Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A History lesson:

.....a number of past and present scenarios (Author unknown)

Scenario: Parents take cute pictures of their 2 year-old playing in the tub.

1965 Parents go to Walgreen's, get them developed, and put them in the child's picture album which is shared with friends and relatives.

2006 Parents reported by Walgreen's to the Police, arrested for child pornography, and child sent to foster care.


Scenario: Jack pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.

1965 Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack's rifle, goes to his car and gets his own to show Jack.

2006 School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.


Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1965 Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends. Nobody goes to jail, nobody is arrested, nobody is expelled.

2006 Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.


Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class; disrupts other students.

1965 Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the school principal. Sits still in class from then on.

2006 Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.


Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his father's car and his Dad gives him a whipping.

1965 Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2006 Billy's Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy's sister is told by state psychologist that she remembers being abused by her Dad, and their Dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.


Scenario: Mark gets a headache and his Mother gives him some aspirin to take to school.

1965 Mark's headache persists. He goes to his locker, gets a couple of aspirin and takes them at the water fountain.

2006 Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.


Scenario: Mary turns up pregnant.

1965 Several high school boys leave town. Mary does her senior year at a special school for expectant mothers.

2006 Middle school counselor calls Planned Parenthood, who notifies the ACLU. Mary is driven to the next state over the border and gets an abortion without her parent's consent or knowledge. Mary given condoms and told to be more careful next time.


Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1965 Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2006 Pedro's cause is taken up by state Democrat party. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files a class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum as a required course. Pedro is given diploma anyway, but ends up mowing lawns and washing dishes for a living because he can't speak English.


Scenario: Jimmy takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a fire-ant hill.

1965 Ants die.

2006 BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism. FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

[. . . And who among us (boys mostly) didn't have a chemistry set that was capable of making all sorts of concoctions that would land us in the hoosegow today, and we were encouraged to learn to use it.]


I'll tell you what happened - the common denominator in all of these is meddling Government and its useless employees who could never find a real job unassisted, a bunch of hangers-on in a mutual affirmation sheltered workshop funded by predatory, coercive and ever-burgeoning theft of taxpayers' legitimate earnings.

The West is master of slave trade guilt

Europe is becoming an example of how a sense of historical responsibility can mislead present generations, writes Rebecca Weisser. In fact it is Leftist attention-seekers rather than the West as a whole that is ignoring reality

Andrew Hawkins has turned hand-wringing into performance art. In June the youth theatre director took a guilt trip to Gambia, where he donned a yoke and chain, knelt in front of 16,000 Africans in a football stadium and apologised for what he calls the African holocaust. Hawkins claims to be descended from Britain's first slave trader, John Hawkins. "God would consider what Sir John Hawkins did to be an abomination," Hawkins said. "It's never too late to apologise."

The "sorry" movement, which reached its zenith in Australia at the 2000 march for Aboriginal reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge, has gone global. In much of western Europe, the US and Canada, inherited culpability for slavery, colonialism, the treatment of indigenous people and the Palestinian question has merged with modern guilt over Third World poverty in an orgy of muddled self-castigation.

As Britain gears up to commemorate the 200th anniversary next year of the abolition of the slave trade in the former British Empire, it has been difficult to make the point that the anniversary should be seen as the celebration of a great and hard-fought victory. As Patrick West wrote in his book Conspicuous Compassion: "While slavery was not a distinctly Western phenomenon, the campaign to abolish it was. And the West was the first to do so." It is the guilt and shame of the slave trade rather than the triumph of Enlightenment values that has dominated the public domain. Earlier this year, Liverpool councillors debated whether to rename several streets in the city, including Penny Lane of Beatles fame, which had been named after notorious slave traders.

This week, Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote to New Nation newspaper in Britain to express his "deep sorrow" that the slave trade happened. "It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time," he wrote. "Personally, I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was ... but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened, and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today."

His statement hasn't gone far enough from activists who want "an apology of substance"; in other words, money. "Blair's article is taking a backward step from Britain's official position in 1807 when it abolished the trade and expressed regret for what had happened," says Mawuli Klu of Rendezvous of Victory, a British African-led, and community based lobby group. "This has heightened feelings among people in the African community. We want an apology of substance that addresses the demands for African reparations."

There is a broader dimension to the call for reparations. Beth Herzfeld of Anti-Slavery International calls for states that benefited economically from the slave trade to write off the debts of poor countries harmed by slavery. The push to "drop the debt" for Africa, championed by celebrities such as U2's Bono, is driven by the underlying idea that Africa is poor because it has been exploited through colonialism, of which slavery is the most horrific and graphic example. Britain, along with other Group of Eight countries, has responded by agreeing to double aid to Africa by 2010 and write off debts to the poorest countries.

Yet African countries that participated in the slave trade were enriched by it just as European countries were. In his history of the Atlantic slave trade, author Hugh Thomas notes that the trade was possible only because of the participation of many Africans, such as the rulers of Benin and the kings of Ashanti, Congo and Dahomey, as well as European merchants and politicians. Indisputably, African slave traders were enriched not just with the money they earned selling slaves but by the land they expropriated from those enslaved. Thomas quotes King Gezo of Dahomey, who said in 1840: "The slave trade has been the ruling principle of my people" and "it has been the source of their glory and wealth".

Britain is not alone in struggling with a guilty conscience. The French have been debating whether Napoleon committed genocide on a par with Hitler, trying to wipe out the adult black population of the former French colony of San Domingo (now Haiti) after a bloody uprising at the start of the 19th century. French historian Claude Ribbe, in a book called The Crime of Napoleon, challenges the accepted view of Napoleon as a military genius and founder of the modern French state and presents him as an anti-Semitic racist who reintroduced slavery after its abolition in 1794, ordered the extermination of the Haitian population and founded an empire that could prosper only through slavery.

Even more contentious is whether French history teachers should be obliged by law to teach the positive benefits of colonialism. A law passed in the French parliament stipulates that French history textbooks should "recognise the positive role of the French presence in its overseas colonies, especially in North Africa". The law sought to acknowledge Algerian Muslims who fought on the French side in the Algerian war but provoked so much ire in France and Algeria that talks on a friendship treaty between France and Algeria broke down. French President Jacques Chirac inaugurated a Slavery Remembrance Day on May 10 this year, the fifth anniversary of the passing of a law by the French Senate recognising slavery as a crime against humanity.

The French and British history wars underline the common themes in a debate that is not limited to former colonial powers. Former colonies such as Australia and the US have been caught up in the same debate that has become part of the great Western guilt complex. And along with the guilt come the apologies. Blair has apologised for the Potato Famine, Bill Clinton apologised to the Sioux people, pope John Paul II apologised for everything from the persecution of Galileo and the execution of Jan Hus to Catholic involvement in the slave trade.

Yet the guilt complex seems to be a Western phenomenon. It is often said that Jews invented guilt and Catholics perfected it, but although Muslims are, like Christians and Jews, "children of the book", there have been few apologies emanating from the Islamic world or, for that matter, other cultures. Arabs, Persians, Berbers, Indians, Chinese and Africans were all involved in the African slave trade from the 8th century through to the present, with few proclamations of public guilt or effective action to eliminate slavery that exists largely in Africa and Asia.

Even using the narrowest definitions that exclude bonded and forced labour and servile concubinage, there are estimated to be 2.7 million slaves in the world today. Including bonded labourers, there are estimated to be 27 million slaves, and including all categories of trafficked women and children there are estimated to be 100 million slaves. The Anti-Slavery Society estimates there are 8000 female slaves in West Africa who are hierodules; that is, religious sex slaves. In West Africa children are kidnapped or bought for $20 to $70 in Benin and Togo, then sold into slavery for sex or domestic labour in oil-rich countries such as Nigeria and Gabon for $350. Hierodules also exist in India despite efforts to suppress the practice. Young women who are trafficked to the Middle East and North Africa from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are sold for $3000 to $10,000. Imprisoned in a room by their owner for the sadistic use of himself and his friends, these women survive on average for about two years.

In response to such shocking statistics, the contrast between practical assistance and self-aggrandising symbolism is striking. While Hawkins is fundraising for another guilt trip, walking in yokes and chains, the Anti-Slavery Society, one of whose earliest members was William Wilberforce, is raising funds to purchase the emancipation of modern slaves and stamp out modern-day slavery. Wilberforce, a profoundly religious and deeply conservative man who fought all his life not just for the abolition of slavery but against child labour, cruelty to animals and discrimination against Catholics, was on his death bed when the bill he fought for, for so many years, was finally passed abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire. He said, "Thank God that I have lived to witness the day in which England is willing to give pound stg. 20 million for the abolishment of slavery." It was one of the great benefits of colonialism, an achievement of which Britain and the West should be proud, and an inspiration to present generations to continue to fight to eliminate slavery and spread the spirit of the Enlightenment throughout the world.


Men fight stereotypes

MENINISM is the catchcry of a movement of males who will storm the streets and burn their ties, rallying against the "all men are bastards" image that has an entire sex pigeonholed as violent, heartless and untrustworthy. This is according to a new study saying there is a competing interest to the feminist struggle for equality; men and boys are now the target of negative stereotypes. The research shows almost 70 per cent of social commentary on the male gender is unfavourable - portraying men as violent, sexually abusive, unable to be trusted with children, "deadbeat dads" and commitment-phobic. In the largest Australian study of its kind, Dr Jim Macnamara analysed more than 2000 media articles and programs and found men were mostly positioned as villains, aggressors, perverts or philanderers.

Yes, well, any women's magazine will tell you that. Male-bashing is a vital part of female bonding; it brings us together, gives us a common point of reference as well as something to complain about. And the much maligned male so thoughtfully gives us so much material to choose from.

Affectionate bitching is one thing - the male bashing is now taking a more serious turn where boys are growing up in a world where they are faced with a distinct lack of role models. According to Dr Macnamara, even the positive images of men in the media are delivered as a backhanded compliment with there being only one version of the "good men"; the sensitive metrosexual who is in touch with his feminine side. Not much to choose from really; the unemotional, aggressive commitment freak or the moisturised, dithering doormat.

The media's limiting rendering of men is alarming says the University of Western Sydney academic because social policy works hand in hand with social stereotyping. "Legislation is developed by government and largely driven by what is being said in society - it is already beginning to affect social policy if you look at child access and child custody issues. "There is overwhelming discourse that men cannot be trusted with children - there is a lot of concern about men being alone in the company of a child."

Despite the tide of opinion positioning men as the perpetrators of crime, Dr Macnamara says when it comes to violence against children - women are often responsible. "What we are doing is creating a society that believes 90 to 95 per cent of violence is committed by men and it's not true," he says. "Research shows violence against children is more often committed by women - I'm not trying to push the blame back to women. I'm saying that as a society we need to look at the image that we are creating for young boys."

University of Sydney media department Associate Professor Catherine Lumby was practically waving a Meninism placard along with Dr Macnamara until she heard that comment. "I'm sorry, if you want better statistics on this go to some experts," she says - a touch aggressively. "The statistics are overwhelming; the majority of sexual violence and domestic assaults is committed by men. That is sad, I don't blame men, I don't think they are some terrible, natural force who are evil. "Yes, some women are violent but for most women the problem is they are victims of violence."

A mother of two young sons, Dr Lumby says the media minefield is littered with unrealistic stereotypes for both males and females - and that rather than counter them by censorship, we should be teaching the youth how to navigate negative cliches. "I'm very, very conscious that there is a set of masculine stereotypes; are they a sports brain? Straight? Gay? "My concern as a parent is that my boys are able to find out who they are and (not) feel constrained by these preset, pre-fabricated ideas," she says.

But Dr Macnamara says the problem is more serious than men contending the "boys don't cry" mentality. The lack of good role models in the media is aggravated by a lack of positive role models in real life. He points to the increasing numbers of absentee fathers and the shortage of male teachers. "They are branded as troublemakers in schools - and they often have no role models in the home because of the high rate of single-parent households - and then in the media the role models they see are overwhelmingly negative."

And the trend towards "demonising, marginalising and trivialising of men and male identity" could turn into a tug-of-war with serious mental health consequences for a generation of young boys. "We are probably having a negative impact on young men's esteem and we are definitely having an impact on young boy's self esteem," he says. "Ultimately such portrayals could lead to negative social and even financial costs for society in areas such as male health, rising suicide rates and family disintegration."


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