Imagine you are talking to someone in poverty, who is struggling to survive, yet who tells you they are pro-Brexit and will vote Tory.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

  • Failure to cooperate with police or other authorities when it comes to holding perpetrators of abuse accountable.
  • Little or no effort to escape.
  • Belief in the goodness of the perpetrators.
  • Positive regard towards perpetrators of abuse.
  • Appeasement of captors. This is a manipulative strategy for maintaining one’s safety. As victims get rewarded—perhaps with less abuse or even with life itself—their appeasing behaviours are reinforced.
  • Learned helplessness. This can be akin to “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” As the victims fail to escape the abuse or captivity, they may start giving up and soon realise it’s just easier for everyone if they acquiesce all their power to their captors.
  • Feelings of pity toward the abusers, believing they are actually victims themselves. Because of this, victims may go on a crusade or mission to “save” their abuser.
  • Unwillingness to learn to detach from their perpetrators and heal. In essence, victims may tend to be less loyal to themselves than to their abuser.

This is a list of symptoms for ’Stockholm Syndrome’ – where victims come to love, admire or in some way attach themselves to the person doing them harm.

Next time you meet someone who’s life has been ruined by Tory policy, and yet who says they will still vote Tory this time – don’t try to change their mind.

It won’t work because they aren’t using it.

‘Poverty Tories’ have not reasoned out their vote. They don’t calculate consequences. Their choice isn’t made by weighing up policies. Their mind is not in charge.

Instead, they have spent years being brainwashed by billionaire media, often combined with their own bigotry or prejudice. They have an opinion and no understanding of why. They just know that the opinion is right and they must fight anyone who disagrees with it.

Arguing with a ‘Poverty Tory’ only deepens their resolve. Telling them Tories are evil will make them love tories more, but hate you.

To anyone who’s been in, or knows someone in, an abusive relationship – this is all very familiar. However often you point out that the guy is a b*stard, they still defend him and go back. You show clear evidence that she’s a b*tch, but he loves her so he hates you for it. Others take the ‘yes, he’s terrible, but I love him’ attitude, seeming yet clearly failing to acknowledge how toxic the relationship is.

A large part of England is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. It needs managing differently, you can’t just insult Johnson, or show how cruel his policies are, or highlight the numerous lies and broken promises. It will make things worse, further entrenching the victims love of their abuser.

To help you next time you meet a ‘Poverty Tory’, here are some tips on helping with Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Avoid polarisation. Don’t try to convince the victim of the villainous traits of the abuser; this may cause the victim to polarise and defend the perpetrator.
  • Help them understand that they have Stockholm Syndrome – wake them to the disease, rather than attacking their abuser.
  • Use the Socratic method. Ask the victim questions about how they see the situation, how they feel and think, and what they believe needs to happen next.
  • Listen without judgment. As the victim ponders everything that’s happened and processes their experience with the perpetrator, listen and use reflection to show concern and validation.
  • Don’t give advice. Victims of abuse need to be empowered to make their own decisions. If you come along and tell them what to do because you “obviously know better,” then you are not helping the victim build their own power.
  • Address the cognitive dissonance. Being in a manipulative relationship can cause cognitive dissonance. This means the victim’s intuition has been damaged, and they may be confused about reality. Help them by validating their truth and encouraging them to trust themselves.
  • Identify the “hook.” Victims of Stockholm syndrome can become dedicated to a cause or an unspoken desire. They may over-identify with the perpetrator in a dysfunctional way in order to fulfil a personal need. This is the “hook.” Help the victim identify what the underlying need is that is being fulfilled by the abusive relationship connection. Once the victim understands why they are so committed to the relationship, they can start making positive changes.

For most the current ‘hook’ is powerlessness. The Elite 1% own and run almost everything, while the majority of the world’s population have become unable to affect meaningful change in their own lives, in their communities, in politics and so on. This is why there are a million self-help books and empty promises from ‘Life Coaches’. They don’t work. At best one method will suit a handful of people, or will provide a psychological crutch that makes us feel optimistic for a while. At worst, we just make another Charlatan rich by paying them for shit advice.

Why, then, do we keep buying them? Because we’re desperate. We trapped in a world run by selfish and greedy billionaires, who spend large proportions of their wealth convincing us that our poverty is our own fault. Every human being wants a level of autonomy – instead we are increasingly controlled, our privacy eroded, there’s nowhere to escape capitalism yet earning the rent is becoming all we have time for, more and more of our personal behaviour is being made subject to law. You can’t even fail anymore, as the Tories slowly remove welfare support then criminalise poverty and homelessness.

People have been made to feel powerless. We struggle to cope on low wages while being told we’re lazy, falling is increasingly likely and yet the safety net is slowly being removed. Then the Tories promise we can ‘take back control’ – and accuse Europe of being the enemy. It feeds beautifully into our rage and despair, our sense of not being able to fix our own lives. This was of course created by Tories and billionaires, but slowly enough that many haven’t realised it was Conservative policy and corporate interference that made us isolated, divided, communities broken down, the rise of the every-one-for-themselves mentality.

Another function of Brexit is to entrench division. At a point when we might wake up to how we’ve been duped – we are given something new to argue about. Like kidnap victims made to fight each other for the amusement of our captors – they dangle ‘getting power back’ and we become squabbling ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ with all the newly coined tribalistic terms, snowflake, remoaner, brexshitter. People become defined in our minds as one thing – not ‘wife, mother, musician, leave voter, vet…’ – now just a ‘Leaver’. It’s much easier to hate a Leaver than it is to hate a mother. Then the media tell us everything is the fault of ‘Remain’ and we all squabble. It’s kidnapping 101.

There’s three kidnappers, with 100 victims. How do they control so many? Easy. Tell 50 of them that you would have let them go, but the other 50 broke the rules. Then tell the other 50 the same. The 100 victims will turn on each other and the 3 guards can just sit back and watch. That’s basically Brexit Britain.

Our enemy is ideal, as it’s not really a thing for most of us. Few understand Europe and how the politics work. We’ve relied for years on a crooked media, which has lied about innumerable things from EU laws on straight bananas, to accusations of corruption, of the UK being in thrall to the EU etc. etc. Still, as to the mechanics of the EU, very few have any grasp on that at all. The enemy thus remains abstract enough that we can hang all our fears, hates and prejudices on it.

It serves the racist who can rant about immigrants. It serves the nationalist who can rant about sovereignty. It serves the elitist who can rant about taking back control. Any number of prejudices can be brought out by Brexit and used to disguise the fact that it isn’t Europe that’s been destroying the UK, it’s Conservative policy and wealth capitalism.

Most of what appears to be happening in England is nothing but illusion and game-play. The way out is not to fight, or to tell people they MUST vote this or that way. It’s to help people understand that we are suffering Stockholm Syndrome, help them help themselves, compassionately and kindly. Our country genuinely needs therapy, a gentle counselling out of the mental illness we have developed. You don’t treat trauma victims, the depressed or the socially anxious by giving them someone to argue with or fight. You gently, softly try and help them regain self-awareness and self-control.

We are all victims here – and we need to help each other escape our abusive government. Treat the impoverished Tory voter like someone with a mental illness – be kind, be gentle, and know that they need help for their own benefit and for the benefit of everyone around them.