Thursday, 22 July 2010

Compassion before vengeance : a Scottish achievement

Last year's decision by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish government's justice secretary to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi who had been convicted under Scottish law of the Lockerbie bombing has raised its head in the news again. The decision has been condemned by both Barak Obama and David Cameron during the British prime minister's visit to the United States of America earlier this week.

To be clear the Lockerbie aeroplane crash on Wednesday, December 21st, 1988 was the consequence of an outrageous and murderous act which demonstrated the worst of humankind. I continue to mourn the loss of each one of those innocent unique human beings who perished on that day. They are lost to us forever. They can never be brought back. My own grief is brought even more sharply to mind every time I pass by Lockerbie on the way up to Scotland from my home in Devon. They will never be forgotten.

However the Scottish government's decision to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi showed the terrorists the best of humankind - compassion for a sickly human being - even though he may have shown himself to be a most deadly enemy of humankind. I am not a Christian but I understand compassion is part of the Christian creed which, I am told, underpins the ethos of the governance of both the UK and USA. Even if the Scottish government's act of compassion does not influence the cruelly destructive behaviour of terrorists it certainly should make us all feel better human beings.

Just to be sure, I am, as a citizen, impressed with, and proud of, a government which exercises compassion. I feel both despair and guilt if I am served by a government that seeks vengeance anywhere it can exercise it and which in my name tortures, or condones the torture of human beings it has wrongly or even rightly apprehended. I am sad to say our United Kingdom government does this.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cable disconnected on the question of graduate pay

Vince Cable, the government minister for Business has proposed that rather than pay for their tuition at university all graduates should pay a graduate tax once they are in work.* There may be some sympathy for Cable's view that the interests of fairness would be best served if such a tax were to be levied at a rate which reflected the graduate's capacity to pay it. It would not he says, “ be right that a teacher or care worker or research scientist should be expected to pay the same graduate contribution as a top commercial lawyer or surgeon or City analyst.”

 I fear I will be accused of exposing my naivety if I suggest that Cable fails to connect with the more important question, “Why is there such a huge salary differential between a top care worker and a top commercial lawyer ?”

*See for instance, (Cable begins universities revolution, The Guardian, 16.07.10).

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The nature of giving and receiving love : some thoughts

From the first as infants we look to be lovingly cherished. The paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott suggested that a human being could not give love to another if he had not received it himself. One of the most despairing of experiences is to receive from someone we might reasonably desire to love us (for instance our principal mothering figure) attention which is given grudgingly. Such a person shows no satisfaction in the infant's pleasure, and by refusing to acknowledge an infant's attempts at loving responses manifestly demonstrates a refusal to love. The probable and natural outcome for an infant experiencing this is a mistrust of the mutuality of love relationships. In turn a tendency develops to demand wholely unselfish love. "Love me and me alone or you will be dismissed from my life." This is to say that if this process is not interrupted, as the infant grows through childhood and then into adulthood he will look for self-sacrifice in others as the only evidence of love for him.

To give care for someone willingly and lovingly is pleasant for the giver and so it brings its own rewards. When someone who has only experienced attention which has been reluctantly given receives care which is willingly and lovingly given, he finds it unacceptable. He neither knows how, nor desires to return it. The gift of willingly given love has no value for him as a source of warmth and security. He does not trust it. Its secondary material value may stay with him but he cannot accept its spontaneity and its invitation to reciprocality because he can only demand that others should enjoy loving him to the exclusion of all else. The newborn infant may naturally demand this but not an adult.

This is not to say restorative efforts should not be made and I believe psychodynamic therapy as a group practice or a one-to-one exercise can over time help those who have been deprived of love with a feeling of their own real intrinsic value as they experience the care and concern another or others have for them. Reparation becomes possible as does the capacity to have care for others.

Updated 25.3.13