Friday, June 01, 2012
Why Scots die young
There's a lot of beating about the bush in the report below so perhaps it falls to me to tell the real story.
Scots in Scotland today are a very socialist lot. Add to that a tradition of fighting and you have a very "Bolshie" lot, not to put too fine a point on it.
The hard-working and enterprising Scots have long ago emigrated elsewhere -- if only to England but also notably to North America and Australasia.
So having to work makes Scots resentful and in the postwar era they gradually destroyed most of their traditional industries (shipbuilding, floorcoverings etc.) by constantly going on strike -- leaving them very welfare dependant. In many Scottish households now no-one has worked for generations.
And with nothing to do and no hope for the future, the chief entertainment for their young men became sticking shivs into one another on Saturday night. Glasgow (where about half of all Scots live) is one of the world's most violent cities. And a shiv (home-made stabbing knife) in your ribs is not good for your health or your survival
Scotland's shorter life expectancy is not just due to higher rates of smoking and drinking and a poor diet but is also the result of decades of bad political decisions, according to researchers.
The country's mortality rate is markedly higher than in other European countries, including the rest of the UK.
This has been caused by a range of factors influenced by the political direction of the last 60 years, and in particular since 1980, a study by NHS Health Scotland claims.
Scientists identified and tested a range of reasons for why those living in Scotland die at a younger age; they found no single cause.
These included migration, genetics, individual values, substance abuse, climate, inequalities, deindustrialisation and 'political attack'.
The researchers found that between 1950 and 1980 life expectancy in Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe.
They believe this was linked to higher deprivation due to industrial employment patterns, housing and urban environments, community and family dynamics, and negative health behaviour cultures.
From 1980, they attribute the country's higher mortality to the political direction taken by the governments of the day, and the consequent hopelessness and community disruption that was experienced as a result.
The study said: 'For over half a century, Scotland has suffered from higher mortality than comparably wealthy countries, and for the last 30 years has suffered from a new and troubling mortality pattern.
'It is unlikely that any single cause is entirely responsible, and there is uncertainty around why Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe around 1950.
'It is clearer that the health and social patterns that emerged from the 1980s are more closely linked to negative health behaviours (eg alcohol consumption), but these behaviours are, in turn, heavily influenced and shaped by the social, cultural and economic disruption which occurred as the political and economic policies of the UK changed from the late 1970s.'
Other factors, such as alcohol, smoking, unemployment, housing and inequality are all important, the scientists said, but require an explanation as to why Scotland was disproportionately affected.
Lead researcher Dr Gerry McCartney said: 'It is increasingly recognised that it is insufficient to try to explain health trends by simply looking at the proximal causes such as smoking or alcohol.
'Income inequality, welfare policy and unemployment do not occur by accident, but as a product of the politics pursued by the government of the day.
'In this study we looked at the "causes of the causes" of Scotland's health problems.'
The study is published in the journal Public Health.
Etan Patz: the case that changed America
Thirty-three years on, a man has been arrested for the murder of six-year-old Etan. But America is still reeling from that abduction
On 25 May 1979, a six-year-old boy named Etan Patz went missing on his first solo journey to school. Last week, almost 33 years to the day, New York police announced the arrest of Pedro Hernandez for Etan’s murder.
New Yorkers are greeting the news cautiously and with something like bewilderment. We’ve been down this road before. Thirty-three years of false leads and wild speculation have rendered this event so much larger than life. The disappearance of Etan haunted a generation. This was the story that changed everything. It was the abduction that came to define childhood in the years to follow. It seems almost impossible to imagine that it could, finally, be over.
It’s still possible to visit the corner of Prince and Broom where Etan disappeared so many years ago. Today the area is gentrified, with restaurants and expensive boutiques; barely a trace remains of the New York of the 1970s. Looking at the city today, it’s hard to imagine how different things were then, before its rise to become the de facto financial centre of the world.
In one sense, New York has always been a great city, but in the 1970s she was in decline. The world was changing. The manufacturing jobs that built the city dried up. Her old institutions and power brokers, the unions, the police and the democratic machine, were as corrupt as the city’s crumbling infrastructure. Huge parts of the outer boroughs became wastelands of derelict buildings ravaged by crime and neglect. Nearly a million people fled. The murder rate soared and the nation’s candidate for Greatest City in the World became its greatest embarrassment. Bankrupt and broken, the city appealed to the federal government for help. But President Gerald Ford refused, inspiring the famous New York Daily News headline: ‘Ford to City: Drop Dead.’
Things weren’t much better nationally. Watergate and Vietnam had a demoralising effect on civic life, but private life was just no escape. The mass permanent entry of women into the workforce profoundly changed the family. Marriages broke apart and parents struggled to raise their children in a world that was completely alien to the one they had grown up in.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty and disintegration, the Etan Patz case seemed to amplify a sense of growing mistrust not just in New York but across America. It became the crucible for every secret dread about what people were capable of. Over time, it took the form of an obsession with child sexual abuse.
According to Paula Fass, author of Child Abduction in America, the idea that Etan had been abducted by an adult for the purposes of sexual abuse emerged only several years after his disappearance. Sex crimes against children were not unknown, but were considered extremely rare. The first suggestion that Etan’s abduction was such a crime came in the form of a novel published by Beth Gutcheon in 1981. Still Missing was based on the Patz case, but in Gutceon’s account, the missing boy is found in the clutches of a paedophile. Over the years, the idea that Etan was the victim of a paedophile has become the standard explanation for his disappearance and the imagined motive for any child abduction after.
Only a few years later, Adam Walsh would disappear from a shopping centre in Florida and Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch would vanish from his route, never to be seen again. In 1983, then president Ronald Reagan declared 25 May, the day of Etan’s disappearance, as National Missing Children’s day and 1,800 independent dairies decided to feature the photographs of missing children on cartons of milk. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the numbers of child abductions tended to be greatly exaggerated. Campaigns against ‘stranger danger’ claimed that as many as 50,000 children were abducted each year, even though the real number was nearer 300 and most of those were in custodial disputes.
With hindsight, the Patz case and the other panics about child safety that followed were probably rooted in the unsettling social changes that took place in the 1970s and 80s. But it wasn’t so easy to see then. Every story about a murder or disappearance and every milk carton seemed to mock everything Americans had ever believed about adults and children as simply wrong.
Perhaps the most extreme expression of this was so-called ‘recovered memory syndrome’, which came to prominence in the 1980s and 90s, in which therapists ‘helped’ adults and children supposedly to retrieve blocked-out memories of bizarre and depraved acts of abuse by their parents. Daycare facilities across the country were hit with unlikely allegations of bizarre ritual sexual abuse. Americans believed these things because they had lost faith in their own ability to know reality.
The disappearance of Etan Patz has cast a long shadow. Though a large body of evidence contradicts the vision of mass abductions and child abuse that arose in the aftermath of the Patz disappearance, there are still nagging fears about what might happen. What mother or father hasn’t felt the pang of doubt when letting their child do things they once took for granted? There’s always the stone-cold fear that, just maybe, if we let them out of our sight they might slip away forever, like Etan Patz.
Whether Hernandez did, as he claims, kill Etan Patz, or not, 33 years on it is worth reassessing the Patz case – not so much in its particulars but in terms of the role it came to play in redefining the relationship between children and adults. Where once adults basically trusted one another to safeguard all children, we now view all interactions between children and adults as suspect. Julie and Stanley Patz lost their young son in 1979, but a whole generation of children lost their freedom and parents lost their peace of mind. The time has come to let the climate of fear go and to let Etan Patz rest in peace.
Everyone loses out if children are coddled
There is little that reflects the changes in attitude to parenting so well as the game of pass the parcel as it is played at third birthday parties.
Typically the host parent manipulates the music so that each child gets a present. If it is done successfully their own child, the birthday girl, will get the final trinket. No one is a loser. It is easier that way.
Here is the big change and greatest contradiction in modern parenting: we are reluctant to do anything that might impair our child's confidence, and yet at the same time we act as if childhood is an inconvenience we cannot wait to pass.
The recent publication of Pamela Druckerman's bestseller French Children Don't Throw Food has reignited some debate among those who are concerned over parenting and child rearing methods.
Druckerman comes from New York and is amazed at how polite and well mannered are French children. She set herself the goal of finding out how their methods of child rearing differ from her own. French children are taught patience from a very early age. French parents delay rewards. They also have an underlying belief that children are intelligent and have the ability to reason.
What a contrast that is to our practice where no child is a loser. We have a preoccupation with maintaining self-esteem in our children and we are fearful they may be crushed by failure, rather than regarding it as a spur to try again. The popular "Parent Effectiveness Training" possibly should take some of the blame for this.
We seem always ready to adopt a new fad. Currently there is the popular "helicopter parenting" approach, where parents constantly hover, reassure and protect their child. Another is the "hothouse" approach, parents having flash cards in the nursery or harassing the preschool teacher to teach their child to read.
There is, however, a very sad and perhaps unique Australian phenomenon which could be called the "I can't wait until" approach. This starts very early on, in infancy, with "I can't until he is weaned onto a bottle" parenting. This is followed by "sleeping through the night" school, the "toilet trained" school, the "started day care" school and the "started school" school.
It goes on with further variations such as "I can't wait until school holidays are over and she is off our hands". Then it's "I can't wait until he has his driver's licence and I don't have to take him everywhere". It gets worse: "I can't wait until he has left school", and the final indignity, "left home".
What makes this so depressing is that it is often the same parents who constantly praise their child for every trivial achievement, making these remarks within earshot of their offspring. It makes me wince.
You can only wonder how a child interprets this. On the one hand they are told how wonderful they are for every inconsequential thing they do, on the other their parents can't wait until they have reached adulthood.
We don't appreciate childhood as a crucial and vital part of development. Instead, many view childhood as a nuisance, a period that they would prefer to ignore or hope to be over as soon as possible.
A consequence of this is that children don't see themselves as being valued. Children want to feel that they are contributing to the family, and this is something that we so often stifle. From an early age children show a desire to contribute by helping their parents with domestic tasks. For a child to learn these skills requires sustained attention, and patience, on the parent's part.
It takes time to supervise a child at the kitchen sink doing the washing up, and initially they only make more mess. However, from a child's point of view they are helping and contributing something of value. In time they will acquire these skills and with that will come a feeling of genuine self worth. It's a bit like an apprenticeship; if the apprentice is guided and rewarded he is more likely to fulfil his potential.
We don't have the time, patience or interest to encourage these early skills. Instead we take the easy approach of leaving them in front of a television.
The irony is, of course, that when they are teenagers we complain that they can't make the bed, do the washing or cook a meal.
We choose to ignore childhood because we are so time poor and preoccupied with adult issues. This causes parent guilt and one way we assuage this is by "giving everyone a prize" rather than rewarding true achievement.
Australia: The "yellow peril" again?
Much of the world --mainly the vast countries of India and China -- is undergoing rapid economic development. The raw material of that developent is of course people -- followed closely by steel. Steel is needed for everything, from machinery to buildings. And steel is made from coal and iron ore. So the demand for those two inputs is growing exponentially.
Providentially, Australia is relatively close to both East and South Asia. And Australia's West coast has gargantuan reserves of readily recoverable iron ore while Australia's East coast has gargantuan reserves of readily recoverable coal.
So Australian companies are digging like crazy and will pay almost anything to get the workers who work the digging machines and do all the associated tasks. But the demand for skilled workers willing to work in isolated areas is so difficult to meet that it is hampering the development of new mines. Solution: Import skilled workers. And the Australian government has agreed to that -- issuing "EMA" permits.
Enter the unions. And enter people with the traditional Australian fear of "cheap" workers from China. The result is a deeply unattractive debate.
JULIA Gillard's concessions to unions over skilled migration in the mining sector have inflamed xenophobic sentiments, sparking business warnings of potential damage to Australia's relations with its Asian trading partners.
As the Prime Minister last night strongly defended her policy of putting Australian jobs first, the mining sector complained that "racist innuendo" surrounding Labor's new Enterprise Migration Agreements had taken politics to "a new low".
Former Queensland Labor treasurer Keith De Lacy, a former Macarthur Coal chairman, said "a fair bit of xenophobia" had underpinned the debate over EMAs, while the chief executive of the Australian Mines and Metals Association, Steve Knott, likened it to the debate over the White Australia policy. And in an address to the Minerals Council of Australia's annual dinner last night, Rio Tinto managing director David Peever warned against the dangers of divisiveness.
While the opposition yesterday demanded the Prime Minister pull her backbench into line or risk alienating Asian giants including China and Japan, former federal MP Pauline Hanson told The Australian that mining sector jobs had to be reserved for Australians.
The former One Nation leader declared she had "grave concerns" about EMAs, as north Queensland independent MP Bob Katter warned on his website: "Most Australians do not believe our country should be run by foreign interests who are determined to enforce a master-slave situation and undermine our workers' wages."
The highly charged rhetoric follows Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's decision last week to allow the Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia's Pilbara - which is 70 per cent owned by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting - to hire up to 1700 foreign workers for the proposed $9.5 billion mine's construction.
Despite the design of EMAs having been settled months previously, Ms Gillard told union officials last Friday she was "furious" about the Roy Hill EMA and on Tuesday she agreed to the formation of a Labor caucus committee to oversee Mr Bowen's handling of future agreements.
Yesterday, the debate took a fresh turn as business leaders and the opposition warned that Labor had opened the door to a rise in xenophobic and racist sentiment. Pointing to comments from Mr Katter and Labor MPs including Kelvin Thomson and Doug Cameron, they said the debate about foreign labour had taken a distasteful turn that was against Australia's interests.
Mr De Lacy attacked the involvement of the Labor caucus committee, declaring the government had already taken two years to work out EMAs, which can be awarded to mega-projects with more than $2bn in investment and 1500 employees. "It is just economic vandalism to fiddle with it in this way for all the wrong reasons," Mr De Lacy told The Australian.
"And the wrong reasons are: it's not as though there's people there; there's a fair bit of xenophobia involved with it. It just proves once again that the resources sector increasingly is feeling that it is being treated as the enemy. "Are we the only country in the world that treats as the enemy that sector driving the economy and driving prosperity?"
Mr Knott accused critics of the agreements of resorting to "racist innuendo" that he likened to the debate over the White Australia policy. "The embarrassing political discourse surrounding Australia's need for a targeted migration policy to address peak construction labour demands has taken politics to a new low," he said.
"We're deeply concerned a number of our elected politicians appear to have joined the current campaign of negativity, lies and self-interested fear-mongering, complete with recurring misinformation about migrant rates of pay and sub-standard treatment.
"The racist innuendo and slurs against these workers is abhorrent and divisive, and must stop."
Mr Peever last night told the MCA dinner that "divisiveness can have no future in the vibrant Australia to which we aspire, where all Australians can be better off and continue to enjoy the unique fruits of this great land".
"Mining has a pivotal role to play in creating this future for all Australians and for our country," he said. "Complacency and inadequate understanding of the drivers for the sector are our enemies."
Howard government foreign minister Alexander Downer said the reaction from the unions and some elements of the Labor Party to the EMA was a profound embarrassment for Australia.
"It was a really ugly outbreak of xenophobia, and if Australia wants to work with Asia and work with its region, it's got to get over this sort of behaviour," he said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said she believed Labor MPs, including Senator Cameron, had framed their recent comments about the EMA to appeal to racist and xenophobic sentiment.
"It sends a very poor message to our region that we don't welcome foreign workers," she said.
"These projects will not go ahead unless we are able to access workers from overseas. We should be welcoming them."
Ms Bishop said Ms Gillard should reprimand members of her caucus for resorting to "inflammatory and racist language". Ms Gillard said last night Australia would always need skilled workers and that demand would increase as the economy continued to grow.
"While grappling with that challenge, Labor will do what we have always done - put Australian jobs first," the Prime Minister said through her spokesman.
"This is an important policy matter, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition shouldn't be trying to exploit it. If the Liberal Party genuinely cared about Australian jobs, they would join with the government in supporting the Australian car industry; the Australian steel industry; as well as the retail sector, through tax cuts and cash payments."
South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon warned that while he welcomed skilled migrants, it was fair for people to ask whether policies were configured to ensure that Australians were given every opportunity to access work.
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 WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING 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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.