Wednesday 13 May 2020


As promised, here is Part Two of this exploration of the insights into living the good life that a study of Erich Fromm's 'The Art of Loving' provides - counter-balanced and illuminated by any insights that a knowledge of the darker side of our prime-minster's personal and professional life may throw up.

Pablo Picasso - a mother's love

If you missed Part One, here's the link - it will make more sense if you do read the parts in order:

Now, more Fromm:

  •  We need to understand what kind of union we are talking about when we speak of love. Mature love is union with another in which our individuality is not sacrificed. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.
  •  Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are passions; love is an action, not a passion, which can only be fulfilled in freedom - never as a result of compulsion. Love, in essence, is primarily giving, not receiving.
  • Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. In the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.  
  •  Authentic love is a power which produces love. As Karl Marx has said, rather beautifully, 'You can exchange love only for love …. If you love without calling forth love, that is, if your love as such does not produce love, if by means of an expression of life as a loving person you do not make of yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent, a misfortune'. (1844)
  • It goes without saying that the ability to love as an act of giving depends on the character development of the person. He or she has to have overcome dependency, narcissistic omnipotence, the wish to exploit others, or to hoard, and has acquired faith in their own human powers. To the degree that these qualities are lacking, he or she is afraid of giving - hence of loving.  

Love is - Picasso poses a question or two

 The active character of love always implies four basic elements, common to all forms of authentic love. These are care, responsibility, respect and knowledge.
  • That love implies care is most evident in a mother's love for her child. One loves that for which one labours, and one labours for that which one loves.
  • Responsibility, in its true sense, is an entirely voluntary act; it is my response to the needs, expressed or unexpressed, of another human being [or group of humans]. To be "responsible" means to be able and ready to "respond".  
  •  Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness, were it not for respect. Respect is not fear and awe. It denotes the ability to see a person as she or he is, to be aware of their unique individuality. If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but as they are - not as I need them to be, as an object for my own use. Respect is only possible if I have achieved independence. "L'amour est l'enfant de la liberte" - love is the child of freedom, never that of domination. 
  •  Such respect is impossible without knowledge. Knowledge must be motivated by concern. I need to see the other person in his or her own terms. I may know, for instance, that a person is angry, even if it is not shown openly; I may know that, more deeply, that person is anxious and worried; that he or she feels lonely, feels guilty. Then I know that such anger is only the manifestation of something deeper; the person is suffering.   

The Scream of Nature [Shriek] - Edvard Munch (1895)

And so from the sublime - to the darker world of the UK prime-minister. The fact-fest continues: 

  •  Johnson has admitted that he employs self-deprecation as a manipulative ploy, to disarm his potential enemies. In an interview with the American TV channel CNBC he declared: 'Self-depreciation is a very cunning device ....all about understanding that basically people regard politicians as a bunch of shysters, so you've got to be understood .... that's what it's all about, I suppose.' Lying behind the muddled facade is a ruthless and often cruel ambition together with an elitism and a ferocious temper when challenged. Johnson is a man who values himself much more highly than he does the nation or the nation's interest.   
  • Johnson is no 'national treasure' as portrayed by his Tory right-wing allies who campaigned to lever him into No.10 Downing Street. He has his own measure of nastiness, a characteristic that has further justified the nickname of 'Nasty Party' for the Conservatives. 
  • Visiting Uganda, Johnson cheerily said to UN workers and their black driver: 'Right, let's go and look at some more piccaninnies' - a racist word previously used by Enoch Powell in his infamous 'rivers of blood' speech against immigration. He has likened Chinese workers to 'puffing coolies'. He has even favoured a return to colonial rule for Africa: 'The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more'. 
  • Johnson has derided renewable energy and he's opposed the Kyoto treaty on climate change. 
  • He supported the homophobic Section 28 and he once compared civil partnerships to 'three men and a dog' getting married.

Taking out a kid - the sportsman at work

So what if he's smaller and a kid! I won, fair and square! I'm Boris.

  • As mayor of London he scrapped the pledge of the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, to make 50 per cent of all new homes cheap enough for ordinary London workers. The London housing market now sees single properties changing hands for more than 250 million; some areas of London are in pitch darkness at night because all the properties have been bought by speculators and are being kept vacant.  Johnson has declared that 'We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them .... as a put-upon minority', comparing them with the homeless and Irish travellers.
  • If Johnson believes in anything other than himself, it is in a greed-driven and elitist economy. Bernie Sanders, the American Democratic senator who has twice been a presidential candidate, has said: 'There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 per cent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent, and when 99 per cent of all new income goes to the top 1 per cent'.  The idea that each day, capitalism kills far more innocents than died on 9/11, as Dennis Rahkonen (2009) has shown, does not even show up on Planet Boris' radar.     

                       'Boris Johnson never learned the art of loving'. Discuss.  

             Part Three in a week's time - feedback welcome on Parts One and Two.

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