Joseph Rowntree – Eric Berne

Joseph Rowntree called upon us all to seek out the fundamental causes of ‘weakness and evil’ in society.
Eric Berne gave us a succinct view of self-and-others; the tool required to achieve the above aim.

I would assert that evil (whether it comes from social incompetence or – if such is your view – from letting the Devil in) is indeed rooted weakness; the weakness of the individual.

In Berne’s terms, weakness amounts to an under-developed Adult ego state in the psyche; a condition I see as pertaining all over the planet. The two terrible truths of society are: (1) individual weakness is increasing, and (2) the ‘overcompensating-weak’ rise to positions of power. Consequently, any corrective effort must reach out directly to the very young as the Powers That Be are, instinctively, fearful of general empowerment.

A PROPOSAL TO THE JOSEPH ROWNTREE FOUNDATION (1995)
(Format as required by JRF when written.)

TITLE
A return to social stability through development of psychological awareness in children via television and humour.

BACKGROUND
This proposal concerns the application of an established body of fundamental wisdom (in the field of human behaviour) to the problem of declining individual competence with associated social disintegration. I refer to the discoveries of Eric Berne MD in the 1950/60s which labour under the stultifying title of “Transactional Analysis” (TA).

TA, from it inception, had three fertile areas in which to take root:
(1) As (yet) another elite school of psychotherapy. This has been the main thrust but with the usual tendency to count angels on pins; too expensive for “the masses”; winning battles but losing the war.
(2) In print. This has given us books such as: “Games people play”, I’m OK you’re OK”, and “Staying OK”. These offer help to those sufficiently educated and analytical to persevere. They “turn-off” those most in need.
(3) On television as cartoon humour; a direct line to the “remainder” of society. This has not been addressed. Television is where young minds (of all ages) are drawn be they happy and outgoing or, more to the point, negative, neglected and worse. Children are also drawn to cartoon humour. Humour is the ideal vehicle for illuminating human behaviour.

I discovered TA in the Early 80s when our two boys were 8 and 5 years. Although I had behind me the advantage of five years 1:1 Jungian psychotherapy, it was TA (from books) that gave me the parenting skills I lacked. (Badly needed in our particular circumstances.) However, I found few who knew of it.

Only by chance did I discover the Institute of Transactional Analysis (ITA). I joined the ITA as a lay member, taking their magazine and attending a weekend conference. I expected to find a body with a social stance and a voice but discovered that, while the practitioners are dedicated, the body exists only to consolidate their activities in the field of curing; they have no preventative role on the scale required. Having come to this conclusion, I ceased trying to work through the ITA, though remaining a member, and began a policy of writing to any relevant public figure as and when they might come to my attention. So it was that when I heard David Utting on Radio 4 (23.2.95) I made contact with your organisation.

I have also joined Channel 4 “Talking Heads Club” which, while not yet providing any really useful connections shows some promise. Indeed, Channel 4 has shown itself open to this kind of venture in screening, twice to my knowledge, a multi-part cartoon exposition of human physiological function and malfunction, aimed at children and entitled: “Once Upon a Time – Life”. This series was made by Procidis (Paris) and funded by a group of European TV/radio companies. I suggest that the foregoing speaks volumes for the viability of my proposal. I can supply a tape of the series.

AIMS
To turn the Idiot Box, with its deserved reputation for damaging output, into a magic Box and even a Box of Delights. To offer thereby to children, just as soon as they can absorb it, a gentle understanding of self and others, wrapped in fun, so that they might break the mould and grow to mature adults and parents. Further, to ensure that this initial generation of social literates is not only followed by others, but also that they are offered higher degrees of understanding as they grow.

POLICY RELEVANCE
I believe that the “Developed World” suffers from a serious and progressive imbalance, which we have exported to all parts of the globe. Our view of what is worthwhile and the ways in which we measure success and value, have destroyed what tenuous stability there was and the sum-total of competence (particularly parenting) declines with each birth. This is now an epidemic out of control. The ratio of potential patients to healers, rules out conventional curative treatment. We must immunise. Immunisation is a process which modifies the standard reaction of the organism when threatened, such that the chain of infection is broken. There is a number-threshold to be reached if the immunisation is to “take” in the whole community. Television can reach such numbers. Children can be prevented from contracting our dis-ease.

METHODS
Successful outcome will rely on the combination of the following:
(1) A TV commissioning editor or program maker.
I have been offered contacts in this direction by talking heads.
(2) A TA practitioner who is not too puritanical.
I believe I can make such a connection.
(3) A cartoonist with a proven ability in video and TA knowledge.
This connection already made.
(4) A writer with a proven feel for the humour in the human condition and TA knowledge. This connection already made.

This group would produce a short test/demonstration tape for trials with children. A successful outcome would pave the way to a trial series on TV.

TIMETABLE
In my darkest moments I fear it may already be too late. Time is certainly short. I would anticipate a pilot tape could be ready by the end of the year.

STAFFING
As described above there would be no requirement for staff as this would be a marrying of existing skills residing in established professional practices.

DISSEMINATION
See above.

OTHER SUPPORT
None.

BUDGET
The best information I can obtain is £10-20,000 to produce a pilot tape. However, we have a chicken and egg situation. As all the contributors are professionals, busy keeping the wolf from the door, they would need to know that money was potentially available before expending time on accurate quotes or, indeed, in the case of a production company coming on board at all. I am hopeful that you will be sufficiently drawn to this work to suggest to such people that funding might be available.

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