest the process for leaving the EU (and possibly rejoining). Has anyone else ever tried to leave? What happened? Do Remainers accept the premise that, even if it might be the wrong course of action for us at this specific time, there should still be a hypothetical process through which any country can exit the EU at any time of their choosing? Or is the EU literally impossible to leave BY DESIGN?
I’m personally neither a Remainer nor a Brexiteer at heart, I’m simply a Hippie Earth Child who tries to listen to the Voice of Nature. The mathematics of the Referendum result signalled to me an internal imbalance within our own democracy, a serious mismatch that we can only try to resolve by at least testing the hypothesis that changing our relationship with the EU will be in our best interests. Not necessarily leaving, if someone can come up with a new synthesis that satisfies the needs of both Remainers and Brexiteers, but certainly the requirement to change at least one variable and monitor the results.
For one reason and one reason only I would prefer “No Deal” to “No Brexit At All”, and that reason is the Voice of Nature, the Referendum result. Until we’ve at least respected the wishes of the electorate and run through the process the electorate advocated, we cannot claim to have a democracy. If it doesn’t work out having left, then I’d fully support a further referendum about re-entering at a later date.
Right here, right now, however, it’s simply unsustainable, unnatural and psychologically dysfunctional to carry on as if the Referendum result revealed nothing wrong with our democratic system. I’ve merely tried to highlight, using real examples of flawed thinking, some of the most obvious symptoms of the problem.
I’m not angry, not remotely. I’m disappointed by Theresa May’s below-par performance, and were she in my team she’d have been sacked long ago, but it’s not personal. She at least managed to successfully engage with the EU and bring back a deal they could live with, so the fault doesn’t lie within the interactions between her and them. I’m minded of an intranet problem. A user can access Google but they can’t access their company’s internal website. That tells us that the connection to the outside world is functional, so the problem must therefore lie with the internal website.
Theresa May was able to deal with the EU fine, which indicates that the fault occurs somewhere between her, Parliament and the public. Granted, Theresa May isn’t responsible for the Referendum result, but she’s not been able to win sufficient support in Parliament for her proposed solution. Therefore the variable we need to change is either (a) Theresa herself, getting someone else in with better skills at synthesising majority approval for the same proposed solution; (b) the proposed solution itself, which the EU aren’t interested in changing, therefore leaving us only the alternative option of No Deal; or (c) Parliament itself, by holding a General Election and seeing if the changed make-up leads to a more representative House.
Each of these options shows an intent to honour democracy, one way or another. None of them are perfect solutions, but each would involve at least trying to bring about some of the change instructed by the electorate in the Referendum. As things stand, the easiest variable to change is the person doing the job of Prime Minister, which means that we should try suspending Theresa May forthwith, and see if that helps improve the mental health and well-being of the nation. I’m pretty certain things will soon take a turn for the better, the moment her lumpen, tonedeaf, de-energising and emotionally unintelligent version of consensus-building has been sidelined, and someone takes control with far greater ability to synthesise popular support from both the Brexit thesis and its Remain antithesis.
Despite many, many, many misgivings about his general trustworthiness, I would have to acknowledge that Boris Johnson has this gift for synthesising support from across the spectrum. Boris certainly understands the concept of Hegelian Dialectic, and its utter NECESSITY in politics.
So there you have my psychological evaluation of the mental health issues currently faced by the UK, as revealed by Brexit. The whole process is frustrating and seemingly interminable, but equally fascinating and paradigm-shifting! Out of the realignment, ultimately, will only come good and positivity! So be patient 🙂
EDIT: A few days after this article was published, Theresa May suddenly reached out to Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to bring Labour on board. This is an example of the “synthesis” of cross-party support for her deal I was recommending. It remains to be seen whether she has the skill to pull it off whilst maintaining support from her own party. But it’s interesting to see at least one of the issues raised in this post now being addressed, albeit probably too little, too late.
EDIT 2: I missed out probably the most common psychological issue of the whole Brexit debate: confirmation bias. The entire Brexit debate is based more on bias than objective reality: how on earth does the layperson know what on earth is in the smallprint of the deal that’s been drawn up? How do I really know if it’s any good or not? How do you know? None of us, me included, has read the deal, so we’re all just clinging to our biases to explain and justify our positions. Brexit has revealed our biases, or lack of. As someone who didn’t vote in the Referendum it’s factually true to say I was neither biased for or against our continued membership of the EU; my only bias has been towards respecting the Referendum result and what it says about the state of our democracy.
EDIT 3 (14/06/19): I’ll keep coming back to this post as my one-stop thread for all things Brexit. Although this post was originally written less than three months ago, it already seems like a historical artefact. The Conservatives have chosen Variable (a) from my list of proposed solutions: remove Theresa May from the post of Prime Minister and see if anyone else can do a better job. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that MindWind officially supports Sajid Javid’s bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party.
SAJ 4 PM!