Under pressure – We are all in this together

by Charlie_East_West on March 27, 2013

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“Under pressure
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out
Tomorrow gets me higher
Pressure on people – people on streets”

Queen and David Bowie “Under Pressure”

We all are all feeling the pressure right now. At least most of us are within these cash strapped, career insecurity days of austerity. I am not sure that the Bullingdon boys really understand the concept of pressure. Or do they?

It appears that the signs of pressure are everywhere in both public and private life, and that everyone handles pressure differently, often in polar opposite ways:-

In sport, for every Matt Prior who heroically batted through the day to allow England to scrape a test match series draw against New Zealand, there is the English rugby team buckling under the weight of hype and expectation against a fabulously motivated Welsh rugby team.

In music, for every Justin Bieber lurching from one showbiz fracas to another, there is David Bowie slyly returning with his dignity intact to show the world that a good old ‘un is still better than a young ‘un.

In politics, for every Barack Obama keeping his head while everyone around him loses theirs, there is a Boris Johnson struggling to even mutter a coherent sentence whilst under the pressurised interrogation from Eddie Mair.

We all have our pressure points, and act out with our own individual defence mechanisms when placed under extreme pressure, but clearly some people in public life are obviously better equipped to deal with it than others. In fact, the one major redeeming feature about Nick Clegg is that he consistently raises his head above the parapet in times of trouble (often from his own making). He never shirks a fight. He is always up for the battle, and that is an extremely admirable quality for someone to have when placed within the upper echelons of public life.

Most of us have to deal with the daily stresses of trying to keep our heads above water, keeping our dignity and reason, paying the bills, being responsible to towards our loved ones, furthering our careers, or just clinging onto our careers. The pressure we obtain is largely a primal need for survival.

Those within public life may have some of these pressures, but also with the added caveat of mass exposure. In these days of 24/7 watchful beady-eyed existence through media, social media, and the likes of youtube, that is a bloody difficult thing to maintain. No stone is left unturned in our perpetual need for exposing the flaws and fault lines of those within public life.

Noam Chomsky once said, “all over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” – effectively what he is saying is that the blind are leading the blind. We are helpless through our need to consume, and those with a higher and more responsible public profile are helpless through their own need to get us to consume their product or opinion. It is a vicious cycle of pressure.

A perfect example of the hypocrisy in all of this is the constant braying against David Cameron for having a few pints at his local pub in Wiltshire. Why do we seem to have a problem with Dave getting a little bit squiffy on a rare day off? I would rather he enjoyed a few beers, slept well, and as a result, came back refreshed for his day job. Just look at what the opposite approach did for Gordon Brown. He adopted a Calvinistic martyr-like existence as PM, and as a result, he was thoroughly knackered, stressed, and potentially ill equipped to function effectively in his job.

It does feel that pressure is increasingly caused by the expectations of others. Again, in the words of Noam Chomsky, “to some degree it matters who’s in office, but it matters more how much pressure they’re under from the public.” Pressure effects everyone, and as a consequence of pressure, people make mistakes. We should accept that, rather than just toying with those under pressure. When we are willing to accept that those within public life also need to let off a bit of steam from time to time, then we will be in a much more enlightened and forgiving place.

We all need lighten up a little. Laughter takes the lid off the pressure cooker. Either we all just “chillax” a bit, or we will end up scraping our brains from the floor. So, let the bastards enjoy a beer, a holiday and a decent kip. As long as our leaders are doing the right thing at the right time for the public at large, that seems like a pretty reasonable trade off to me.

But, as we know with the current government, the expectation of doing a good job is not being fulfilled, which, in turn, creates more angst on all of us. That is another discussion in itself, and one that is consistently found within many of the corridors on this website. The great American footballer Peyton Manning said that “pressure is something that you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.” – and that partially explains why our current goverment are feeling the heat right now.

We expect our public figures and leaders to remain whiter than white, whilst doing an incredible job. When they fail to meet our unrealistic expectations, it can create pressure within our own lifes, and then we get angry, and our public figures are put under more pressure to justify their existence. This becomes never ending. Everyone feels the heat. The whole cycle of pressure then feels like a circular firing squad.

Under pressure – We are all in this together.

My suggestion to all of this? Get out of the house, go down to the local pub, have a few beers, laugh with some friends (just like Dave does) and pretend that the whole thing never happened. Tomorrow is another day after all.

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