Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The British decay

Meanwhile, in London . I open this morning's papers to find that our next prime minister Gordon Brown's first policy announcement is that he intends to build 5 environmentally-friendly `eco-towns' which are totally self sufficient in energy generated by solar and wind power.

One would have thought that Brown would have other priorities on taking over from Tony Blair at Number 10. Immigration is out of control, with bogus asylum seekers, East European ex-cons and sex offenders failing to `report back' to the immigration authorities after their initial processing on arrival. (Last month some minister came up with the daft proposal to serve these people deportation notices by SMS text!). Perhaps linked to that problem is the staggering leap in gun crime and knifings in our streets. (Jewish areas have had to enlist private security to cope with a crime wave of 30 armed raids on Jewish homes in recent weeks.) And perhaps linked to both those problems is that this country has also run out of prison cells. This means that criminals are being let out early to make way for new offenders who may expect even earlier parole as the crime wave rises even higher. All of which goes to less deterrence to criminals who are no longer afraid of being caught.

This of course assumes that the baddies are actually caught. But that's increasingly unlikely since the government has been closing police stations at breakneck speed as if it were some important target. Over 25% of local police stations have disappeared in the last 10 years.

And let's not forget that the erosion of border controls and policing is not just attracting criminals. Even more serious is the infiltration of Islamic terrorists and the free movement of the British-born Asian youths they have incited to mass killing on our streets and transit systems. The security services have admitted to the existence of dozens of terror cells under various levels of investigation. One must wonder how many may have escaped their attention.

But despite all of this, the leaders of the two biggest political parties in the UK are battling to save the planet. The vital question is: which party offers the smallest carbon footprint? Which is why I am more likely to find a council recycling inspector checking my garbage bin than a police officer checking my street.

Whilst our cuddly leaders fret over carbon and ozone, evil despots are busy with other elements in the Periodic Table. Beneath schools and hospitals in Iran, hundreds of German-built centrifuges are humming away 24/7 in reinforced bunkers, refining a new final solution to the Jewish Problem and the means to enslave the West by nuclear blackmail. Let's stop worrying about the planet and start worrying about ourselves.


More British craziness -- BBQ police

The Primrose Hill community centre in north London has been hosting a popular annual summer festival for the past 30 years. Yet this year, in order to qualify for the 400 pound grant from Camden Council that helps to make the festival a reality, the centre is having to jump through some pretty strange hoops.

The centre is being asked to fulfil a string of new requirements. These include making sure that five per cent of festivalgoers fill in a questionnaire to say whether they enjoyed themselves; inviting `under-represented groups' to participate as stall-holders or performers; hiring only professional caterers who must be registered with their local authority; making sure all staff, artists and volunteers have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check to ensure they do not have a history of harming children; and using only a gas barbeque. Under no circumstances may the Primrose Hill community festival use their traditional coal barbeque, even though it has not caused any accidents over the past three decades.

Alongside New Britain's speech police, health-and-safety police and ethnic quotas police we can now add the Barbecue Police: council officials whose job it is to ensure that only the right kind of barbecue is used in the right kind of way by the right kind of people. Another bit of fun goes up in smoke.

More here

A toxic view of working-class parents

Commentators heaped praise on Sue Palmer's Toxic Childhood. Didn't they spot its poisonous arguments about a 'dead-eyed', over-breeding underclass?

I put off reading Sue Palmer's "Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It" for as long as I could. But the book, which was held up as a great insight into the state of childhood today by numerous public figures, just kept on coming up.

First published in 2006, the book got good reviews everywhere. And there was that letter to the government, published in the Daily Telegraph and signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a hundred or so others who agree that so-called junk culture is `poisoning our children'. Indeed, Palmer could hardly have found a finer club of supporters; it included former children's laureate Anne Fine and Marion Dowling, president of the British Association of Early Childhood Education.

I was mainly put off by the book because the title bothered me. Where did this idea come from, that we're all being poisoned? The book seems to issue a challenge; first you de-toxed your diet, now it's time to de-tox your children. And once the kids are de-toxed, you still won't be able to take it easy because you'll also have to de-tox your home (the Wi-Fi is scrambling your brains, in case you didn't know). I even heard the keynote speaker at a leading early years conference a few years ago telling everyone to get their houses rewired to avoid damaging their children with electrical currents running beneath their bedrooms. Strangely, all those concerned with such dangers neglect to mention any of the real cases of toxicity today. To take just one example, the thousands of children in the developing world poisoned by the use of glycol to sweeten counterfeit medicines never even get a mention.

Once I got round to reading the book, I found that it mostly gives perfectly good, straightforward analyses and advice about the state of childhood today. Yet it left me feeling I had been held up somewhere rather unpleasant for a few hours. Underneath all the nice stuff about the importance of good fresh food, outdoor play and parents giving time, love and attention to their children, there is a nasty stench. Do right by your children, the book seems to say, but at the same time beware the savage children of the underclass - the `feral' kids who `don't have children's faces - they're pinched and angry with dead eyes'.

So you slip quickly from the spurious notion that there is something called `toxic childhood syndrome' (both `toxic' and `syndrome' have proper medical definitions, but here they are used as pseudo-medical jargon) to some far more familiar ideas. Parent-bashing by teachers, for example: the problems in school today, the argument goes, are basically the fault of an underclass of parents. What else would you expect from them - `deprived, uneducated, often scarcely more than children themselves.often junkies, alcoholics, involved in crime'?

This group of parents is seen as a lot of feckless infants. They eat the wrong food, they don't take their children out on the right trips to broaden their horizons - they don't even talk properly. There is even a dire warning about the `soaring' birth rate of these have-nots, whilst the `educated classes' fail to reproduce in comparable numbers. The reader is thus softened up for the idea that the state must step in and `detoxify other people's children' - or else there will be `serious civil unrest within a generation'.

Palmer's language is eloquently nasty. She writes about children in poor neighbourhoods who are `huge, heavily-built and lumbering', and `teenage mums devouring taxpayers' money'. It's perfectly pitched to upset and even terrify anyone who is trying their best to bring up their children well.

Palmer is more than matched by the teachers she approvingly quotes - but are these teachers always right when they blame everyone else for children's apparently poor development? If the state of childhood really is as dire as Toxic Childhood makes it out to be, then don't schools play any part in this? The image of a group of inner-city headteachers sitting around with Palmer telling her that `something really awful will happen soon' makes me think it's time to get the hysteria under control and get a grip. What hope can anyone hold for children's education and moral growth in schools if the headteachers are so cynical and brutalised?

This is not to say that Toxic Childhood is without its insights, which come from careful research and are expressed with clarity and verve. I think that Palmer is right to identify one of the fundamental problems with the nature of childhood today: society's increasing sense of fearfulness about children. Many parents are afraid to set limits and control their children's behaviour. Most of us are afraid to let our children play outdoors. Neighbours and shopkeepers are afraid to intervene to stop bad behaviour. Palmer captures this hopeless fearfulness well.

But in the end, Toxic Childhood just generates even more fear - fear for one's own children, laced with terror about other people's. It addresses the problem that parents aren't feeling authoritative, and then suggests that this should be remedied by taking away even more of their responsibility and giving it to the state. It addresses the problem of relationships between schools and families, by indulging in the sort of parent-bashing that has always characterised the staffrooms of the worst schools I have worked in or visited.

Rather than putting forward an inspiring vision of childhood, for all children, Toxic Childhood stirs up a fear of the basest kind - that other people's children are sub-human. Their existence today is nothing more than a prediction of savagery and mindless civil unrest in the future. It is an unashamedly insular book, obsessing over the supposed toxicity of texting, instant messaging and pre-teen fashion, whilst ignoring the genuine mass poisonings experienced every day by poor children around the world.

Anyone who writes about a fast-breeding, barely-human underclass that will cause the collapse of society, and then argues that we need a more interventionist and authoritarian state, is leading us somewhere we've already (and only recently) been in western Europe. We need to pause for a moment's thought.



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, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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