Friday, 6 May 2011

Chris Port Blog #251. "Oh bugger everyone..." (How to Master Your Black Dog...)

© Chris Port, May 2011

There's an apocryphal story about Churchill and stress. Churchill suffered from depression. He called it his 'black dog' - in the sense that it followed him faithfully and, with training, it could be mastered...

In the story, Churchill was being interviewed by a hagiographer. The interviewer painted a dark picture of 1940. Britain stood alone against the overwhelming might of the Nazi Blitzkrieg. All Europe had fallen. Stalin had cut a deal with Hitler. America wanted to stay out of it. At a turning point in history, the fate of Western Civilization rested on the defiance of this nation, and on the shoulders of its leader. Some powerful voices were whispering that we should cut our own deal with Hitler...

Churchill nodded with polite gravitas as the interviewer did the talking. Then the interviewer popped the stress question...

"Mr Churchill. In those dark days, you must have felt very lonely. The fate of the world briefly rested on your shoulders. How on earth did you sleep?"

Churchill puffed reflectively on his cigar for a moment. Then he spoke gravely - but with a twinkle in his eye...

"I would sometimes lie in bed, brooding hopelessly. Then I would say "Oh bugger everyone", turn over, and go to sleep..."


“What is?”

“1941. Right now, not very far from here, the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it. Nothing. Until one tiny damp little island says “No! No. Not here.” A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing, the lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me. Off you go then. Do what you’ve got to do. Save the world.” 

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Stress is feeling responsible for when things go wrong, but not having the power (or the time) to make them go right. Stress is murder. Literally. Murder by the malice or stupidity of others. The only way to survive it is to accurately identify the problem. It's nearly always somebody elses problem. Be merciless in pointing that out (if only to yourself). Then look forward to your first pint of the weekend. Feck 'em all ;) 

Never mind  
Never mind 
Whoever said life was kind?
A beer down the pub 
Will soon cheer you up 
A pint with a mate and a plate full of grub...


  1. Bullying, Stress & Suicide - and the Power of Art to Fight Back (TES Connect Forum)

    "Stress is driving increasing numbers of teachers out of the profession, with some even considering suicide..." (The Guardian, 25 April 2011)

    'Stress' is just a euphemism for bullying these days. Corporate management has refined bullying into a murderous art form. You’d be surprised (as, indeed was I) at how systemic bullying has become legitimized through a grotesquely Darwinian ‘ramp of improvements’. Like water-boarding, it’s not torture now - it’s ‘data retrieval’ or ‘performance management’. It’s plausibly deniable, backed up by pots of money and QCs. When you control the data machine, you control the information.

    Education is becoming increasingly entangled with politics and business. Headteachers don’t teach. They chase pots of money and marketing opportunities. Anything that gets in the way is crushed without scruple. When you factor in the profit potential of privatization and outsourcing (via masonic golf-clubs), the idea of management having a legal duty of care towards staff as well as students has become… quaintly laughable.

    I wonder if there's scope for M.A. and PhD studies on how organizational mafias operate, in schools these days, with links to politics and business? I hope so.

    I would like to bring to your attention my action research project and education/arts blog which is a preamble to a PhD proposal on this very subject – and the power of art to fight back.

    Please see the following:

    Marty Gull (Marty[r] Gull[ible]).

    Some particular posts which may be of interest…

    Blog #130. Marty Gull - Targets

    Blog #62. Is education a commodity?

    Blog #92. "Do Protests Still Work?"

    Blog #25: Marty Gull Song #11. You’ve Got To Kick A Teacher Or Two

    #213. The Biometrics of How Schools Work

    #214. Staffing Costs Less With Death By Stress

  2. (A response posted in TES Connect Forum...)

    Sorry Marty,

    I'm too busy teaching in the run up to SQA exams to contribute to your studies and think I may become more stressed and depressed by dwelling on it. All jobs are stressful but most of us have bills to pay and have to put up with it - I think it's called life.

    * * * * * * *

    (My response...)

    Thanks for your brief response Jon.

    A brief critique:

    1. Are you really 'too busy teaching'? Or are you too busy servicing the needs of the data machine? This is not the same thing at all.

    2. Not all jobs are stressful. To make such a sweeping claim is demonstrably untrue. In any event, teaching should not be stressful. Stress is counter-productive to health and learning. The focus of my action research is on how stress in teaching is artificially created. It is created by systemic and endemic bullying. Bullying is unacceptable and unforgivable.

    3. I am advocating that all bullies must be identified and publicly named and shamed. They must be publicly humiliated and disgraced and ejected from public service in show trials to set an example and act as a deterrent. Management bullying is destroying lives and learning. It is wasting billions of pounds of tax payers' money and undermining this country's future. Complacency is not an option here. In education, it is unforgivable.

    4. Anyone who endorses bullying, or acquiesces to it, or is complacent about it, is also unfit for teaching or any other public service. To claim that this disgraceful behaviour is 'called life' is unforgivable in a teacher. Shame on you. Depression and bills are no excuse for kowtowing to evil. Make no mistake, bullying is evil. Or do you wish to defend it as 'part of life'?