Outside the winner’s enclosure: part 2

As I mentioned at the end of my previous post (Outside the winner’s enclosure: part 1) enclosures define boundaries.  They define who is ‘out’ as well as who is ‘in’.  And if those who are ‘inside’ are ‘successful’ or ‘winners’, then by this logic those who are ‘outside’ are ‘failures’ or ‘losers’.

In this sense ‘success’ defines ‘failure’, i.e. not being successful.   And yet, at the same time ‘success’ only has meaning because of ‘failure’.  A cynic might even argue that the ‘failures’ of society serve a useful function in reminding people what will happen to them if they stop succeeding.  So perhaps it might be more helpful to gain a better understanding of what ‘failure’ means, rather than asking what ‘success’ looks like – which, I would argue, is pretty well understood anyway, even if the precise criteria for ‘success’ varies from one context to another.

It’s often said that ‘everyone loves a winner’.  And this is not only true in the corporate environment, but in most other areas of life too.  So perhaps in this sense the City is simply a microcosm of wider society.  But maybe what should really be said is that ‘no-one loves a loser’, or perhaps even that ‘everyone hates a failure’.  I suspect thought this is because most people fear failure (though Freud did write an interesting paper on those who fear success………).

Going back to the metaphor of the ‘winner’s enclosure’ and what happens to those who suddenly find themselves outside of it, perhaps through mental breakdown.  Now we have it, the stark equation: mental breakdown, psychological problems = failure = exclusion.  Such exclusion can be both literal and metaphorical.  Literal because often a person with mental health problems finds it difficult to find work, is shunned by the social groups he or she was once welcome in, and so on.  Metaphorical because of the signification and stigmatisation of being ‘mentally ill’ – which in turn can lead to more concrete forms of exclusion.

Metaphorically at least, and in too many cases literally as well, people with mental health problems are ‘outsiders’, excluded from the shining citadels of the Dreaming City,and roaming aimlessly in the wastelands of the Real.