Monday, June 18, 2012

In defence of fathers

It might perhaps be noted that there are some moves afoot in Britain to remedy the appalling situation described below.  In  Australia it has already been for some years  the default assumption in the divorce courts that children will spend equal time with both mother and father  -- and Britain could be moving in that direction.  Individual circumstances may of course move court orders away from the default assumption but Australian courts have been fairly resistant to that.  A strong case has to be made to deviate from the default assumption of shared parenting.

A year ago today, David Cameron wrote an article for this newspaper, damning feckless and absent fathers. “We need to make Britain a genuinely hostile place for fathers who go awol,” he said. “It’s high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them. They should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale.”

Like thousands of other fathers, I snorted with derision and contempt when I read it, and have felt too angry to respond to it until now. Unmeasured public rage can be facilely dismissed as a kind of madness…
Dear Prime Minister,

You seem to be unaware that the principal reason that fathers become estranged from their families is that the family justice system is institutionally gender-biased. A father has to fight bitterly to get what is automatically awarded to mothers, and if he has no money he cannot even do this. Fair outcomes are reserved for people like me, who can afford them. Fathers get pillaged of their assets, and are then told that they cannot have their children overnight because their bedsits are unsuitable. They get accused of sexual or physical violence so that they cannot see their children for months while the accusations are dilatorily investigated.

Then judges reason preposterously that, since the children have got used to the situation, this should not be disturbed, and will decree that the father is now entitled to even less time. A mother is never punished for disobeying court orders, in case this upsets her and her distress impacts on the children. A father’s distress will be used against him to show that he is unstable. The children’s distress at losing their father does not count, and their stated preferences are ignored.

Mothers often try to move long distances away to ensure that contact is in fact impossible, and children find themselves saddled with a stepfather of whose existence they may have been previously unaware. Cases are adjourned over and over, for months, and are heard by different judges at each sitting. Cases are investigated by people from a body called Cafcass, which is underfunded, understaffed, undertrained, chaotic, unaccountable, does not do long-term studies, and simplifies its tasks by following anachronistic gender stereotypes.

In the meantime, the father loses physical and emotional touch with his children; he loses all hope; the stress and despair make it impossible to concentrate on his work. He finds that the more his children are withheld from him, the more maintenance he has to pay. The children are what he loves most and are his reason for living. Some men may spiral down into mental illness, alcoholism or even suicide. One charity used to keep a book of suicides called “The Book of The Dead”.

Mr Cameron, I condemn feckless fathers as strongly as you do, but you appear unaware that by far the majority of relationships involving children are dissolved by mothers. A statistic I have read recently stated that it is 83 per cent. I look forward to your article next Mother’s Day.

The biggest social scandal of our time is the absolute lack of justice for fathers, and the cruelty to which they and their children are routinely subjected by a legal system that is capricious and out of touch with the way we live now. These days, Mr Cameron, fathers push buggies, make meals, change nappies and spend hours watching awful children’s programmes just for the sake of the cuddles. The only thing we can’t do is breastfeed.

You are a father of young children, and I hope you never experience the horrors that come from a failed marriage. It is a Kafkaesque nightmare of injustices and double-binds. As you get demoted to the status of distant relative, you will find that your relations also lose your children, too. Most of my letters of support have come from women who are desperate on their brothers’ and sons’ behalf, or from grandmothers who have not seen their grandchildren for years.

Mr Cameron, the treatment of fathers in this country amounts to a contravention of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to a family life, and our court procedures contravene the right to a fair trial. If I could raise the necessary money to take cases to the European Court, I would give up years of my life to do so. Some day, somebody will.

Yours truly, etc
Louis de Bernières

I have been very lucky, Louis de Bernières writes

I have had the good fortune to have come to an understanding with my ex, and to continue to be a part of her family. We separated two years ago – after 10 years together, and two children: Sophie, four, and Robin, seven. My ex now lives in the village next door, and we have shared residence, which is working very well. This Father’s Day, I will be working, giving a talk at a literary festival. Then I shall rush back in time for bedtime and presents (I hope) at my ex’s house. My ex is very good about observing Father’s Day.

For a time, though, I had months of the most extreme despair after our personal fiasco blew up in our faces, and this has given me the determination to fight on, not for myself, but on behalf of the tens of thousands of fathers who do not have my public profile or financial means.

The fact is that fatherhood has changed. My own father was not a “hands-on” father, as he admits himself. His generation was not allowed to be, and didn’t know it was possible. I remember the slight awkwardness if he bathed us when our mother was out. He was still a wonderful father, and the important thing is none of us doubted that he loved us deeply and would have endured any hardship for our sakes. His ability to quote appropriate bits of Shakespeare is undimmed by age, and he still writes poems for each of us.

I admired him hugely as boy. He had been through the Italian campaign on the Gothic Line, and my mother assured me that he was “as brave as a lion”. He had medals to prove it, and a “Mentioned in Despatches”. His fathering skills included an ability to bark like a sergeant major, and so he had no discipline problems with us. After leaving the Army, he spent his life working for charities, and continued to do so unpaid after he retired. I am mystified as to why he never received an honour when many undeserving people have received them, such as donors to party funds. My father devoted his entire life to the service of others, for a part of it at the risk of his own life.

Of course, when I was a teenager I thought my father was an old fascist. “Fascist” was the word that my useless generation employed to dismiss anyone who didn’t blame “society” for everything. When I grew to maturity – quite recently – I understood that my father was one of those who laid his life on the line to save us from Fascists, to conserve those freedoms that we take for granted and are always in danger of losing.

My father was not interested in sport, and mother taught us cricket. It was with my father, however, that I cut logs, mixed concrete and laid slabs. He taught me how to use the carpentry tools that I still love to use. He encouraged my fanatical model-making, and was spectacular at it. Most importantly, he was interested in literature, in politics, in moral issues, in religion, in history and what could be learnt from it.

His creativity and intellectual engagement are the explanation for my vocation as a writer. Well done, Pa, it’s been a life well-lived. See if you can beat your own father past 96. And thank you with all my heart.


Churches Challenge British Government Over Same-Sex Marriage

The British government was headed for a bruising showdown on Tuesday with Anglican and Roman Catholic Church leaders over Prime Minister David Cameron’s contentious plan to legalize same-sex marriage, presaging what some clerics called the most serious rift between church and state in centuries.

Two days before a deadline for public responses to the plan, the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops insisted in public statements that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Mr. Cameron, who leads a coalition government with the junior Liberal Democrats, has described himself as an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, going beyond existing laws covering civil partnerships, which were introduced eight years ago.

In some ways, the debate here mirrors arguments in the United States swirling around President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

The proposal to legalize same-sex marriage threatens not only to provoke a clash with Christian and Muslim leaders, but also to divide Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party, adding to political woes that have been building over policy reversals and accusations by his critics that the Conservatives are too close to the rich and powerful.

It could also deepen strains within the coalition, since Mr. Cameron has said Conservative lawmakers may vote on the proposal according to their consciences, while the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, wants all of his party’s legislators in Parliament to approve the proposal.

In its statement on Tuesday, the Church of England said, “Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many, the possibility of procreation.

“The law should not seek to define away the underlying, objective distinctiveness of men and women,” the statement continued. “The church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by civil partnerships.”

The bishop of Sheffield, the Rev. Steven Croft, said the government plans represented a “really, really fundamental change to an institution which has been at the core of our society for hundreds of years and which for the church is not a matter of social convention but of Christian doctrine and teaching.”

Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales said in a statement, “In the interest of upholding the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we strongly urge the government not to proceed with legislative proposals which will ‘enable all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony.’ “

The positions taken by the churches drew a scathing response from gay rights activists, like Ben Summerskill, the head of an advocacy group called Stonewall, who accused the Church of England of orchestrating a “master class in melodramatic scaremongering.”

He accused church leaders of promoting a belief that “this is somehow the biggest upheaval since the sacking of the monasteries” in the Middle Ages.

With church attendance falling in Britain, only one in four marriages is conducted in a church.

The question of same-sex marriage is only one of the many gender- and sexuality-related issues confronting the Church of England, which has admitted female priests but is still embroiled in a bitter dispute over their ordination as bishops.

The broader international Anglican Communion, moreover, is riven by a dispute over the question of ordaining openly gay bishops.

A British government official, speaking in return for customary anonymity, said Mr. Cameron’s proposals, foreseeing the introduction of civil marriages for same-sex couples, would not force religious leaders to conduct marriage ceremonies in places of worship.

Referring to “the government’s view that marriage is one of the most important institutions we have got,” the official said the proposal “makes very clear that no religious organization will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages as a result of our proposals.”


Dubious "Charities" in Britain

Many years ago, in a terrifying third world city, I and a colleague were looking for a safe place to stay. We didn’t want much, just a compound in which to hide from the local gang militias, have access to clean water, reliably electricity and a good phone link.

It chanced that we heard that such a place existed, owned by a charity. We went round, introduced ourselves and said that, if they would put us up, we would arrange for our office in London to donate to them what we would normally have paid for a good standard hotel.

We were in need, though not desperate. We wouldn’t have been much trouble, and there was space. Other journalists had, so far as we knew, stayed there recently. But the local representative of the charity turned us down flat. Maybe he didn’t like our paper, or me. That was his choice. But what astonished me most of all was that a charity would so breezily reject several hundred pounds, possibly more than a thousand if we stayed any length of time, in return for services that would have cost a tiny fraction of that.

I was told the charity didn’t need our money. They were already on the government payroll, and did not really rely on individual donations any more.

Since then, I have never given so much as a bent penny to the charity involved. I have also known what most people don’t know, that many major British charities are in fact semi-nationalised organisations. It is seared on my memory and so I often forget that other people don’t know this.

So I am particularly grateful to Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who has produced a fascinating pamphlet ‘Sock Puppets: How the Government Lobbies Itself and Why’ which can be found by going here

Its basic points are these. That many (but please note, by no means all ) British charities (some very major ones) get millions of pounds from central and local government; that the rules which used to ban them from engaging in political lobbying have been greatly relaxed, so that almost anything short of direct party political propaganda will probably be passed by the Charity Commission; and that in effect, British government money, ostensibly spent on good causes, often ends up being used to lobby the government to do things it wants to do anyway.

As Mr Snowdon rightly points out, these tend to be minority causes, not great popular movements. These need no lobbies to get themselves son to the political agenda.

Even so, it occurs to me as remarkable that increased spending on foreign aid, which is dubious in itself and also widely unloved, is a successful cause, whereas nobody much is defending the armed forces from cuts, and much of the treatment of men badly injured in wars is met through genuine charitable donations.

I quite like some of the organisations he picks on (such as those which campaign for better public transport), but I did laugh at his brief history of the ‘Child Poverty Action Group’ which wrote in 1965 to the then premier, Harold Wilson about ‘at least half a million children in this country’ who were ‘in homes where there is hardship due to poverty’.

Billions of pounds of welfare spending later, the same CPAG now speaks of 3.8 million children living in poverty. All that time, and all that money, and ‘child poverty’ has increased sevenfold and more. Or perhaps something else has happened?

I’ll leave you some other figures from Mr Snowdon (he provides references) . The ‘voluntary’ sector employs more than 600,000 people. Between 1997 and 2005, the income of Britain’s charities almost doubled, from £19.8 billion to £39.7 billion, with the biggest growth coming in grants and contracts from government departments (state funding rose by 38% in the first years f this century, while private donations rose by 7%).

27,000 charities depend on the state for more than three quarters of their income, more than a third of the sector’s total income - £12.8 billion in 2007-8) came from the state.

By the way, you will be pleased to know that most British charities remain small organisations which take no cash from the state. The problem is confined to the big organisations. Yet even among the big organisations some – for example the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Donkey Sanctuary – are wholly independent of the state (so why, I ask, does the RNLI irritatingly use metric measurements for wave-heights in its advertisements? Feet, please).

My advice on charities is to check before giving. Do they take government cash? If so, how much? It will be in their accounts, though not always as obvious as it ought to be. And do they engage in propaganda? In which case, is it propaganda you don’t mind helping to support?

But in general, be aware of the fact that many very important lobbies are in fact funded by the government, so that it can lobby itself to do things it wants to do, but which you may not want done. I am not sure ’charity’ is the right name for such organisations. Mr Snowdon has done us a valuable service.


>b>The Left’s Blur


As someone who once suffered from extreme nearsightedness and astigmatism, had laser surgery and now, after nearly 15 years, beginning to relapse into some blur once again, I know a thing or two about blur.  The dictionary defines blur as the condition of being indistinct, hazy, or obscure. Most of the time, normal people try to avoid blur, so they wear glasses or have surgery to correct it.  Most of the time, we would be suspicious of anyone who favored this condition, wondering why anyone in his or her right mind would want to perceive things in such a state. In fact, we might even wonder if said person was insane or simply hiding something.

One of the Left's favorite tags is profiling, which it defines as the unfair habit of lumping people together based on some biased and sweeping notion that members of a given group are "all alike". The Left preaches that profiling is wrong, intolerant, evil, dangerous, and its ever-popular accusation, hateful. While it is certainly true that lumping people together without any rational justification is wrong and harmful, communicating distinctions inherent to specific, relevant traits and facts in relation to a specific situation or action is not only not wrong but, actually, useful.

For example, while it is obviously wrong to assume that a bank robber is Hispanic without any evidence thereof ( bias), it is useful to communicate that, in fact, the person who happened to rob the bank on First Avenue and Norton Blvd today at 3pm was Hispanic, for the sole purpose of helping authorities find said person. This, along with that person's physical characteristics and what he was wearing, for example, would and should be legitimate examples of acceptable profiling. Profiling is also used in constructing a composite representation, visual or psychological, of a targeted person.

The Left will argue that the above examples are not examples of profiling because profiling occurs when generalizations and assumptions are made about a person or a group of persons based on biases and subjective perceptions of that group. However, that definition of profiling is only its latest, politically hijacked version. The original meaning of the world profiling is to outline or represent something or someone. We must remember that the Left loves to hijack and twist words for its purposes and agenda, and this is no exception.

Despite its distaste for lumping people together, however, the Left conveniently does the very same thing when convenient to that very same agenda. For example, the Left will lump legal and illegal immigrants together and call illegal immigration issues "immigration" issues to expand, manipulate, and frame the debate on its terms and for its benefit.  As a proud and legal immigrant, I resent this form of profiling by the Left, as it actually increases discrimination against all immigrants in the long run by encouraging anti-immigration people to blame all immigrants for the actions of illegal ones. Without getting into the whole separate issue of whether illegal immigrants should be called "undocumented", it is clear and obvious that the media tends to use the term "immigration" as synonymous with illegal immigration because this form of profiling happens to favor its biased political agenda.

Similarly, we find that Left will be critical of any efforts to categorize, arrange, or describe various groups as potential terrorists yet, whenever it is convenient or practical, as it often is, these same members of the Left will call religious people terrorists for daring to proclaim and defend their beliefs and conscience. In the first instance, the Left will argue that such profiling is both unacceptable and evil.  In the latter case, however, that same Left will applaud and agree with the characterization of such religious groups as terrorists. Thus, we once again see that the Left blurs the distinctions between most religious groups and radical Islamic extremists who actively and aggressively seek the destruction of America. We also see how the Left conveniently blurs the distinction between criminals and their background, conveniently ignoring any mention or reference to said criminals' racial and cultural background lest prejudice set in.

Likewise, we see how the Left blurs the distinction between women who agree with their positions and those who do not, recently wailing incessantly about the so-called Right-Wing War on Women despite the fact that most and increasing numbers of women do not believe that such a wide-scale assault against women's rights and agenda actually exists. Why bother with statistics and polls which show that their Right-Wing War on Women is not legitimized nor accepted by most Americans including the very women the Left pretends to be defending when one has bigger fish, conservative fish to fry.

On the other hand, that same Left will fling the most vile accusations, mockery, and slanders specifically against conservative women such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Backman, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Romney, clearly targeting and distinguishing between such women and their liberal counterparts.  Simply put, the Left will blur distinctions between women when convenient yet profile and target any distinctions between women it finds useful to its agenda.

Finally, and most harmfully, the Left will blur the distinction between this great nation and the numerous nations that seek to emulate it. It will blur this country's great accomplishments and people and tacitly condone race-baiters and radicals whose hatred for this country is palpable. Thus, we repeatedly and consistently see how the Left's blur is selective, tending to increase when convenient and decrease as practical as well.

As discussed above, a blur intentionally manipulated to further one's radical agenda is pure hypocrisy, cowardice, and fraud. The Left stands as the epitome of such intentional blur, incessantly and annoyingly hiding behind its blurred perception of the world while pretending to champion carefully selected and targeted groups. The irony is both delicious and despicable.



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,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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