The BBC hates Christmas -- as usual
As a much-loved fairytale, a sumptuous new version of Hansel and Gretel might seem like perfect family viewing for Christmas Day. But a new staging of the Brothers Grimm classic, featuring children's corpses hanging in an abattoir-like larder, has proved so terrifying that the Royal Opera House recommends it is not suitable for children under the age of eight. Which has left critics questioning why the BBC has chosen to screen the production at 3pm on Christmas Day - a prime-time family viewing slot.
Media watchdogs and the children's charity Kidscape have called on BBC2 to pull the controversial opera from its Christmas schedule over fears it could traumatise children. The two-hour fairytale features lust-crazed parents, a knife-wielding wicked witch who hangs children in her larder before baking them in a giant oven and a final scene of cannibalism in which children feast on her flesh. It has been marketed by the Royal Opera House as 'perfect family fare for everyone at holiday time'.
But opera critics have called it 'profoundly unpleasant' and said children in the audience on opening night were 'genuinely terrified'. Officials have now conceded the staging is unsuitable for younger children. But a BBC2 spokeswoman insisted it would still be screened on Christmas Day, but said there would be a parental warning about the opera's content.
Michele Elliott, founder of the children's charity Kidscape, said: 'Children could be really scared or even traumatised by watching this. Parents should write to the BBC to ask them not to show it.' John Beyer, of Mediawatch UK, said: 'What on earth are they thinking of? It beggars belief that they could contemplate showing that sort of barbarity on Christmas Day of all days.'
Like many Brothers Grimm fairytales, the story of Hansel and Gretel has an undeniably dark tone. Two children born to a poor woodcutter are abandoned in a forest and are captured by a witch who intends eat Hansel. She locks Hansel in a cage and forces Gretel to become her servant, but the children eventually outwit her and trap her in her own oven before escaping back to their father.
A Royal Opera House spokeman said: 'We haven't banned young children from coming to see it, but we felt eight might be an appropriate age to suggest. Children today grow up watching Doctor Who, they have seen far worse. I don't think there would be many kids having nightmares.' A BBC spokeswoman said the screening of the opera will be presented by newsreader Katie Derham, who will also give a warning about the production's content. She said: 'There are scary elements in the story which are reflected in the Royal Opera House's production, but these are given a comic and pantomime-like treatment.'
The importance of family
From almost the first moment of recorded history, one set of relationships has been at the heart of the human experience and the basis of civilisation itself: a mother and father who depend on each other; the children who rely on them both; a supportive network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Without the loyalties and obligations of the committed family, our ancestors would certainly have struggled to survive in a dangerous and frightening world. How else but with the help of kin could they have coped with the critical moments in life: birth, sickness, old age, the need to educate and train their young? Without such help from the very beginning, it may be asked whether humankind would ever have developed the capacity to build an advanced civilisation.
This week a report from Unicef, the UN's child welfare agency, warned that working mothers take a massive risk when they put their offspring into low quality childcare. Experts at the world body said such toddlers could suffer psychological harm and fare poorly later at school. Aggressive behaviour learned by children at some nurseries might contribute later to classroom disruption.
The study for is the first major international report to warn of the dangers of the drive, pushed again by the Government this week, to get mothers back to work early. But the family has a significance that goes way beyond the practicalities of day-to-day existence. From the very beginning, it has also given a special meaning to our human notions of past, present and future. Human beings could have regarded themselves as isolated individuals whose meaningless lives were snuffed out and forgotten after a brief span. Instead - a hugely important factor in driving social development - we have always tended to see ourselves as part of a great chain of existence, binding us to our forebears and to generations yet unborn. 'To forget your ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root,' says the old Chinese proverb. That undoubtedly reflects one of our deepest human instincts.
In Britain, G. K. Chesterton summed it up strikingly more than 100 years ago when he described the family as 'this frail cord, flung from the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of tomorrow'. To modern ears, those words may sound somewhat romantic, or even a trifle overblown. But back in 1900, his view would have been shared by the overwhelming majority of MPs, lawyers, academics and the wider public. Until very recently, in fact, the importance of the family was taken for granted, not only as the basis of society, but as the foundation of our human identity.
Today? In western societies - and especially in the English-speaking world - we think we know better. Forget the wisdom of the ages. Forget our deep-rooted instincts. Forget precepts that have governed every society in every era of history. The importance of the 'traditional' family is being challenged as never before. The idea has taken root that human families can be constructed in any way people want. The message is that biology counts for nothing. Biological mothers don't matter to their children. Biological fathers don't matter either. All that matters is what adults want - and children must adapt to it, whether they like it or not.
The sheer speed of what is happening is quite astonishing. In less than 50 years, the old values have been stood on their head. Today, legislators don't hesitate to plunge into 'reforms' that tear up the rights, duties and obligations that have underpinned the family for millennia. They rush into new ' postmodernist' concepts of family, partnering and parenthood. Indeed, they are even attempting to banish the word 'marriage' from the statute books.
Everywhere in the West, the liberal consensus is on the march. In Britain, for example, a Labour Government has discouraged the use of the 'm' word in official documents, while in the U.S., the American Law Institute recommends that marriage should be ' deprivileged' and not be given a status above any other relationship.
Yet on any rational analysis, this reckless embrace of a brave new world is simply perverse, since there is no doubt whatever that the traditional family, underpinned by marriage, is the best way of bringing up secure, happy children and maintaining social stability. You don't have to be a religious believer or a Victorian moralist to take this view. The evidence speaks for itself (despite the strenuous efforts of the liberal establishment to ignore it). Fact: one in two unmarried couples splits up before their first child is five years old. The figure for married couples is just one in 12.
Fact: children from broken homes are 75 per cent more likely than their classmates to fail at school, 70 per cent more likely to be involved with drugs and 50 per cent more likely to have alcohol problems. They are also more likely to run away from home, find themselves in the care system and end up in jail.
At the very least, those bleak statistics should give us pause. The truth is that some of the most intractable problems facing Britain today - from our tragically high rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases to petty crime, gang membership and welfare dependency - have their roots in family breakdown.
That's not to say that all families are perfect. Sometimes, sadly, it can be for the best that a child is removed from its parents. Sometimes, it is for the best when couples separate. And it is certainly true that many, many children are brought up wonderfully in lone-parent households. All credit to the mothers - and sometimes fathers - who manage to do so. But that doesn't invalidate the general principle. By ignoring the real benefits that marriage brings to children and wider society, our legislators are making a profound error of judgment - perhaps the most serious mistake of the past half-century.
So how have we come to this? As I outline in my new book, there are a whole range of complex reasons - not least the hatred of the family that some shallow-thinking but influential intellectuals feel. They continue to promote the message that traditional family structures have no place in a world of gender equality.
Our elected representatives have played their part, too, by demoting marriage as an institution, weakening its contractual aspects and promoting the dogma that 'family' is just a legal and social convention. Take the shabby way successive governments have treated marriage in this country, even though they know perfectly well that it is one of the great foundations of society.
It was a Tory Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, who dismissed the married couples' tax allowance as 'an anomaly'. And it was former Home Secretary Jack Straw who proclaimed: 'This Government will not preach about marriage.'
The result? In Britain today it just doesn't pay to get married. Our tax and benefits system is so arranged that if lower-income couples who are living together get married, they will significantly increase their tax payments and lower their benefits. Perhaps it's no wonder that this country has a higher percentage of lone-parent families than any other country in Europe, apart from Sweden. The system is designed to create family instability. And the costs, both social and financial, are huge.
How to explain this bizarre discouragement of an institution so important to the happiness, stability and financial health of the country? Politicians are terrified of being thought 'judgmental' about the way citizens live. And they obviously take the defeatist view that nothing can be done to improve matters anyway. Isn't it curious, then, that those same politicians feel no compunction at all about bossing us around to tell us to stop smoking, cut down our drinking and eat five portions of fruit and veg a day?
The same aversion to moralising applies increasingly to the laws on marriage and divorce. Not only are we witnessing ever easier divorce - whatever the children may need or want - and same-sex marriages, but there is also growing pressure to remove the words 'father' and 'mother' from birth certificates and replace them by 'Progenitor A' and 'Progenitor B' (as is already happening in Spain).
Whatever the motivation behind such trends, the ' traditional' family structure is being badly eroded. All this reminds me of the grim ideas floated in ancient Athens 2,500 years ago. In the vision sketched out in Plato's Republic - a philosophical treatise on the most fundamental principles of the conduct of human society - mating would be random. Children would be raised by the state. Neither mothers nor fathers could claim their biological offspring as their own. Nor could they raise their children. In Plato's bleak prescription, men and women would join together briefly, then separate. Fathers had children by many mothers. Mothers bore children by different men. A disturbing scenario indeed.
But isn't Plato's view now triumphant? In a few brief decades, the western world has so altered the traditional concept of the family that it's possible to recognise the basic elements of the Platonic blueprint. Ideas which once seemed just a speculative nightmare now appear to be an emerging reality.
And yet the family in its traditional form is crucial to us all - not simply because it underpins social stability or because it connects us to the past and the future, but because it's also a bulwark of freedom itself. Why? Because the invisible bonds it creates between its members generate loyalties and affections capable of resisting any tyranny. That's what, in the end, makes the family not just a conserving institution, but also the engine of liberty and progress.
Yes, the family can sometimes fail. When it does, the consequences can be appalling. But at its best, it provides an anchor for individuals who would otherwise have no inspiration or support in an uncertain world.
For these reasons we should think long and hard about where we are being taken by some of the fashionable dogmas of our day: the belief that divorce or separation doesn't hurt; that what adults do can't seriously harm their children; that cohabiting is at least as good as marrying; that genetic relationships don't matter; and that 'family' can mean whatever we want it to mean. All of these dogmas are false. All are deeply damaging. Every day we can see the consequences in broken families and broken lives. In allowing matters to come to this, the liberal establishment has made arguably the most profound mistake of the past half-century. Dare we allow it to continue?
Pope Against Population Control: "Population Is Proving To Be An Asset, Not A Factor That Contributes To Poverty"
The Holy Father is a resolute source of "incorrectness" in the modern world. He decries "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty"
In his message for World Day of Peace, released yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI stated the long unrecognized truth that increased population has proved an asset rather than a detriment in terms of development. "Poverty is often considered a consequence of demographic change," he said.
"For this reason, there are international campaigns afoot to reduce birth-rates, sometimes using methods that respect neither the dignity of the woman, nor the right of parents to choose responsibly how many children to have; graver still, these methods often fail to respect even the right to life," he continued. "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings."
For decades the pro-life movement internationally has pointed out that birth control and "reproductive health" are often pushed in the name of economic prosperity, but that instead they actually repress societies by reducing their population, therefore compromising the ability to utilize resources and achieve self-sufficiency.
The fact that world powers knowingly use population-control ideology in foreign policy to suppress potential competitors rather than help them is remarkably substantiated by an executive-level government document entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), published in 1974 and declassified in 1989. The Memorandum, written by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, admitted that competition would rise when developing nations had sufficient populations to fully utilize resources. To address the problem, the report spelled out a plan to bring about "a two-child family on the average" throughout the world "by about the year 2000."
In accord with such U.S. foreign policy, the world's foremost financial institutions have also faithfully pursued population control in poor countries, and thinly veil their demographic assault - fueled principally by abortion - with well-known euphemisms. In a 1992 operations evaluation, the World Bank wrote a report indicating that economic growth could be used to seduce a society into accepting demographic suppression: "If the Bank wants to work in countries that do not accept population control as the rationale, it must base its population program on a broader and more flexible set of principles. This could start from a recognition that the overall objective is promotion of sustainable development in living standards ."
In his recent remarks, Benedict noted that such a rationale does not withstand the burden of evidence: "In 1981, around 40% of the world's population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as a half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth," he said. "This goes to show that resources to solve the problem of poverty do exist, even in the face of an increasing population.
"Nor must it be forgotten that, since the end of the Second World War, the world's population has grown by four billion, largely because of certain countries that have recently emerged on the international scene as new economic powers, and have experienced rapid development specifically because of the large number of their inhabitants. Moreover, among the most developed nations, those with higher birth-rates enjoy better opportunities for development. "In other words, population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty," the Pope affirmed.
Benedict's reasoning is similar to that of his predecessor John Paul II, who in Evangelium Vitae addressed foreign policies that make use of the population control ideology. He strongly condemned the impetus to suppress weaker countries through such tactics, and compared such governments to the Egyptian Pharaoh who attempted to keep the Hebrews in slavery by ordering every male newborn killed, saying "not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way."
"They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person's inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive programme of birth control," he wrote.
There are so many things to love about the Rod Blagojevich scandal it's hard to know where to begin. Wait. That's not right. There are so many bleeping things to love about this bleeping-bleep Blagojevich scandal it's hard to know where to begin.
For starters, the folks at the Chicago Tribune are Christmas Pony Happy because Blago tried to strong-arm Trib ownership to fire members of the editorial board. Instead, Trib editors will get to have a big tailgate party outside Blago's cell window. Newspaper people love that sort of thing.
For the more historically minded, it's a time for nostalgia. The past comes alive as Chicago's grand tradition of corruption is sustained for another generation. As the Chicago Tribune once wrote, "corruption has been as much a part of the landscape as corn, soybeans and skyscrapers." According to the Chicago Sun-Times, as of 2006, when Blago's predecessor, George Ryan, was sent to prison for racketeering, 79 elected officials had been convicted of corruption in the past 30 years. Among the perps: 27 aldermen, 19 judges, 15 state legislators, three governors, two congressmen, one mayor, two turtledoves and a partridge in a stolen pear tree. Especially in this holiday season, it's so very important to keep traditions alive for the kids. In a sense, Blago did it for the children.
For partisans, there's the schadenfreude that comes with watching the Democrats -- self-proclaimed anti-corruption zealots in recent years -- explain why Blagojevich shouldn't be lumped in with Congressmen Charlie Rangel (cut himself sweetheart deals), William Jefferson ($90,000 in his freezer) and Tim Mahoney (tried to bribe an aide he was sleeping with not to sue him; and you thought romance was dead) as part of a new Democratic "culture of corruption" storyline.
There's the enormous I-should-have-had-a-V8! moment as the mainstream press collectively thwacks itself in the forehead, realizing it blew it again. The New York Times -- which, according to Wall Street analysts, is weeks from holding editorial board meetings in a refrigerator box -- created the journalistic equivalent of CSI-Wasilla to study every follicle and fiber in Sarah Palin's background, all the while treating Obama's Chicago like one of those fairy-tale lands depicted in posters that adorn little girls' bedroom walls. See there, Suzie? That's a Pegasus. That's a pink unicorn. And that's a beautiful sunflower giving birth to a fully grown Barack Obama, the greatest president ever and the only man in history to be able to pick up manure from the clean end.
Obviously the list doesn't end there. Blago's hair not only appears bulletproof but seems to confirm reports that he is the human model for Playmobil action figures. And you can't leave out the supporting cast. Mrs. Blago curses like the inmate working the cafeteria at a women's prison who replies with an f-bomb to anyone objecting to a leaden ladle-thwack of unidentifiable green mush on their lunch tray.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., himself the son of a shakedown artist, is alleged to have offered (through a minion) a half-million bucks for Barack Obama's vacant senate seat. Jackson replaced former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who went to jail for getting jiggy with a 16-year-old campaign staffer and stayed in jail because of various fraud convictions. Reynolds, in turn, was the "reformer" who had replaced Rep. Gus Savage, the thug-congressman who groped a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire while on a "fact-finding" trip. Savage held off Reynolds' attempts to replace him for several years by claiming Reynolds was financed by "racist Jews."
Man, what isn't there to love about Chicago politics? It would be premature, not to mention un-festive, to discard any of these delicious immoral morsels from this cornucopia of corrupt crapulence. Fortunately, there's no need to single out just one fragrance from this miasma of malfeasance or one dish from this smorgasbord of smut.
But, there is a nice moral to the story here. For the last several years, we've heard a lot about "new politics." We are going to start fresh and put aside the old politics and the old ways. So far, it looks like Obama did nothing wrong, and I hope that remains the case. But it's worth remembering that there really isn't any such thing as a "new politics." Politics is eternal because human nature is unchanging. Even Barack Obama, hero-saint light-worker Jedi Knight Messiah that he is, came from a political culture that would not be unrecognizable to Caligula.
Hopefully, Obama will take away from this the humility that comes with realizing we are all -- even The One -- built from the crooked timber of humanity. Hence the genius of the Founders who built a government that took our imperfection into account. As James Madison said, If men were bleeping angels ...
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.