Diane Abbott – mine is worse than yours causes backlash

Diane Abbott has been suspended as a Labour MP because of a letter she wrote suggesting that while white people can suffer prejudice, they are not subject to racism. “In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

  Grovelling apologies followed with an investigation underway in a party already hyper-sensitive to accusations of anti-Semitism.

  She was born 27 September 1953 with Jamaican immigrant parents, grammar-school educated, then Cambridge University, worked for the Civil Service and Civil Liberties before moving into television as a reporter and thence onto Ken Livingstone in the Greater London Council. In 1987 she became the first black woman MP.

  She has won acclaim for speeches and initiatives though she also has form for making intemperate remarks. For example – “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” were unsuitable as nurses because they had “never met a black person before”.

“White people love playing ‘divide and rule’. After complaints she claimed her tweet was referring to the history of the British Empire. Nick Clegg called her comments a “stupid and crass generalisation”.

In 1984 she criticised the Unionist population of Northern Ireland as an “enclave of white supremacist ideology comparable to white settlers in Zimbabwe. “Ireland is our struggle — every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us. A defeat in Northern Ireland would be a defeat indeed.”

After the invasion of Ukraine, she signed a statement by the Stop the War Coalition that questioned the legitimacy of NATO and accused the military alliance of “eastward expansion”.

  She has talent, is an influencer though also prone to scandals e.g sending her son to a private school despite criticizing others for doing the same.

  Long ago she had a fling with Jeremy Corbyn whose policies she supports and she shares with him an ideologue’s Airy chart, She has a Libra Sun trine North Node in ‘crusading’ Aquarius trine (probably) a Gemini Moon. She also has Jupiter in Gemini trine Mercury, Neptune, Saturn in Libra sextiling on to Pluto. Plus a passionately enthusiastic Mars Venus in Virgo which does not sit happily with Kier Starmer’s Sun Pluto in Virgo. Her Uranus which squares her Mercury will make her outspoken, blurting out before she thinks. Uranus square Saturn does not practice what it preaches.

Two reasons why she is interesting – one is the heavy Air in her chart, like Corbyn, which can lead to entrenched ideas and theory overtaking common sense.

  The other is —- and I tread lightly here —- she exemplifies a very normal human reaction to her own experience, in feeling that it is worse than any other injustice which others may have experienced. It is a problem nowadays with identity politics where everyone is clamouring to be heard for the undoubted pain their specific condition or history has caused them.

   But suffering isn’t a competition. It was a problem with Jewish people bringing the world’s attention to the Holocaust who initially were unwilling to accept that any other genocide came anywhere near the level of evil.

  Some of the arguments were chewed over in the comments of the Slavery reparations post on April 3 2023 below.  And in many ways it is only going to throw up more tensions in future. As an outsider in this particular situation – either slavery or the Holocaust – any comments I might make trying to put them into a wider perspective sounds uncaring and arrogant.

  And yet we all have to live in this world without drowning in a sea of misery or wracked by endless survivor guilt (from being born privileged.) I am constantly drawn back to Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death) “Man lives by lying to himself about himself and about his world. * The individual  has to protect himself against the world, and he can do this only as any other animal would; by narrowing down the world, shutting off experience, developing an obliviousness to the terrors of the world and to his own anxieties…..* We don’t want to admit that we are fundamentally dishonest about  reality, that we do not really control our own lives.” 

  Shutting out the myriad horrors and suffering in the world apart from our own isn’t uncaring – it’s a survival mechanism. Which won’t make it feel better to those who are demanding attention for their pain, but it might make it understandable.

  The other thought from Dori Laub, the Rumanian-American psychiatrist who worked with Holocaust victims and writes about the difficulty of witnessing other people’s agonies. “The fight against the obliteration of the story could only be won at the cost of the obliteration of the audience.” Too terrible to hear. That struck a resonance for me in working in the child abuse field and being outraged that the world at large just shut their ears and eyes. Distance has made me more resigned and realistic about what people in general can handle.

  I don’t know what the answer is except that sorting out a better future seems more productive than dwelling on a past that can’t be changed. A problem for Pluto in Aquarius to tackle.

21 thoughts on “Diane Abbott – mine is worse than yours causes backlash

  1. Candy, how right you are
    ‘Everything that has happened since 1776 has been an American choice, including that dreadful constitution and the tearing up of treaties Britain had signed with the First Nations. It’s been 247 years, you lot need to own your own decisions and behaviour instead of blaming others’

    Especially stands out the 247 years – a Pluto cycle and return right now. Karma due to be repaid perhaps.

    Many years ago I read of a white boss having a child with a slave on a plantation in USA (before slavery was abolished) – the baby needing to have a birth certificate as the father was white – which read ‘part human’ due to the colour of the mother. Is this the reason why non white slaves were treated as being so low on the human scale they were not thought of as human beings and this sub thought still persists in the psyche even now in the USA

  2. Famously, Diane Abbott was photographed wearing two left shoes of markedly differing pairs!!!

    Low IQ persons who are not mentally disturbed would never do such a thing.

    Diane Abbott’s mental health is questionable. For what’s it’s worth, her son – who held down a top Foreign Office job – is a violent paranoid schizophrenic has been sectioned many times and has physically and verbally attacked medical personnel.

    • Jonathan – Diane Abbott has type 2 Diabetes, which was, according to interviews “out of control” some years ago. There is a high risk of cognitive impairment , confusion, even vascular dementia with this condition.

  3. @Lorna O’Connell — I think reactions to prejudice are heavily dependent on the victim’s personality and level of emotional maturity, and the why is likely unknowable. Some, like Ms. Abbott, cope by insisting on the uniqueness of their particular type of victimization, while characterizing others’ pain as less profound; others universalize their experience and identify with the suffering of others. It seems to me to be somewhat analagous to the divergent ways victims of child abuse react when they become adults–some perpetuate the abuse, while others overcome and become protectors of, and advocates for, children.

    @Jane — I think the authors of that item in theworld.org ignored (or perhaps didn’t know) that until the latter half of the 20th century, the dominant cultural group in America, and the main arbiters of social mores and judgments in American society, were WASPs–white anglo-saxon protestants, a.k.a. people of mostly English descent (people of Scottish and Welsh ancestry somehow ended up included in this group as well). Later, German immigrants–regarded as sort of cultural/ethnic “cousins” of the English–were looped into the in-group as well. “Nordic” Americans (if that means those of Scandinavian descent) were always a very small subset of the population.

    In other words, it’s no good blaming the Swedes, Finns, et al. for negative American attitudes that were ultimately imported from the mother country.

    • Thanks AI22 – I suspect that the 1907 quote referred to what might vaguely be described as Teutonic people, rather than specific Nordic groups. The eugenicist “divisions” of people back then were often quite weird, as well as deeply unpleasant or even frightening. They certainly romanticised Nordic/Teutonic mythology in art, literature and music. The people of English descent were, I imagine, romanticised because of the story of the Pilgrim Fathers etc etc. All really very depressing. The framing of those from Southern Europe as lazy and untrustworthy etc continues in some quarters to this day, right here in Europe. However, one good thing about the fashion for getting family DNA done is finding out how diverse many people’s origins actually are. And the same for historical DNA analysis, which revealed recently that Vikings were, in fact, very diverse and not all blonde warriors. It may take society a while to catch up with the science.

      • The USA has lots of creation myths. The Pilgrim Fathers etc tend to be highlighted while the large number of people from Britain and Ireland who got sent to the colonies via penal and other forms of involuntary Transportation tend to get ignored. I think recent research about the American War of Independence has found out that indentured servants in the latter category played a surprisingly large role in the Continental Army under Washington and independent New England yeoman farmers rather less than previously thought. Transportation to the American colonies and the Caribbean is an interesting topic as it pretty much mirrors the English Atlantic slave trade starting at about the same time in the late 16th century and ending at the end of the 18th century.

        • Yes, it is a fascinating topic and not generally known about. Indentured servants from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales were transported to the Caribbean, along with convicts to the USA from 1614-1775. I only learned about this when, some years ago, a Caribbean friend did their family DNA and was mystified by the Irish percentage! Transportation turned out to be the answer.

          Astrologically, I wonder if Saturn (history) in sea-going Pisces and Pluto the sleuth in the sign of groups of humanity may bring a wider awareness of this long history.

          The National Archives has quite a lot of information and recommended books.

          “At The National Archives, we have unique documentation that demonstrates the sale of indentured labour before, during and after the English Civil War of the 17th century. Many thousands of dispossessed Catholic Irish men, women and children were transported either willingly or unwillingly in this period to work on new sugar and tobacco plantations in Barbados, Jamaica and the smaller Caribbean islands including St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Montserrat.”

    • You need to own your racism, instead of blaming “the mother country”.

      The facts are as follows: in 1774, the House of Lords ruled that slavery was incompatible with English common law, as William the Conqueror had abolished slavery in 1067.

      There was a backlash in the 13 colonies and in 1776 slave-owner Thomas Jefferson penned the declaration of independence. The war of independence was the first war over slavery. The mother country wanted to abolish it, the 13 colonies wanted to keep it.

      Afterwards, the Americans explicitly put in their constitution that a slave was 3/5ths of a person. They were explicit because they wanted to prevent any judge from using the 1774 Lords ruling or William I’s 1067 decree to declare slavery illegal.

      Note that Canada, which remained loyal to the Crown, abolished slavery in 1795.

      Given that the American republic only exists because they wanted to diverge AWAY from the mother country in a pro-slavery direction, you have a cheek blaming the mother country for your attitudes.

      Everything that has happened since 1776 has been an American choice, including that dreadful constitution and the tearing up of treaties Britain had signed with the First Nations. It’s been 247 years, you lot need to own your own decisions and behaviour instead of blaming others.

  4. Re Diane Abbott’s comments. I would have thought that personal experience of prejudice and racism would make us more sympathetic to other sufferers – from whatever ethnic or religious group. I’m sad that it doesn’t seem to.

  5. Thank you Marjorie for an excellent assessment of Dianne Abbott’s current predicament. However, looking at the above charts, I was also drawn to transiting Pluto in Aquarius, which is in aspect to Keir Starmer’s Uranus in Virgo. This will emphasize Starmer’s ability to use the media and his communication skills, as Uranus is also known for intellectual thoughts and ideas. Interestingly, his tenure as Prosecutor has been discussed in the past week, with articles highlighting (Uranus) his judgement. It is also interesting to see that the only Earth sign planets that Keir Starmer has; is two outer planets in wide conjunction with his Sun. His Moon is also not in aspect to any person planets. In many respects this could reflect on his voting power, as it appears that he has not really set alight Labour in a dynamic way. All three of the above charts are more in tune with their own pet interests and not really communicating or grounding their politics.

  6. Thanks Marjorie, such a thoughtful post on such a thorny subject. Diane Abbott studied history at Cambridge, believe it or not! She also included people with red hair in her list. Why? As you say, people in general cannot cope with too much reality – or face up to the darker aspects of human nature in every part of the world, and in every country’s history. It is all tragic and impossible to contemplate, but something for us, as humans, to try and improve. Perhaps Pluto in Aquarius can help.

    She, understandably, cites American history, but perhaps doesn’t realise that many immigrant groups, along with Native Americans, were subject to extreme violence and rampant prejudice. Many migrants – Mexicans, Chinese, Italian – were lynched, and targeted by the KKK. Italians, in particular, were a very large migrant group who were not considered ‘white’ in the late 19th and early 20th century.

    “The immigrants were portrayed in parts of the media as ignorant, insular, superstitious, lazy, prone to crime, ignorant of the law, ignorant of democracy and prone to righting wrongs with personal vendettas and acts of violence. Even their food was seen as alien. One popular book published in 1907 stated baldly that “immigrants from eastern and southern Europe are storming the Nordic ramparts of the United States and mongrelizing the good old American stock.” theworld.org

    Ms Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn are both airy Mercury/Neptune individuals. It is, perhaps, hard for either of them to come down to earth. As for the anti-semitism, it seems to be deeply rooted somewhere unconscious in their way of thinking. DA’s own neck of the woods, Hackney, has the largest population of Orthodox Jews in London. Members of that community are attacked almost every week. How has she failed to notice this?

  7. While disagreeing with Abbott’s remarks, I do think she is the victim of Keir Starmer’s politicking (I have inside knowledge that he’s no Mr nice guy. She was a close collaborator of the Corbyn era. She’s also the worst hit victim of racial trolling and abuse of all the British MPs.

    • I would agree with the latter point. However, I also wondered about her own political agenda for choosing this moment to reignite the controversy about Labours attitude to Jews by writing that letter to the Independent particularly as Starmer’s wife also happens to be Jewish. The left won’t publicly state it but their best hope of ousting Starmer as Labour leader is for him to do poorly at the polls. All good news for Rishi as this has moved the media attention away from Raab. As usual with Abbott she manages to be right about something’s but totally tone deaf about others.

  8. Wonderful analysis.

    I am a keen student of history but one has to recognise that we have to live in the present and work for a better future. One of the reasons for properly understanding history is so that we don’t have to constantly relive it. The alternative is endlessly refight old battles, relive old suffering and try to settle old scores. Hilary Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII are a in part a brilliant meditation on precisely that subject and the dangers of “spiralling into the dirty past” both as individuals and society.

    • Transiting Pluto on Diane Abbots North Node has brought the furies again. I couldn’t agree more about properly understanding history. Yet I have a feeling that Black History Month in Schools have inadvertently focussed on slice of history and the British Empire too much. As some activist and politicians approach the History of Slavery as being only one ethnicity to have been slaves and suffered. Slavery has been a form of constriction for thousands of years. Six million Jewish people suffered in the space of WW2. Captives with no hope of survival. Modern day slavery is alive and well – sadly no-one is talking about the people trafficking, deaths and prostitution of today as a form of slavery. The conversation is still about 200 years ago. All past Empires have a dirty past, along with many countries atrocious human rights. Yet, once again, the focus is on something none of us can change. At some point we all need to move on.

      • Slavery has always been primarily about economic exploitation. Essentially that was also the primary motive for the Atlantic slave trade. I can’t find much evidence of a historical racist ideology in Europe about Africans preceding it. The view of black people as racially inferior was largely developed later. In part this was to justify why white Christians could own black people who themselves had become Christian as slaves and in part was the ideology of later European colonialism. Lots of black people died cruelly and unnecessarily as a consequence and it generated a tide of human misery lasting generations. Slave owners and slave traders , however, had no plan to kill all black people. This was not because of any moral concern but simply because it made no economic sense.

        By contrast anti-semitism had deep roots in Europe and it always had an element of wanting to eliminate Jews from Christian societies in some form either by marking them as distinct and locking them up in ghettos, or completely expelling them from society as happened in England under Edward I. The Nazis simply took this ideology to its limits by planning to exterminate the entire race even though the process made absolutely no economic sense and ultimately wasted financial, human and military resources that would have been better expended fighting the Allies.

        To me the difference in motivation and outcome is pretty stark but Diane Abbot just can’t seem to recognise it.

      • As Morgan Freeman said in his interview with The Times last week, “Black History Month is an insult. You’re going to relegate my history to a month?”
        Separating some people off on the basis of their skin colour yet again, in such a way, was/is a terrible idea.
        I hope Marjorie you are right and Pluto in Aquarius will help us move forward, together.

        • Claire D – you’re absolutely right on this, and I share your hopes for some positive Aquarian improvements. Black History Month joins Women’s History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month in a trio of ‘special’ months, rather patronisingly designated to what? Appease those pesky groups? Yes, one could argue that highlighting such histories is positive – “Look! These groups actually have a real history!” Or, do they serve to underline the ‘us and them’ mentality, and love of labels, boxes and bubbles we seem to need in our current world? It’s an uneasy balance.

  9. Well written piece.

    Yeah Abbott completely blundered, especially with the antisemitic strands which still plague Labour. It’s a shame that her inspirational upclimb will be ruptured by this. Needless stupidity.

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