Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stop Press: Possible Cure Found For Affluenza Virus"...

Oliver James ( affluent author of " Affluenza: how to be successful and stay sane" ( Vermilion, 2007) will be pleased with today's news. A little help is offered. A little light shines at the end of a tunnel. But forget that for now. I'll return to Oliver later.

Sometimes you're half -listening to the radio. Sometimes you're doing other stuff at the same time; scanning the paper, getting dressed, talking to the cat.You might even be having your worst argument for years with your Beloved. Or again, perhaps you're having one of those really meaningful conversations with him (her) that crops up every so often and should demand full attention.Then suddenly a phrase on the radio grabs you. Something's said that shocks, mystifies, strikes chords within, horrifies, amuses, intrigues ... and your attention's grabbed, like when you read the 1st paragraph of a very good book. ( Hmm, OK yes , I had a writing class today..)

HOWEVER: On Sunday, I was half-listening to Kirsty Young ( R4, Desert Island Discs) as she discussed some bloke's choices for his desert island. Suddenly, Kirsty mentioned Sloane School. Sloane was a renowned grammar school in the heart of Chelsea; it became Pimlico Comp, late 60's/ early 70's. Sloane was my husband's Alma Mater, so this interested me. I put down my carrots mid-peel or Saturday night's lasagne dish mid-scrub ( can't remember what) and listened properly. BUT... good excuse for another cup of coffee. And listening properly, I discovered Kirsty Y was interviewing Alan Johnson, ex pupil of Sloane, who is now our Health Secretary. And that was it. There were some good "tunes", some light Sunday morning banter ( perfect after dramas in "The Archers") and a potted history of our Minister. And the coffee was absolutely fine.

OK: Forget all that for now.
Next day ( Monday) Oliver James, clinical psychologist/best selling writer ( see start of this post) came to the LitFest. He's an interesting guy, a bit zany; I hasten to add that I like " zany". I think his trousers were pink, but I couldn't be sure.
James has had an interesting and varied career; at one time, he was applying his "Blue Sky" therapy to the Labour govt at Jack Straw's "Home Secretary Lunches"; he's changed allegiances now and currently massages the minds of Cameron's crew.
James has written several books but he wrote this one on his wife's advice; they wanted to hit NZ in a camper van for a long long holiday; cash from a best seller ( which " Affluenza" became ) would fund the job nicely.
AND James had fascinating thoughts which on Monday, he passed to his intrigued Cheshire audience: "Affluenza" is a virus-like condition that's spread to the world's more affluent countries, particularly UK. We're over-run by Selfish Capitalism; this is dire for our mental health. We're dissatisfied and greedy, we want sparkly new kitchens at all costs. We crave fame, we lust after fortune. Most mothers work ( many unnecessarily) most of us are weary, exhausted, unhappy. In fact, said James, as he stared out at a sea of faces ( some weary, some not), a quarter of folk sitting in the lecture hall that very night, actually have mental health issues in varying degrees....AND, he said, many folk have certainly forgotten HOW to be happy. Perhaps I'm lucky with my view of people, but I'm not sure I agree in total, but that's another story.

HOWEVER: it was a fascinating insight into the views of a man who has studied the intricate mind set of our society in the early years of a scaring ( but fantastically exciting) new century...

And back to today's news; that which Oliver James will applaud.
Alan Johnson (the ex Sloane schooboy, who chose his discs but obviously didn't go to his island) ) announced today that by 2010, £170m a year is to spent on psychological therapies, thus enabling 90,000 more sick folk to be treated. Mr James, as already said, quotes that 1 in 4 of us have mental health issues; Mr Johnson has a slightly happier figure , quoting 1in 6.
Good news then, this extra cash. Some folk treated WILL have the Affluenza Virus, some won't... because there are countless reasons for mental illness and Affluenza virus is only one of them.
BUT yes, Oliver James is right in many respects. Nevertheless, I know there are many virus-free folk who will STAY virus-free...Because they have attitudes to life and aims in life which keep them "clean". I've seen a crowd of them today. They're joyful folk. OK, they have difficulties in their lives, they have traumas ( who doesn't?) and some of them could be described as " affluent", some not....but their spirits are joyful, really joyful. ...
I've just talked to someone on the phone who has never had a new kitchen in her life. And she's certainly never craved one. ...



Blogger Cathy said...

Great post! I sometimes wondered why the most aspirational people I know are the least happy...

9:27 pm  
Anonymous watermaid said...

For me 'affluenza' is another word for 'alienation'. The lovely people in blogland have the solution to our materialistic society. Creativity is the cure. That's not to say that I think we should write for therapy although writing is therapeutic. I have (after twenty years got my new kitchen; it is for convenience and a small amount of aestheticism rather than beingthe centre of my life.

8:27 am  
Blogger Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Brilliant post, Jan! Very wise words - our material greed will be our undoing yet! We need to get back to basics and understand the things that are truly important - and they are not sparkly new kitchens or overpriced BMWs!

10:42 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Agree with all the rest - wonderful post.

I consider myself a reasonably happy soul but I do know people who are extremely unhappy for reasons I can't comprehend. I feel like giving them a good jolt and reminding them of their own good fortune staring themselves in the face. Then again,some people are just born discontent and won't be comforted.

12:12 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

Seems like you're hitting your stride again Jan.
A while back a big pile of English language magazines of the Good Housekeeping type came my way; I don't see such things regularly so I gobbled them up. But there seemed to be so much assumption that everyone is naturally stressed out and busy and juggling and being terribly important and isn't it so hard... I began to feel inadequate that I wasn't! I do think a certain amount of this is affectation, people are often going nowhere fast, and I really find it hard to be sorry for people moaning about being too affluent.
I suppose ridiculously over-inflated house prices are largely to blame for people having to work so much and Oliver James' paymasters of whatever political colour don't really want that situation to change, but it also seems as though some working lifestyles themselves generate expenses which you then have to work harder to pay for...
But most of this is just stuff I hear about, I don't actually know any of these aspirational shiney-kitchen obsessed people personally, but perhaps I don't move in the right circles.

12:52 pm  
Blogger Jackie Luben said...

I was listening to Desert Island Discs too, Jan. And I thought, I knew nothing much about this man, and yet in a 3/4 hr programme, I learned so much. Fascinating stuff.

I had a new kitchen ten years ago, designed, when at last I knew what I really wanted, and I still love it.

10:57 pm  
Anonymous zephyr said...

Affluenza killed a friendship i once treasured...makes me sad, still. And it was the shiny kitchen she was after, and all the trappings, and "right" people. She couldn't wait to leave the UK for the US then began bashing us the minute she landed...she had several very good points about us, but i think the being here so she could bash was part of the Obtaining.

It was hard to watch the virus eat away at what used to be between us...especially since she seems unhappier the last time i saw her than the good ol' days when her guest room consisted of a comfy mattress on the floor with a cozy down comforter on it. i often wonder where she is, and if she has enough yet.

2:09 am  
Blogger Marianne said...

I do wonder about Oliver James. He seems to take a very extreme
point of view and then spends his working life justifying his position and making a good deal of money for himself on the back of it. I think we could all do that if we had the right education and the time and desire, but as to how right he is? He certainly always has a point, but there is no black and white, only shades of grey.

11:17 am  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Good to catch up again Jan - certainly sounds like you are getting your fill of literary experiences. Enjoy!

12:04 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Cathy. Yes!

"Creativity" sometimes, in some ways, puts stuff into perspective; that's my thought, anyway!

There's a few things I'd find hard to do without, believe me!

Thanks Anne. IT's difficult NOT to be influenced though, isn't it? Hopefully we learn to sift...

Some fabulous points here, Lucy. Living in Brittany you may well get a different snapshot.
And reading your brilliant blog, I suspect you actually DO move in the "right" circles!

Desert Island Discs is really a weekly character study, isn't it?!

A sad tale and a moving one.
Had a swift look at your blog and shall return ASAP.
Lovely pictures.

My thoughts too, but then nothing is entirely black or white, is it..
Thanks for commenting.

Good hearing from you.
Bet NZ approaching summer now!

10:56 pm  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

We crave new kitchens - but can no longer afford to go to the dentist! I'm considering moving to a Third World country......

9:42 am  
Blogger Debi said...

I crave a vast communal cooking area where we can all get together round a huge long table and eat and talk and eat and talk and ... sometimes we'd argue a bit but that would be ok too ...

I'm a hopeless idealist. Or maybe a hopeFUL idealist.

10:18 am  
Blogger Jan said...

HopeFUL, certainly!

8:20 am  

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