Saturday, 3 October 2015

Writer and director Bruce Robinson, hating Mrs. Thatcher, and Jungian complexes

Trundling through the various bits of the Daily Telegraph this morning provided a study in contrasts. First, there were lengthy extracts from the second volume of Charles Moore's official biography of Mrs. Thatcher,  in which - among many, many other things - she plays a key role in paving the way for the defeat of Soviet communism. Then I read a profile in the magazine section of Bruce Robinson, who wrote and directed Withnail & I, which is one of my favourite films. Disappointingly, Robinson turned out to be an utter prat. Not only has he spent fifteen years producing a book purporting to show that Jack the Ripper was a successful Victorian song-writer whose identity was covered up by The Establishment because he was (prepared to be shocked) a FREEMASON (oh, do give it a bloody rest), but he also hates Margaret Thatcher, who was, apparently, a "cancer" in British politics. The very mention of her name starts him ranting.

I stopped reading at that point, because Robinson - like so many lefties - has evidently developed what Jung might have identified as a "complex", centring on Mrs. Thatcher. A complex grows (a bit like cancer) over time, often fed by repeated doses of anger and fear, until it becomes like a second personality within one's psyche, ready to be brought to life by certain key words or behaviours. While the fit is upon the sufferer, this second personality temporarily overwhelm his or her normal personality causing them to behave like somebody else, in some cases becoming withdrawn and semi-comatose, in others raving and shouting and generally carrying on in a manner that distresses people who know them. Mr. Robinson's complex seems to be of the shouty variety.

Complexes of this sort are fairly common, I suspect, and, in the politically-minded the focus is often on a particular figure. You can tell it's a complex, not only because their behaviour turns irrational, but also because they keep banging on about someone who is dead, or has been out of power for years - for instance, American leftists can't seem to help droning on derangedly and endlessly about George Bush, while, for British leftists, Mrs. T is definitely the complex of choice, with Tony Blair coming up fast on the outside. When the complex has been let out of its cage and is raging unchecked, the sufferer behaves as if the object of their fury is still in power and still doing the things that supposedly made them so jolly angry in the first place: in an odd way, they seem to miss the source of their psychological torment. (The object of the complex - the idea, thing, person or behaviour around which it has accrued - is only relevant insofar as it offers clues as to what's really bugging the complexee.)

Let me be clear that I'm not advocating some form of Zen-like detachment from one's anger: it's natural for people interested in politics to rail against those whose actions they consider harmful to certain sections of society, or to the environment, or to the country as a whole, or to a political party. And it's perfectly reasonable to revere or loathe political figures from the recent or distant past: but to go totally tonto because you or someone else has mentioned the name of someone whose personality, morals or policies you didn't like strikes me a possible sign of psychological distress.

In case anyone thinks that, in this no doubt utterly spurious piece of amateur psychology, I'm accusing Robinson of being mad - I'm not: a complex is a sign of neurosis rather than lunacy (at least I hope it is, because I've got at least one - and, despite what I write on this blog, it isn't even political).

I really must learn to avoid  profiles of creative artists whose work I admire, because it almost invariably diminishes one's future enjoyment of their oeuvre.


  1. Knowing too much about artists whose work you admire is fraught with dangers. Meeting them can be even worse.

    Even the little you have said about Robinson bothers me as I share you opinion of that marvelous film.

    1. The only reason I didn't provide a link to the Robinson profile was to spare other non-leftist Withnail fans disappointment. I suggest you avoid like the plague, cry out "We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now" and just rewatch the film.

  2. Leaving politics aside, the 1970s in Britain was a glorious golden age for so many arts forms especially music and TV. All hatred is self hatred and in all of us, even leftists, there's an inner Margaret Thatcher telling us to balance the books. Many artists believe nurturing a contempt for that voice is a way to produce better art.

    1. Well, I certainly think nurturing that contempt makes it easier for artists to secure funding from the arts establishment (the funding, of course, ultimately being provided by our taxes). I'd be quite happy for white, educated, middle-class leftists to go on loathing themselves, if only they realised the true source of their rage so the rest of us didn't have to get caught up in the vicious, spiteful vortex of hatred they create.