Monday, 12 September 2016
Winners & Losers At the Living Room Cardiff, time and again the underlying cause of addiction in our clients is a deep seated sense of worthlessness and a belief that they are ‘not good enough’. The belief is so prevalent and is no respecter of age, gender, social status or education that one might be forgiven for thinking that it is a virtually universal psychical condition in Britain. Our society could be likened to a factory for producing feelings and identities, its institutions and rules almost guarantee that a large portion of the population will constantly see themselves as failing, even when this belief guarantees that they will emotionally suffer throughout much of their lives. How does this happen and why have we contrived to treat so many people so cruelly? Nearly all of this harm is first done to children, worthlessness as a belief is first powerfully acquired at a young age, when there is no other frame of reference to challenge it. The pressures to be successful, to consume ever greater quantities of the world’s finite resources and to be loved, special or famous are drip fed to children by parents, schools and the media. A society based on illusory notions of competition and success is unlikely to educate children into any other world view than that there are winners and losers. The winners are permanently ill at ease, worried they might one day not be good enough to stay on their podiums and pedestals and the losers are educated that there is little, if any hope or role for them. In recent months the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has made various promises about a new society of opportunity for all. However, when judging the real intentions of our rulers, it is more instructive to look at what they do, than listen to what they say. The announcement this week that grammar schools will be reintroduced into Britain, with the inevitable selection via the eleven plus (or equivalent exam) should tell us all a lot about the new opportunity Britain that is on the way. Despite all available peer reviewed data showing that grammar schools do not help social mobility, the government are pressing ahead with the repeal on their ban, perhaps knowing full well that they are divisive. It is all too easy to claim that an institution creates ‘winners’, while editing the ‘losers’ from the story, but we would invite the government to look at the situation from another perspective, that of a child. Seeing a small number of children being sent to a grammar school because, by all measures they are seen as ‘better’ can be a shattering experience. The idea that children must be taught at an early age to accept winning and losing, to toughen up and stop complaining, or the long held aversion in the British tabloid press to concern for ‘self-esteem’ are all part of a toxic ideological brew that our young people are forced to drink. Creating a pecking order of the ‘special’ and the ‘rest’ is a crucial part of the construction of class in Britain and it is also a crucial part in the creation of worthlessness. It is this worthlessness that many spend their entire lives evading because it is so painful and a significant number find the solution to their pain in addiction.