The best kinds of group

The Best Kinds of Group

The best kinds of group are ones where people who don’t get on have, out of necessity, to find a way of getting on. If they do, when they do, the results can be extraordinary.

Fragmentation worries me. Political parties splintering. Factions forming. Where’s the force to come together, and why would anyone bother to? For some people it is very easy to speak out differently.  Others are easily and cruelly exposed as different. And with this going on, many people are left unable to have their voices heard at all.

Freedom is not a right. I wish it were. Freedom will always be contested.


These cases of sexual harassment and assault. Of course it isn’t just politics. Academics sleep with their students. Priests sleep with the people they are supposed to be protecting. Theatre directors ‘father’ or fuck actresses.

Anywhere that power plays out, and I suppose that’s anywhere, men protect other men, whatever their sexuality. Often that, the protecting, is far from conscious – even when the behaviour is absolutely clear.

Misogyny discriminates against women, and men tend to stick together; even the ones who believe they are different. It isn’t only about who a man believes he is choosing to be. Ideology interpolates and you answer without knowing so. If you believe you are always transparent to yourself, think again.

There are exceptions, but if you believe you know an exception, look at his life and see what’s ever really changed.


So the story runs that one week the Whitehouse is being investigated for links to Russia that undermine its national security, and the next the president who was being accused, who has instigated a course of action that seems to lead him into direct conflict with Russia, says that relations with Russia are at an all-time low. Is this really possible? It may be, but asking how might be illuminating.

#Psychoanalysis: infatuating & infuriating

I love psychoanalytic thinking. It’s imaginative, it can take me and other people to surprising places, and it’s somehow at one with the world in ways that other kinds of thinking don’t seem to be. Psychoanalysis seems on the side of poetry and mystery, ever the best ways of trying to get a feel for life, whereas other forms seem, at least to me, catastrophically limiting.
       Unfortunately it’s also a ready defence for half-wits and clowns. It’s easy to mistake psychoanalysts for intellectuals. Some intellectuals enjoy psychoanalysis, but very few of them are psychoanalysts. Psychoanalytic thinking offers a kind of quick-sand for the insecure, sucking them in to a world where nothing is at it seems and there’s always an opportunity to state the obverse rather than the obvious.
       Psychoanalysis can offer security as long as you don’t need it.
       Possibly the problem is in the word ‘thinking’. Psychoanalytic practice involves being in a ways that don’t dissociate thinking from feeling. They become something else.


Toeing the Line

I remember the first time I heard this phrase. I was in Scotland and my mother was wishing my father would do it, just occasionally. But as she said it, in front of some people who had found my father’s behaviour worrying (most people did), I realised she was doing it. She didn’t mean it. Like me, she was an extremely poor liar and I could tell from the pride in her voice that the last thing she wanted was for him to start being somebody else. I’ve always had a sense for when people do it.
       For many people 2016 was the end of a long line toe. In the States they found an insecure bigot to stand for office as president. Over here there were people like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. And for those people, who’d been pretending for years that they thought racism was wrong, and men and women were equal, and so on, etc, etc, they could cast their vote and relax. They could stop toeing the line and roll around in the swamp. Until Farage helps Trump drink it. Sorry, drain it.

Debbie Harry Does It

I was really much more interested in antisocial, underground things, and I didn’t want anyone choosing material for me. Debbie Harry

I like Blondie. I could write a book about them; but I found this quote and it seems to say more than I’d ever manage to. It’s from an interview where Debbie Harry’s talking about liking X-Factor. But, would she have taken part? No, she wouldn’t.
       Doing what other people tell you to do, when you could be doing something else, is fucking life up. There will always be things I can’t but do, but all the time I see people getting on with not doing their own thing because: they don’t seem to know their own thing very common; or they don’t see they’re being told to do something; or they want to get something and they’re happy to eat shit until they do.
       Not she (who looks amazing).

Acronyms: Small Forms of Resistance #1

Once upon a time acronyms perhaps seemed exciting, of the future, nothing to do with stuffy formalised conversations or over-long names. I dread them. Every one I see seems dissociated from what it represents … schools and colleges whose names are reduced to admissions friendly  locator scripts; medical interventions and psychiatric conditions that do nothing to help me remember they concern lives. ADHD as like a chemical compound, a thing in itself, rather than a way of describing manic levels of activity. Acronyms take the sting out of death without even the awful dissonance of a euphemism: PAS, DAS, VE, AS, ASFRA, or EDAS. They root me to whichever institution holds the upper hand in deciding what needs to be done in response to some form of human activity. If you want to know about ADHD look in the DSM. Abandon acronyms. They’re on the side of death and tyranny.

The Skin’s Off

I wish I could ask you all for your dreams. So many of my clients have told me that their dreams have been wild, weird, and extraordinary these last few weeks. I wonder, even for the most disengaged amongst us, what the effect of the political skin around us unpeeling has been? In some places politicians change like traffic lights, but in the UK there’s (so I’m told) a legacy of stability: a cultivated, thick-skinned indifference that belies anger and fear.
        The skin’s off, I think.
        We are living through the politics of the anthropocene. Tides are rising, winds blowing harder, the sun shines only as it can during these times of disintegration.  There isn’t a political solution to this kind of chaos, and there can’t be any kind of a solution while the problem isn’t being properly named.
        Groups of people tend to behave in ways that reveal what’s being pushed down or hidden from view. Just as an ugly family secret becomes known through peculiar, horrible family behaviour all of this chaos in Westminster points to something that isn’t being said. Maybe the country’s biggest problem is ungovernable, and that’s what we’re seeing. I write all of this on the good authority of a dream.

Labour’s Craving for a Victim

I look up the news and see a Labour party meltdown occupying the headlines rather than post Brexit chaos amongst the Conservatives or Ian Duncan Smith backtracking on what the Leave campaign appeared to promise. What is it about our MPs that they’re behaving as if their actions don’t have consequences? It’s as if all the years of plotting, guessing, double-guessing and spinning have imploded into a melee of disappointment, blame and rage.

Deny It

Fortunately the first thing I read in the Observer this morning was Jarvis Cocker remembering an episode of the old Batman TV series where The Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. He points out how horribly similar the fat bird’s schtick is to the Presumptive Nominee’s. It was only when I glanced at The Observer’s sports section, and having tossed it onto the floor picked up the magazine, which I then also tossed onto the floor, that I wished I’d never bought the newspaper in the first place.
     How can a campaign like Trump’s fail when as far away as this side of the Atlantic an allegedly thoughtful newspaper prints a sports section without a woman on its front page, and a magazine with just one woman on the cover:  a Victoria’s Secret model?
     Something’s happening all over again, and it’s happening all over. All of those column inches of ink spilled out in the liberal press over the last fifty years and was it ever a form of denial, a kind of word-wrap trying to contain a feast of unthinkable wishes? Boys still wanted to be Boys, and wanting girls.
    Things have changed but in ways that seem to channel a past that couldn’t happen. Society was too structured, too policed. There was even a Wall, the Berlin Wall, like the one Trump says he’ll build now; and thank God it was smashed down – but now what?
Whatever now is has emerged … what are we going to do with it? Can we be honest and try to notice how little has changed?  If I sit in a cinema watching ads before a film I feel as if I’m in a dream of the 1970s (I grew up in the 1970s; I didn’t imagine them, did I?). This morning I open a newspaper and see men playing with themselves in the sports section and a magazine selling itself on the strength of an attractive woman whose job is to sell lingerie. This is the past in a weaselly, half-hidden way. The Observer and Trump, they appeal in different ways to a lowest common denominator. We need a different kind of debate and I wonder where I’m going to look.