Book review: The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It

The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It, by Owen Jones, Penguin (2015): ISBN 978 0 1 141 97499 6

Owen Jones has established himself as a highly respected social commentator, first in his column in The Independent and more recently in The Guardian. This book extends and consolidates that reputation. In a clear, well-written text he provides a powerful and convincing critique of the Establishment, the institutionalised power interests that have such a far-reaching effect on ordinary people.

Across eight ...

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Beware of stereotypes

A stereotype is a distorted and often exaggerated depiction of some aspect of reality. As such, stereotypes are potentially very dangerous because they can influence our thoughts, feelings and actions in misleading ways. Confusing an oversimplified and distorted picture of something with the complex, multi-level reality it actually represents is clearly not a wise step to take.

So far, so straightforward, but what is often not realised is that (i) stereotypes are far more prevalent than people generally realise; and (ii) ...

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Love (and respect) yourself

To be described as a ‘narcissist’ is generally to be insulted. Narcissus was someone who was in love with himself. But being ‘in love with’ yourself and loving yourself are two different things!

In my career I have been called upon to help and support a number of people who are struggling with depression. From that experience I noticed certain recurring themes or characteristics. One of them was the tendency for people who are depressed to be harsh on themselves – ...

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Think global, act local

On the one hand, it is very easy to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the bigger picture – to not see the wood for the trees. On the other hand, though, it’s also very easy to have an understanding of the bigger picture and struggle to put that understanding into practice in concrete practical ways – it can be difficult to translate that big picture into smaller, manageable steps.

So the political slogan of ‘think global, act ...

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Get the balance right

The mantra of being ‘balanced in all things’ is a well-established idea, but there is a paradox here. If we are aiming to be balanced in all things, doesn’t that mean we are being extreme (and therefore unbalanced) about being balanced? Shouldn’t we be trying to find a balance between being balanced and unbalanced?

But, however we tackle that philosophical riddle, the value of seeking balance remains strong. This can apply in a number of ways. For example, there is considerable ...

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Develop your body language skills

Communication is so fundamental to most of the things we do in our work as well as in our private lives. One of the most potent forms of communication is body language, the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – ways in which our body gives off signals or ‘messages’. Sometimes body language reinforces what we are saying – for example, when we say yes and nod at the same time. At other times, body language undermines what we ...

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Be careful about who you can trust

It is often said that trust needs to be earned, and that implies that we start off not trusting people until they reach the point when they have done enough to convince us that they are trustworthy. But is it really that simple?

How realistic is it to withhold trust until we feel that the risk of having that trust abused is at a low enough level? Of course, it isn’t realistic at all. To a certain extent social interactions would ...

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Don’t make decisions when feelings are running high

As human beings, we are, of course, emotional creatures just as much as we are rational, if not more so. This means that any attempt to understand human actions without taking account of the emotional dimension is likely to be, at best, incomplete and potentially totally misleading. Part of the reason emotions are so significant is that our emotional response to a situation can actually change the way our body reacts. For example, if we are anxious, angry or frightened, ...

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Extend, recover, renew

A widely accepted way to build muscle strength is to exercise just beyond what you are comfortable with (extend), give yourself time to get back to normal after the exertion (recover) and then start the process again when you are ready, so that it is a constant process of renewal. If you don’t extend, you won’t build muscle strength; if you don’t allow time for recovery you risk muscle strain and potentially serious injury. If you extend and recover just ...

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Be realistic

Positive psychology and its promotion of optimism have become firmly established in the popular imagination now. The idea that people who are optimistic will fare better than people who are pessimistic has received a great deal of coverage and has become widely accepted – despite the fact that it grossly oversimplifies the complex dynamics of human experience.

The self-help and self-improvement literature are full of examples of simplistic approaches to personal problems and challenges, and the uncritical acceptance of optimism as ...

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