Love, Booze and Independence
Watching the drama of Tory parties, the dishonesty about tremendous alcohol consumption and disrespect for the needs of others, reminds me of the painful experiences found in many homes.
When I was a young boy, I begged my mum to leave my dad and take us away somewhere safe. He was an alcoholic and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t see how abusive he was being to all of us. They say love is blind, but I wouldn’t call that love. I would say it’s attachment. Sometimes we might feel like we have no choice but to put up with a situation we’re in. Sometimes we might feel duty bound to suffer.
bell hooks, the revolutionary black feminist who recently left this Earth, wrote about this in her beautiful and wise book All About Love. “All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm’s way.”
If we could define love, we might say (a bit like bell hooks does) that it’s a deep and profound commitment to someone’s wellbeing and ongoing growth. And of course, that can include ourselves. What would happen if we all lived our lives, deeply committed to our own vitality, to our own beautiful blossoming as human beings? And if we shared that same sense of commitment to those around us? As hooks notes, it would change our world in endless ways.
Many people have compared the relationship between Westminster and the people of Scotland (really, all the people of the currently United Kingdom) as an abusive relationship. Generally, I avoid getting into discussions on Twitter (mostly just using it to see and ‘like’ an artist friend’s work) but for some reason one day I made this comparison myself.
I was interested to see the number of people who pounced on me, saying how insensitive I was. “If you’d really been in an abusive relationship”, they said, “you would never make such a crass comparison.” Then I started looking more closely at their accounts, and accounts they are linked to, and many of them seemed obviously fake. “Follow me if you’re against the break up of the UK”, they’d say, “and I’ll follow you back.” It seemed to be a kind of conscious movement building to keep the UK together using bribery (more followers, more connections) and guilt (how could you be so insensitive to survivors of domestic abuse?).
When I said I had, in fact, been in an abusive relationship they mostly went silent. One kind person had the compassion to say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
This past October, my mum did leave my dad after finding out things she hadn’t know before about his behaviour. He recently told her that if she didn’t come back to him, he’d commit suicide. When she called the police and asked them to check in on him they told her that he’d told them, “I just said that to try to get my wife to come back to me.”
Probably we all know what it’s like to be in pain and to use that pain to try to manipulate others into helping us feel better. Often we imagine that we need to make others change and forget the possibility of making changes in our own lives that support our wellbeing and development. In other words, we might forget to love ourselves. Or we might not even know it’s possible.
It seems very clear that my dad grew up in an abusive household, so much so that he can’t even talk about it. And when we look at those who are trained to be the ‘ruling class’ of Britain, we can see that they, too, have suffered serious abuse. Being financially wealthy doesn’t make up for being shipped off to boarding school at a young age, subjected to emotional and often sexual abuse. Being told that you have to be in control and to control others isn’t healthy for people. Being told that you are superior to others is just as unhealthy (and untrue) as believing that you are inferior.
And so it doesn’t surprise me that Boris Johnson & Co have been excessively consuming alcohol at work and lying to us about it. Addiction, deceit and emotional manipulation are common tactics among people affected by serious trauma. A Conservative-voting friend of mine, who is a really lovely person, said she didn’t like to see the Tories demonised. And I agree. At the same time, I don’t want to stay in an abusive relationship. I don’t want to see Scotland or, for that matter, England, Wales & Northern Ireland stay in that abusive relationship.
I see that in this difficult time for my dad, he has an incredible opportunity here to love himself. To focus on nurturing his own wellbeing rather than expecting my mum to do it for him. By choosing independence, we can not only help the people of Scotland to act lovingly by stepping out of harm’s way, we also offer a great opportunity to the rest of the UK.
Whether my dad or those attached to the Union – or attached to entitlement and exploitation in any form – are willing to accept this opportunity is up to them. We can’t rescue anyone else. But we can love them in their humanness. And if we can’t love them, perhaps we can begin by loving ourselves.
In this way, we contribute to the healing of our communities, our nations and our whole world.
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