Bunker mentality?

中国日报网 2018-04-27 14:02



Bunker mentality?Reader question:

They say Bryant is someone “with a bunker mentality”, what does it mean exactly?

My comments:

First, let’s examine what a bunker is – then what a bunker mentality is about.

A bunker is an underground tunnel or chamber for hiding during wartime. This is a toughly built shelter, strong enough to withstand enemy bombs.

Typically, bunkers are built during a prolonged period of war in which enemy attacks are formidable and frequent.

Now imagine soldiers and other people who have to live in such a bunker for an extended period of time.

Yes, over time, probably all of them may develop something close to what is known as a bunker mentality, the chief symptom of which being the constant fear of being attacked, which is, in a way, true.

When this feeling of being besieged gets out of control, however, they may believe enemies are everywhere. Everyone is trying to get at them, trying to hurt them.

Under this attitude, they will probably not be very friendly and easy going in dealings with other people. They’ll be excessively defensive, to be sure. And they might be excessively aggressive at the slightest provocation.

Or perceived provocation.

And such like.

After all and in short, if one lives in a bunker for long, one’s outlook may dim and one no longer looks at the world with the usual optimism of normal people.

Bunker mentality as an expression is a relatively young term, first coming into print in the 1980s. It was “probably” coined by people “recalling the last days and delusions of Hitler in his Berlin bunker”, according to The Dictionary of American Slang (Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.).

Bunker’s mentality is the same in meaning as the much older term of siege mentality, which describes the attitude of people living in a city under a real siege, i.e. being surrounded by attacking enemies and being cut off from outside help for a long period of time.

Alright, here are a few media examples of real situations under which people adopt the bunker or siege mentality:

1. “You don’t have a gun; that’s good.”

That was how Richard Fuld greeted a Reuters reporter who had tracked him down to his country house in a bucolic setting beside a river and amid tree-covered slopes in Ketchum, Idaho last Friday.

The man vilified for the collapse of Lehman Brothers (LEHMQ.PK) almost a year ago, a failure that triggered the global economic crisis, seemed burdened but not crushed by the pressure of the upcoming anniversary.

Standing on his gravelly driveway wearing a black fleece vest, dark gray shorts and sandals, Fuld indicated he was torn about speaking out in his own defense, partly because of ongoing litigation but also because he felt the world was not ready to listen.

“You know what? The anniversary’s coming up,” he said. “I’ve been pummeled, I’ve been dumped on, and it’s all going to happen again. I can handle it. You know what, let them line up.”

Fuld again emphasized his concern about what will be said and written about him in the days leading up to the September 15 anniversary of the Lehman collapse but also stressed his ability to see it through.

“They’re looking for someone to dump on right now, and that’s me,” Fuld lamented and later added: “You know what they say? ‘This too shall pass.’”

Fuld, 63, took Lehman’s reins in 1994 when it was troubled and rebuilt it into the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, a Wall Street powerhouse whose massively profitable mortgage banking machine inspired rivals' envy. Even Goldman Sachs (GS.N) was nervous.

But it was forced to file the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history after it choked under the weight of souring assets and lost investor confidence, and as the U.S. government and Federal Reserve failed to find a buyer and decided not to come up with a rescue package.


Almost to a person, Lehman employees said in interviews they were still devastated by the demise of the 158-year-old firm. They were stunned, and now they are bitter, about a federal government that arranged shotgun weddings for Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, propped up AIG and bailed out Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) -- but let Lehman die.

“They should never have let us go bankrupt. It was just a big, huge mistake,” said one executive who worked closely with Fuld.

While Fuld has his defenders, Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman vice president of distressed debt and convertible securities trading, who wrote a book about the Lehman collapse – “A Colossal Failure of Common Sense” -- called him arrogant and irresponsible.

Fuld has a bunker mentality. He blamed the markets, blamed the short-sellers. The truth is, qualified people warned him several times and he wouldn’t listen,” McDonald told Reuters in an interview. McDonald said there was still “a lot of anger in the community out there” toward Fuld.

- Former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld laments how he’s been ‘pummeled’ and ‘dumped on’, Reuters, September 8,m 2009.

2. George Orwell once wrote that the British were not sufficiently interested in intellectual matters to be intolerant about them. The French, on the other hand, enjoy nothing less than a high-minded, lofty debate over abstract concepts – or so it is believed. The British ask: “It works in theory, but does it work in practice?” The French ask: “It works in practice, but does it work in theory?” So the joke goes.

As a London-based French citizen watching my own country heading for a rancourous presidential runoff on 7 May and Britain preparing for its first post-Brexit general election, I’m not sure the supposed differences between us are as marked as we like to think. And I see lessons for the UK from what is happening across the Channel.

While you struggle to make sense of Brexit, we’re struggling with the looming catastrophe that would be the election of Marine Le Pen. And up against her in the second round, the 39-year-old centrist reformer, Emmanuel Macron, is our new national sensation. He wants to abolish the once watertight left-right divide, upending decades of ideological confrontation.

He’s no Robespierre. He quoted Albert Camus in one of his rallies earlier this month: “Each generation no doubt believes it is doomed to remake the world. The task of our generation may be even larger: it consists in preventing the world from coming undone.” So, not entirely unBritish.

This is not a perfect parallel. Though withdrawal from the EU is sad and costly, it’s unlikely to unravel British democracy. By contrast, the victory of a far-right leader in France would be the death of all the values the republic is meant to uphold. Brexit may be troublesome for EU citizens living in the UK – and there have even been several xenophobic attacks since 23 June – but a Le Pen win would put 7 million or so French nationals of African, Arabic or Muslim descent under constant physical threat. The bigotry that pervades her rallies would be unleashed nationwide. The country’s fragile social fabric, which terrorism has already torn at, would be ripped apart entirely.

If the polls are right, Macron should win. He hasn’t yet. But if his rise has proved something the British might do well to heed, it is that a robust political centre does have a chance against rightwing populism. The centre is not ineffective, and it’s not outdated. The old structures may crumble – and indeed the traditional postwar parties in France are all but wiped out – but that does not mean the extreme parts of the political spectrum will be the only ones to grow out of the ruins.

Radical rightwing politics has thrived by exploiting the popular rage that characterises the mood in France today (fuelled by joblessness and deep distrust of the elites). Nearly 50% of the electorate voted on 23 April for either the far left, the far right, or Trotskyist and maverick candidates. But so far, even against that sorry backdrop, a clear-sighted, energetic Macron has come out on top.

He calls himself “progressive”, and stands for social liberalism, or pro-market social democracy. He’s not anti-capitalist nor anti-globalisation, and certainly not nativist. He’s the anti-radical who advocates step-by-step, moderate reform to heal the many fractures of an extremely tense and anxious country. He doesn’t want to pitch social classes or ethnic groups against one another. His is a slow-motion revolution, and that’s something utterly new by French standards. Indeed, he’s more interested in what works in practice than in what might look good in theory. That may seem familiar to you Brits.

It’s an approach that could strike a chord across a continent that sees nationalism reawakened, along with its ghosts. Le Pen embodies that rising nationalism in France, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, the Jarosław Kascyński crowd in Poland. Brexit can be interpreted as a kind of nationalist resurgence. Witness Theresa May’s observation this week that 27 European countries are “lining up against” Britain. How often has a siege mentality tactic been deployed by illiberal politicians to galvanise the populists, with no regard for the consequences?

- Macron’s rise shows that extremism – whether left or right – is not inevitable, TheGuardian.com, April 28, 2017.

3. A bunker mentality can serve as an asset when you’re under siege. And when you treat your workplace like a bunker, literally.

So it went for these Yankees, who responded to their worst and longest loss of the season by, in many cases, never leaving Yankee Stadium. Refreshed and reloaded Saturday afternoon, they knocked around the Orioles, 8-3, to restore some stability to what has proven a most unstable kickoff to this campaign of sky-high expectations.

Nevertheless, at a modest 5-4 and with two important players hitting the disabled list on Saturday, they still reside in the thick of this early challenge for new manager Aaron Boone and company.

“Over the course of a 162-game season, every team is going to go through their share of times when it’s tough, or the injury bug, or whatever,” Boone said. “You’ve got to be able to weather the storm in those times. [I’m] really proud of the guys today, for all that went on [Friday] night, to come out there and grind the way they did. It says a lot about those guys.”

The Yankees’ 14-inning, 7-3 loss to the Orioles ended at 12:29 Saturday morning, and with four players leaving the game early due to injury.

- Yankees show mettle by relying on a bunker mentality (literally), NYPost.com, April 7, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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