We need to believe in ourselves or we’re sunk

Oct 26


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Helen Whitten

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We need to believe in ourselves or we’re sunk

Winter is coming.  We need to bolster ourselves up individually, and as a country, to withstand the challenges we face as a result of the Covid pandemic.  We need to rise above party politics, race, gender and culture to work together to turn our lives and the economy round.  It is in all of our interests to believe in ourselves and the UK.  That is not a nationalistic or populist statement.  It is common sense.  It is about being grateful for the environment in which we live.  It is about noticing what we have in common rather than what divides us, for a divided country is an unhappy country. It is about gathering together to get ourselves out of this mess.

I am so fed up with the endless rhetoric emphasising our failures and divisions.  How does it help any one of us to stress this rather than to draw us together as a group?  News presenters seem to delight in highlighting bad news, where the government has got something wrong, or where they can catch out some politician or spokesperson.  There is a sense of “gotcha” pleasure – but where does it get us?  Perhaps they think it will keep their audiences this way.  Personally, I am not so sure.

I heard someone say recently that “if you create a villain, you start a war.”  With identity politics, race, gender and culture wars we have created far too many perceived villains and are starting far too many wars between us all, that serve little purpose other than to make everyone unhappy.

And unhappiness has consequences.  I have heard of three suicides and an attempted suicide in the last six weeks.  It is totally irresponsible for people of power and influence to be so negative about the UK.  The success of this country benefits every single person who lives here, rich or poor. 

There are constructive ways of analysing and articulating solutions.  Pointing fingers at politicians, scientists, business leaders or others will not get us out of our current problems.  Analysis is productive, negativity is not.   Waiting and expecting all the answers to come from politicians, scientists or others will not bring about any magical solutions.  It is up to us, you, me and every individual in this country to begin to regain a little pride in what it is like to live here, to notice the beauty of the countryside, appreciate the history, culture, architecture, science, innovation, the arts.  You are likely to feel happier as a result and we are far more likely to pull ourselves out of this hole faster if we let go of the tendency to push those with different opinions away, and start to work together. 

Matthew Syed in his article on ecosystems in The Sunday Times this week writes of how a lifetime of observing one ant in a colony would tell you nothing, whereas seeing the colony as a coherent organism that solves problems, demonstrates their powers of problem-solving, building methods of housing, and feeding the group.  He argues that this is the secret of our species too, for the way we create progress is through the complex interplay of people and institutions.  The individual plays a part but it is their interaction with others in their community that achieves change.  Working together is a survival mechanism, for “when we curtail our sociality, we curtail our humanity” and, I would add, our innovation.

Are we really as bad as the media and the chattering classes like to make out?  After all, where is the country that gets everything absolutely right?  There isn’t one.  Every nation and culture has made mistakes in their past and continues to do so.  That’s life.  There’s much criticism of Western values and the way we live here but quite honestly I am horrified by how women are treated in many other areas of the world.  We have fought hard for equality of gender, race, sexual preference and creed and we need to hold on to these rights.  We do not want to walk mindlessly into a world that takes us backwards, by allowing the endless criticism of the way of life here in the UK to blind us to what we have achieved.

Of course, mistakes have been made over Covid-19 but the situation is far too complex to be able to say with any certainty yet which countries actually got things right over Covid.  Whether Labour, LibDem or Conservatives were in power the fact is they would all be getting some things wrong. Politicians around the world have their weaknesses and right now I wouldn’t want to be any one of them, of any party, anywhere.  Countries who locked down early and insisted on masks have nonetheless got second waves too. We know also that there are other countries who, if given a referendum, could well vote to exit the EU.  It is not specifically a British perspective.  There are plenty of other countries that have issues over race. Kemi Badenoch observed that she thought the UK was one of the better countries regarding racial tolerance.  The French-Tunisian comedian Samia Orosemane commented recently that audiences in the UK are more open-minded than in France.  Let’s consider that.

Personally I have travelled to many countries and believe that whilst our democracy and its institutions are not perfect they actually work reasonably well – or did before Covid knocked everything for six.  If it were really so bad why would so many people want to come and live here?  Could it be that people who report being happier in other countries enjoy a media who are not so consistently negative and critical of everything that happens within that country?

We face a rocky road ahead and a competitive one.  I read that Chinese millennials today are feeling confident, assertive and proud of their country.  We can’t afford to allow ourselves to fall into some  helpless-hopeless state.  Without work people lose their way.  They have less structure in their lives, less fulfilment, less social life and support.  We have to get this country up and running again, and the economy prospering, otherwise we shall have many more suicides, depression and poverty.  That would be tragic. We need to lead ourselves away from this future.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that you have to be an optimist to make a company successful.  As a country we now need to learn to be more optimistic again, ditch the self-flagellation and galvanise ourselves into action to take a few risks, return to work, start new enterprises.  Don’t buy into the criticism and negativity.  It is up to us, our aspiration and our effort.

I have been re-reading a book by Dr Joseph Murphy called The Power of the Subconscious Mind.  In it the author argues that it is essential to feed one’s subconscious with the positive images and thoughts of the goals one wants to achieve.  Our thoughts are like seeds being planted in the soil of the future and if we plant negative ideas that is what we shall reap.  He also describes the conscious mind as being the captain of the ship, telling the subconscious what to do, where to go.  I have witnessed this in my work.  It works, for without a sense of direction we wallow in confusion and go round in circles.  We need a vision to strive towards.

Gratitude goes a long way in this endeavour.  Let’s notice and talk about what is working rather than what isn’t. Let’s not create villains or victims.  It doesn’t help us feel good or become economically prosperous.    We need to think, talk and describe the potential of the UK in positive terms.  We need to get out of the habit of talking critically about everything that happens here.  It isn’t about pretending there isn’t room for improvement.  Of course there is.  But we must see that there is a way to cooperate and make things better.

So let’s give ourselves a break!  In every country there are those who suffer and those who thrive.  To enable more people to thrive, here and around the world, where others with less support than we have and depend on our success, we have to unite and believe in ourselves.


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