To those in the old Blairite camp, yes – even neoconservatives like myself, the deranged hatred that flares up at the mere mention of Tony Blair is inexplicable in the terminology of everyday politics. I believe that there is a radically different perspective unexplored in Britain but one which has been explored in the US blogosphere through sites such as Shrinkwrapped and that is to understand the psychology.
This journey of understanding began a long time but I reached a critical point when reading Aspects of the Masculine by C.S.Jung, through which various threads have come together but more importantly, I can sense the form of the deeper problem in Western culture, of which the Blair derangement displayed so frequently is but a symptom.
The central concept that must be understood here is that of psyche or mind. I will be speaking in (probably) poorly expressed metaphors as I have only really begun in this year to delve into psychology.
Firstly, there are two layers to the mind, the conscious and the unconscious. From what I have understood thus far, the unconscious is the store of all our experiences but that it is not a passive element in the mind but that there is a continuous relationship between the two psychic layers, where we might describe the conscious mind as a kite tethered by many fine threads into a chaotic field of colours and shapes in which we find the concept of archetypes.
Jung believed that the unconscious is oppositely gendered; a man’s unconsciousness is archetypally feminine; a woman’s unconscious archetype would be masculine. I will be theorising mainly through the masculine mind, so the unconscious will be the anima. In females, the unconscious is the animus.
His theory held that at developmental stages in our lives, we first break out of the unconscious in a heroic phase to define ourselves but then at a crisis point, the unconscious would call to the consciousness through archetypes, which hold a deep psychological truth and power. The more the archetypal call is resisted, the more negative the effects of the archetype will become until the mind as a whole is poisoned. This is because all aspects of the psyche have light and dark sides; each aspect is capable of healing and destruction.
These archetypes extend into a cultural consideration because Jung argued that all archetypes are universal and held in common as careful study of myth and story revealed repeated patterns that illuminated the contents of the unconscious. It is my contention that the West is in the final stages of a cultural transformation. Here we must also understand the concept of masculine and feminine energy, the former heroic in quality encompassing desire to conquer, explore and explain, the latter empathic in quality, encompassing desire to nurture, heal and understand (as opposed to explain). All men will exhibit to a certain degree the heroic aspiration and all women the empathic aspiration; these are the foremost qualities of the psyches and as such represent the conscious mind.
Not all men are absolutely heroic and not all women are absolutely empathic but rather that as we grow through the four stages of life, we learn to grow through our shadow selves in the unconscious. A man will learn value, spirituality and virtue, a woman rationale, discrimination and inquiry. What we ascribe as the masculine, we see enhanced in older women, while older men become wiser and more tolerant (at least in theory). I hold that all of these outcomes depends upon the relative strengths of the two energies in the sexes and that this is understood and reflected through the Thinking and Feeling functions.
The effect of resisting acknowledgement of the crisis (when the unconscious reaches out) is that sooner or later the unconscious will win and because we have resisted, it will be all the harder to break back out of the unconscious. The sooner we are in touch with ourselves the greater our personal growth. But failure to do so results in neurosis, infantilism and distortion in the mind. Not acknowledging the struggle within ourselves, we look naturally to outside demons to blame for our distress; this being unknown to the conscious mind, sabotaged by the unconscious, we can only learn of the cause through the means with which the unconscious manifests itself: namely dreams. Without resolution of this conflict, the feeling of suffocation or unbearable burden will grow upon us and with it, we cannot grow.
Reading mythology one comes to appreciate that each tale contains these archetypes and that the archetypes in the mind conform to a particular crisis of the soul. In understanding these on a cultural level, though prayer, meditation, reflection or ritual, humankind has taught itself to face these crises of mind and acquire wisdom or self-knowledge.
In understanding our present cultural world (in the West), we must first appreciate the idea that since the 16th century the West has culturally been possessed of a very masculine frame of mind, the old magics and superstitions slowly stripped away and philosophy and science allowed free rein. The world has been measured, explained and conquered to a very great measure but by the end of the 19th Century the approach of a crisis was felt. By the late twentieth century, this nagging doubt had turned into a strong confusion and by the present day, reached the state of a miasma of the mind. In dismantling the sacred, much was gained but we have lost touch as a culture with the means by which wisdom was gained.
The great struggle at the heart of Western civilisation today can be perceived in the desperate search for belief. Our need to believe has perverted our sciences and our politics; what else were Nazism or Communism but pseudo-religions, religious only in form being as they were utopian. Our society constantly seeks out the tranquillity of wisdom, undertaking a spiritual rape of other more traditional cultures to rob them of Buddhist meditation, prayer wheels, gods and spirits in which to believe. Standpoint magazine has a recurring theme of the loss of religion and our need for rediscovery of faith. I have constantly felt a truth in this but believed the form was wrong. For good or for ill, Christian religion is dying and cannot not be revived. We need now to arrive at some new manner of form that will encapsulate the virtues of the past and create a spiritual space in our society, whether it be prayer or meditation or contemplation. By achieving this, we will shake off the moral lethargy that has dissolved our virtues and sapped us of our courage.
How does all this relate back to the original subject of Blair Derangement Syndrome? Because in understanding Blair as a transformational figure, we must place this figure in the context of our stunted times. I believe that Blair as man and icon played the role of redemptive hero who in myth reconciles reason and wisdom, and becomes the archetype of the wise hero. Christ and Dionysos, both like Blair were sacrificed upon the resentment and envy of those lost in their own resentments. Blair transformed the Labour Party for what seemed an age, was first loved and then loathed to excess. Yet the passage of his coming and going had an profound impact on British politics which we now see in the confusion afflicting all three parties, which seek to find their feet. Blair transformed the Conservatives who have had to find their feeling once more but find much of their former principles left by the wayside. Labour find themselves the party of government, yet not in government, its new leader and his coterie having strived mightily to reject Blair’s influence, returning to the past, yet frightened of losing the future. The Liberal Democrats are at the end of their journey, the strains generated by Blair no longer present to sustain the party, the Conservatives slowly finding their feet once more, the Liberal Democrats now feel the tension inherent in an alliance between sentimental socialists and classical liberals. The party will not long survive the coalition, not least because of the dishonesty of their leaders.
British politics must now find a way forward when all its certainties have been shattered. Blair as the symbolic focus of the metamorphosis undergone by British politics attracts the ire and range of those who resent the changes in the country, resent the inner knowledge that they must now let go of their fears, let go of a previous part of their political and cultural lives and once more look to be the sage and the hero themselves. To do so is to grow up and the most fervent of the Blair-haters desire a utopian political childhood, a mythical world controlled by their whim and will and which nurtured them in their conceit. When you see the Trotskyites waving their banners, see raging children; when you hear someone sneer “war criminal”, you see a petulant child angered at the pluckings of his own conscience.
Blair will always remain controversial but history will be kinder on him than his would-be assassins. Blair called to all of us to grow and renew ourselves. We should heed that call.