Archive | May 2020

How do you know?


I was in two minds whether to call this blog  ‘Narcissistic Psychopaths’ or ‘How do you know?’ and, as you see, the one in more approachable English won. So what’s it all about?

It started when I read messages from several people I knew vaguely on Facebook and Twitter who were saying that they had a fellow feeling with Cummings and that he was perfectly right to chose his child’s well being over obeying the rules that everybody else was following.  Many said, ‘I would have done the same. It’s only human nature to look after your children.’ But my mind was yelling ‘What!!’ even before I reached the end of the sentence because what they were saying was based on the assumption that we are all the same and that is by no means universally true. Not all parents love their children as I know to my cost. My mother beat the hell out of me and hated me with a passion. Far too many of us have to cope with all sorts of adverse situations. And people diagnosed as narcissistic psychopaths, as Trump and Johnson are now being diagnosed, often turn out to have had one hell of a childhood but that doesn’t mean we should tolerate the terrible things they are doing as adults. At which point I had to stop to look up narcissistic psychopaths to see what the psychologists were talking about. Very revealing.

The behaviour of a narcissistic psychopath is always the same. ”They lie pathologically, they malign the truth, they create fake scandals and demonise perceived enemies and critics.”  And being narcissistic, they consider themselves the most important people on the planet, and if something goes wrong under their administration, they find someone else to blame. All of it seems demonstrably true in the case of Trump, who talks about himself and how wonderful he is virtually all the time, and Johnson who was described by the Master of Eton (writing to his father) as a boy who ”honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.” And now we’ve got a third candidate for the title in Dominic Cummings, who also obviously feels that the rules and obligations that bind the rest of us do not – and should not – apply to him. The rest of us are unimportant, we’re just plebs and expendable. Look at this for an example of how he thinks. Here he is talking about the virus and advocating ‘ herd immunity’ as the answer to it. ”Herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.” Well thanks a bunch Mr Cummings.

So what do we know about this man? He’s obviously powerful. Take a look at one of the things he wrote in his blog before the General election that put Johnson in power.

‘Tell your family and friends, face to face: if Boris Johnson doesn’t get a majority, then Corbyn and Sturgeon will control the government, their official policy is to give the vote to millions of foreign citizens to cheat their second referendum, we’ll all get screwed on taxes, parliament will drag the whole country into crisis and immigration will return to being a central issue in politics instead of being marginalized by Brexit.’


So there’s the man in essence. He hates Corbyn and Sturgeon who are honest politicians: he likes to manipulate people: he doesn’t want to pay his taxes: he’s a racist who likes to frighten his followers with talk of millions of foreign immigrants coming into the country (remember the poster?): he thinks Brexit is a solution.

He is also a eugenist, as I discovered when I read an account of a talk he’d given to The Department of Education in which he ‘allegedly’ claimed ‘a child’s performance has more to do with genetic make-up than the standard of his or her education.’ That provoked a flurry of complaints and in answer to his critics he said he had warned of the danger of public debates being confused by misunderstanding of such technical terms. ‘Or to translate, I may have said it but you didn’t understand what I was talking about. Which is on a par with I may have driven 30 miles but it was to test my eye sight.’


The Huffington Post however nailed him, very neatly, saying ‘whatever you may think of the defense, it’s worth looking a little more closely because Cumming’s technocratic, effectively eugenic, definitely gene-focused approach is dangerously close to affecting public policy,’

I will let Gayle Letherby have the final word because she’s put this situation so succinctly. She tweeted two days ago. Respec’ Gayle.

‘We live in a society/world where being an arrogant, egotistical, morally deficient, lazy, lying charlatan leads to success.

We live in a society/world where being a life-long anti-racist, working for equality, social justice and peace leads to condemnation and attack.’



This entry was posted on May 26, 2020. 8 Comments

Let them eat cake!

One of the few things that most people seem to know about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution is that when she asked why the people we34ABFF5E-A71C-4CF6-A8DA-7C68DF3E460Ere protesting out on the streets and was told it was because they had no bread and were starving, her innocent flippant answer was ‘Well let them eat cake.’ The remark might well be apocryphal but the attitude that underlies it was common at the French Court and is equally common and dangerous in our House of Commons. We hear it again and again whenever members of our current government give public pronouncements. Queen Marie Antoinette  was a member of the ruling upper class and had absolutely no idea what sort of impoverished lives the French working class were forced to endure. And sad though it is to have to face it,  many members of our own ruling class suffer from the same myopia.


Boris Johnson, (Eton and Oxford) showing off on a chat show, said the best way of coping with the virus would be for us to ‘take it on the chin’ – as if the virus were no worse than a punch in the face – and then ‘let it run through the population to build up ‘herd immunity” as if we were sheep or pigs.


The unelected Dominic Cummings (Exeter College and Oxford, Director of Vote Leave campaign) told us it was likely that a lot of old people would die in this outbreak, but that it would be no bad thing. Which shows his opinion of old people. Livestock you see, that needed ‘culling’, as he put it. A lesser breed, not worth bothering about.


And now we’re hearing the same sentiment again from the Billionaire press (people like Lord Rothermere, whose father backed the British Fascists, and Rupert Murdoch who has dominated our press and TV for far too long). They castigate our teachers for daring to say they don’t think their pupils should return to school because it’s too dangerous and are scorned for not taking the same risks as our heroic doctors and nurses.  While over in America Trump gloats that ‘doctors and nurses are ‘running into death just like soldiers running into bullets’ adding ‘it’s a beautiful thing to see.’ How callous can you get?

These men (and yes there are some women too) suffer from the same appalling moral flaws and the same sickening lack of compassion. They don’t believe that all men are created equal. Even though it’s 244 years since that powerful Declaration of Independence and 227 years from the execution of Louis XV1 and his pretty little empty headed queen. And 415 years since Shakespeare’s Shylock asked so movingly and powerfully ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’


This entry was posted on May 15, 2020. 6 Comments

Yes, I remember VE Day

I was fourteen when the war finally came to an end and stupidly over excited, I’m ashamed to say, and my mother, who was even more over excited than I was, took me up to London to ‘have fun’. We started off in Parliament Square and walked up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. I have never seen such huge tightly packed crowds in all my life, either before or since. At one point my feet were lifted off the ground and I was carried along by the pressure of the bodies all round me. But it wasn’t such a crush when we reached Trafalgar Square, although the place was full of people dancing. My mother shot off to find some servicemen to flirt with and I joined a group dancing the Hokey Kokey. I danced till my feet were sore, the Conga, the jitterbug, whatever people were singing, bouncing along with everyone else. It was a long, noisy evening but at last it drifted to an close and people began to wander out of the square and my mother appeared with a paper hat on her head and said it was time to go home. Then we hit a problem. It was so late that the trams, buses and underground had all closed down. So we had to walk back to Tooting and it felt like a very long way. (It was actually six and a half miles. I’ve just Googled it.) And that was the end of it. The next day I went to school and back to ordinary life.

One year and ten months later I met the love of my life. I had just turned sixteen the20200508_170934n and had read a small life-changing book called the Beveridge Report,which is still on my shelves, and lived through the amazing bloodless revolution of 1945 and was then cheering the way our new government was changing the way we lived. I soon found out that my darling was an ardent socialist too which made me love him all the more. We talked about pretty well everything, the unfairness of the old system, the obscenity of the concentration camps, the need to ensure that we never went to war again and in the course of our endless talk, we remembered VE Day. I told him what fun it had been dancing in the Square and asked him what he’d done that day. His answer was sobering and made me think. ‘I was bloody relieved,’ he said, ‘but I went for a long walk and remembered all the people who’d been killed.’ It made me see VE Day in a completely different light.

So no, I’m sorry but I won’t be out in my front garden waving a patriotic flag today. I shall be working at this machine and remembering the millions of all nations who were killed in that war or so badly wounded they never recovered. So my final pictures are a reminder, from the bus in the crater at Balham, where so many died the most terrible and terrifying death under the ground, to the wreckage around St Paul’s, when nothing was left standing after that night’s raid except the cathedral. I could have filled several pages with others from all over the world.

We must be very careful that we don’t tell any of our young either in words or more subtly and dangerously by implication, what Wilfrid Owen called ‘the old lie.’  Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is not a sweet and proper thing to die for one’s country. It is and always has been an obscenity. Have a party with your neighbours by all means but don’t get carried away by patriotism.

And to make my point for me I’ve just read a tweet from someone writing about her neighbours celebrating with ‘overloud recordings of anti German songs and victory speeches.’ That is exactly what worries me.

This entry was posted on May 8, 2020. 9 Comments

The value of NOT touching your forelock

I thought I’d tell you a true story with a moral this morning because I’m getting tired of being told that we should get behind the present incompetent ruling party and support them instead of criticising them as they richly deserve – and I feel in that sort of mood. So here goes.

My hero was a country bumpkin, like the two in these pictures, and he was a distant and very close relation of mine, who originally lived in a village called Westward Ho, which was near Bideford in Devon. His parents were farm labourers and lived in a tied cottage that belonged to their Lord of the Manor. By all accounts they were hard working, unassuming people, who worked hard and did as they were told. His mother curtsied when she saw any of the gentry approaching and his father either touched his cap or pulled the forelock of his hair. But their son Jessie was a firebrand.

The Lord of the Manor’s son was young and arrogant, used to getting his own way among the yokels. Naturally. He was a member of the ruling class and they were only labourers. It was his habit of an evening to ride into one or other of his father’s various villages on one or other of his well groomed horses and take a drink or two in the local pub. There was always a group of local lads standing around outside the pub and when he arrived he would dismount and toss the reins to the nearest boy with the lordly command, ‘Boy! Hold my hoss!’ And the boy would obediently hold the horse for him until he came out of the pub, and then ‘make a back’ for him so that he could mount and the young gentleman would toss him a threepenny bit as a reward. Until the evening he tossed the reins to Jesse Garnsworthy.

I think he’d had a few by then but he was bold by nature. Instead of catching the reins, he stood his ground, looked up at his master’s son and said. ‘You hold yer own bloody hoss!’ The young man must have been rather surprised to be answered in such a way but he didn’t say anything, he simply threw the reins to another boy.

But of course that wasn’t the end of the story. The next morning the Bailiffs arrived at his father’s cottage with a one way railway ticket to London. Jesse was to be on the train that morning or his family would be out of their cottage and out of their jobs by the end of the week. They couldn’t argue because the Lord of the Manor owned their labour and their home. So Jesse went to London. And that should have been the end of the matter.

But it wasn’t, because Jesse was a determined cuss and somehow or other he got a job on one of the daily newspapers on Fleet Street. By the time I was a small child and sitting at his feet happily listening to his stories, he was a compositor working for the Daily Herald and in his own words, ‘comfortably off’.

There are two morals to this story.

One is ‘Nil desperandum’  or ‘Don’t let the buggers grind you down.’

And the other is the motto of all courageous newspapers. ‘Speak truth to power’.