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The Story of Boris Johnson is the Posh White Man's Very Own Perverted 'Hero's Journey'

By Petr Knava | Think Pieces | June 14, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Think Pieces | June 14, 2019 |


boris-stanley-jo-rachel.jpg

We all know about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, don’t we? The broadly common template that fits a large proportion of stories of heroic individuals from all across the world. Countless pieces have been written about it and video lectures recorded. Shit, you’re reading a movie website; most movies are structured in line with the Hero’s Journey template; you probably know it back to front.

But just for the sake of flow let’s refresh. While there were other writers and scholars who described the Hero’s Journey template before him, it’s American literature professor Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ that provided the most iconic and neatly succinct formulation of it:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

It’s every fantasy book ever, right? An unassuming and often humble hero, living in relative obscurity, departs from his world of normalcy to face great trials of a nature previously never even imagined. Despite the unbelievable odds and at one point seemingly certain defeat, he triumphs, often with the help of a band of friends made along the way, and he returns with newfound knowledge or power to help the common people to whom he previously belonged. (The choice of gender pronoun is very much on purpose there by the way.)

Hackneyed and cliched it might be—as well as deleteriously and dogmatically individualistic—but the Hero’s Journey at its heart a fundamentally goodhearted narrative. Someone comes from nothing and overcomes adversity and helps others. Lovely.

There’s a reason, quite aside from the obvious personal wish fulfilment, that so many people seek escape in stories that look like that. We want to believe in a better world, in good people getting rewarded for hard work, and of caring about those weaker than them. But the world doesn’t look like that. The people don’t look like that.

This is what it all fucking looks like in real life:

boris-stanley-jo-rachel.jpg

A blonde and pasty tapestry of privilege. An image of viciously embedded and violently protected class hierarchy. Hundreds of years of colonial slaughter and racist theft poured into expensive suits and handed glasses of champagne.

That’s the Johnsons, in case you didn’t know or somehow couldn’t figure it out, by the way. From left to right: Stanley Patrick Johnson and his children Rachel Sabiha Johnson, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and Joseph Edmund Johnson.

You might know Rachel Johnson from that time she said that Theresa May was also a victim of the Grenfell fire.

But the talk of the town today is, of course, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Boris Johnson.

Boris.

A man who, perhaps more than any other, typifies the dark and perverted—yet very much real-life—version of the Hero’s Journey.

The man who is fast on course to becoming Britain’s new Prime Minister. The New York-born, flaxen-haired aristocrat descended on his mother’s side from King George II, who has spent his life knowing nothing but the utmost privilege, using his power to benefit no-one but himself and his friends, and who is about to take the highest office in the land without any input whatsoever from the people of the country itself aside from a few similarly privileged Tory party members.

Because let us not forget the record of this man.

A man who, after the imperial destruction of Libya at the hands of the UK and US, said of the country:

I look at Libya, it’s an incredible country. Bone-white sands, beautiful sea, Caesar’s Palace, obviously, you know, the real one. Incredible place. It’s got a real potential and brilliant young people who want to do all sorts of tech. There’s a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed as some of you may have seen. They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai.

The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.

A man who once described the investigations into historic child abuses in Britain as ‘spaffing money up the wall’.

A man who denigrates women MPs in the Houses of Parliament by referring to them by the titles of their husbands.

A man who has described black people as ‘picanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’.

A man who has said of Muslim women who wear burqas and niqabs that it’s ‘absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes,’ and that female Muslim students who turn up to universities looking like ‘bank robbers’ should be obliged to remove their veils.

A man who once spoke of former British African colonies by saying:

The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.

[…]

Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.

[…]

The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.

A man who, when responding to the removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office by then-President Barack Obama said that the move was ‘a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire—of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.’

A man who has voted consistently for the crippling austerity that has brought this country and its people to their knees; has never voted for allowing marriage between two people of the same sex; has almost always voted against promoting equality and human rights; has almost always voted for imperial military interventions abroad; has almost always voted for reductions in benefits for those most in need of them; has almost always voted against the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit; has almost always voted against progressive taxation laws; has consistently voted to reduce the budgets of local government; has consistently voted for stricter asylum laws, for increasing digital surveillance; and has almost always voted against greater environmental protection and climate change laws.

A man who has been given chance after chance after chance to rehabilitate his image after every gaffe and offensive comment by the British press; who has been given platform after platform after platform by the media to espouse his hateful view of the world and promote his fake chummy persona that has hoodwinked so many millions because of a historic and inbuilt desire of the British establishment to be ruled over by a ‘charming and eccentric’ posho aristrocrat.

When we get home from a hard day’s work, tired after spending our life’s energy and precious limited time on this earth grafting for ever lower pay and under ever worsening conditions, toiling away underneath the mental burden of knowing that our children will inherit a planet ravaged and left choking by capitalist greed, we like to comfort ourselves with versions of the Hero’s Journey. We watch movies and TV shows. We read books. And who can blame us? It’s an escape. Sometimes it can be a source of hope.

There couldn’t be a greater and starker illumination of just how much fantasy there is to those stories, and of how the world actually operates, than the life and career of Boris bloody Johnson. A posh white man who has never once shown an aptitude for anything except surfing the waves of the capitalist Establishment that loves nothing more than elevating people exactly just like him. In his 2014 book about the state of Britain’s institutional power, ‘The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It’, journalist and commentator Owen Jones described things thus:

As well as a shared mentality, the Establishment is cemented by financial links and a ‘revolving door’ culture: that is, powerful individuals gliding between the political, corporate and media worlds - or who manage to inhabit these various worlds at the same time. The terms of political debate are in large part dictated by a media controlled by a small number of exceptionally rich owners, while think tanks and political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and corporate interests.

Boris Johnson is a walking avatar of this institutional power. His and his ilk’s ancestors were the ones who climbed the ladder first, pillaging and destroying as they went, pulling up the ladder after themselves, ensuring that only their children and their peers’ children could actually make it. Now they sell the myth of meritocracy while dancing in a world that burns in the fires of their avarice.

Let’s go back to Joseph Campbell’s memorable formulation of the Hero’s Journey:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Now let’s take that, and let’s refract it through a twisted lens. What we’ll find is the image of a dark and perverted version Hero’s Journey that describes every posh and privileged white man like Boris Johnson—a man who has bounced and clawed his way upwards through society as, respectively, a highly paid journalist, a right-wing Member of Parliament, Mayor of London, and now, it seems near-certain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

An individual, born into obscene wealth and privilege, ventures forth into a life of unbelievable comfort and forgiveness: forelock-tugging cronies are there found at every turn and even more wealth and power is accumulated: the individual comes back from this adventure even more convinced of his own worth, and of his divine right to rule over everyone else.


Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.


Header Image Source: Getty Images


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