Switching Sites

Delighted to discover that people I hadn’t realised were following this blog (well, at least one, in the person of Caroline Finnigan at the BBC) are so doing. See comment to the last post on Tiananmen Square, and apologies for leaving you out of the credits, Caroline.

The psychlotherapist blog continues, for those armies of interested out there, at http://psychlotherapist.wordpress.com. A nicer-looking page, and easier to edit and elaborate.
For a simple link to the new address, here it is.

Tiananmen Anniversary Approaches

It’s quite extraordinary to think that it’s now 20 years since Chinese students and much of Beijing – then still Peking in BBC-speak – rose up and occupied Tiananmen Square to call for democracy and an end to corruption.
 
I have a picture somewhere undiscoverable of a much younger MB standing on pretty much the same spot as here two decades ago, posing with BBC microphone among crowds of hunger-striking students as I reported on possibly the biggest news story I’ve ever covered.
 
After serving there from 1984-87, I was back in Beijing at the time as the BBC World Service’s London-based Diplomatic Correspondent to report on what was intended as a groundbreaking visit to China by the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Groundbreaking it was, but in dramatically unexpected ways, as China was shaken by its biggest protests since the Communists came to power in 1949.
 
My successor as Beijing correspondent, and now Economist correspondent there James Miles, has just broadcast a riveting account on BBC Radio 4 of those euphoric but ultimately tragic days, digging out priceless old recordings with the help of editor Caroline Finnigan, and of our good friend and producer in China in 1989, Peter Burdin.
 
James makes the cautious point which my wife Sue and I have also heard argued in Beijing two years ago (when the photo above was taken) that the Chinese today have much of what the students had demanded in the way of freedom, openness and economic liberalisation, and that paradoxically and painfully, the Communist Party may even have had a certain justification in putting down (although in a disastrously violent way) some very firm boundaries in 1989 in a country whose history is one of at times cataclysmic instability.
 
Do listen. And if the impact of Tiananmen Square, like an old trauma, still burns for you, you might find interesting accounts this week of the newly-smuggled memoires of China’s late reformist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, banished from power at the height of the demonstrations in 1989 for arguing the students’ case for tolerance.
 
But back to cataclysm, as Barack Obama lays out sadly inadequate but important new legislation on improving the fuel consumption of American cars, Madeline Bunting in The Guardian this week made some of the most cogent connections I’ve yet read between the current UK parliamentary expenses scandal and our much more widely shared but equally unsustainable sense of entitlement merely as inhabitants of the 21st century Western world.
 
And this at a time when more and more publications, in tune with Madeline Bunting, are beginning to name the catastrophe that is coming our way – notably the Lancet this week, which has finally named climate change as the biggest threat to human health in the 21st century, noting that many are going to need counselling to cope with the emotional distress this will entail.
 
I actually suspect that, when things begin to get really bad, there won’t be either much appetite or financing for psychotherapy.
 
So, time to get cycling around the world before it’s too late?

Glasgow Therapists’ Conference Wakes Up to Climate Change

Beginning seriously to speak in public about my own firm conclusion that climate change catastrophe is now inevitable, and relatively soon (10 years? 15? Certainly no more than 25), is a bit like Coming Out.

But at an inspiring conference of politically-engaged psychotherapists in Glasgow this week, speaking that truth as I see it was both less scarey than I feared, and appeared to be not without impact.

Which was profoundly encouraging and gratifying – especially the engagement of over a dozen fellow therapists in the first public workshop I’ve led on the science and emotions of climate change and peak oil, looking in particular at how our evolutionary trauma mechanisms are, as yet, preventing us as a species from taking the threat seriously or from doing something about it.

I’ve devised an experimental Climate Change Attitudes Questionnaire (CCAQ) to uncover what people really think about the changes of our current civilisation, the planet’s current flora and fauna and our current human numbers surviving the coming cataclysm in anything like recognisable form.

I’ll be interested in any comments from this blog’s vast (not) readership, but from the 14 responses I got at today’s seminar, at the wonderfully crumbling Pearce Institute in Glasgow’s former and now very forlorn shipbuilding quarter of Govan, we registered an average score of 47 out of 70, meaning in my interpretation that many more ordinary folk (OK, therapists on this occasion), know more and are more alarmed about climate change than the public discourse would suggest.

Scores ranged from two highs of 60 down to one of 31 – do the questionnaire yourself, and you’ll see what it’s intended to unearth.

The scores certainly confirm for me that there is a kind of collective unconscious beginning to stir that will soon see massively larger numbers of people around the world truly waking up to what now faces us – and by the end of the two days of meetings and workshops, our commitment in a final discussion-in-circle was to draw up a shared statement not on psychotherapy and politics in a narrow sense, but specifically on climate change.

And while I’m at it, I’ve just updated our Braynework website to include a new page on climate change, with resources and documents and further links that don’t disappear, as those on this blog do with every new post, further and further down the page…