Monday, February 22, 2010

The "GDR" Syndrome

I'm not convinced by the suggestions of Brown "the bully". Or rather, I have suspicions about the timing of the claims.

It's not that I don't think he is capable of being a bully - I'm sure he is - it's just that I very much doubt whether Number 10 has seen anything other than bullying and intimidation over the last 20 years - so why the big deal about it now?

Even though I'm one of the few who didn't like it, I did watch "The Thick Of It" on a couple of occasions and the thing I didn't like about it was that the programme glorified bullying in a rather unpleasant way. What is more, "insiders" suggested that the programme was a fairly accurate representation of the culture at Number 10 during the Blair years.

But bullying isn't just about abusive language or aggressive mannerisms. Maggie Thatcher also had a reputation as being a bit of a bully - but generally her bullying was reserved for other world leaders - however, the equivalent of "The Thick Of It" at that time was the much funnier and considerably more subtle "Yes, Minister/Prime Minister".

What that programme demonstrated was that bullying was rife back then too - far more subtle and understated, but no less intimidating. Bullying in the workplace has been common since I first went out into the big bad world to make an independent living for myself - but it is far far worse today than I have ever known it to be.

My first job was as an apprentice in an electrical workshop and I was "bullied" unremittingly, but it was a different sort of bullying - really nothing more than extended mickey taking. I'm sure I wasn't the only sixteen year old who stood outside the storeroom for an hour with a chitty for a "long weight" while the stores man smoked fags and drank tea (long wait - getit? It took me half an hour to realise they were taking the mickey and another half hour to get up the nerve to call them on it).

The "bullying" back then was light hearted and designed to help you become part of the team. You soon learned to join in the banter and hold your own - either that or you left the job and went elsewhere - but you always knew your place. When one of the senior workers told you to make the tea, you made the tea - there was no back chat or disrespect, you did what you were told and bided your time until the the next victim came into the job and you moved up the pecking order.

These days the bullying isn't about banter, team building or putting a cheeky young whipper snapper in their place. It is often quite vicious and aggressive or underhand and downright nasty and it exists in every strata of society. Wherever you go you will encounter bullying - some of it authorised. The modern council is more likely to bully the residents with threats and intimidation than it is likely to help them and the police are regularly seen behaving in a bullying and intimidating fashion.

And yet, every company, school, council and organisation has "anti-bullying" procedures - none of which make the slightest bit of difference. But then, they are not meant to - they are there purely to enable the organisation to declare that they "take bullying seriously" - which they don't. All they really want to do is go through the procedure and then sweep it under the carpet - no evidence of bullying found.

I call it the "GDR" syndrome - named after the German Democratic Republic. A nation which proclaimed its democratic credentials in the very name of the country, but actually had nothing to do with democracy. The same goes for the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea - the louder they shout their credentials about something, the less likely they are to actually apply those principles.

The same goes for bullying, sexism, racism, discrimination and illiberalism - the more an organisation or individual declares that they are opposed to those things, the more likely they are to be sexist, racist, discriminating, illiberal bullies.

So. is Brown a bully? No more than any other progressive liberal politician or organisation is. In other words - very much so.

1 comment:

オテモヤン said...
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