Thursday, 17 July 2008

Children's Crusade

I recently happened to stumble across the 1990 film Robocop 2 on the wonder that is digital freeview television. I have to say it had been an awfully long time since I'd seen the film in question, and I was quite probably below the BBFC's age classification when I did. Predictably, the film had a much more different impact on me then it did the first time round - what was once a child's awe over a cool ultra-violent cyborg police officer is now a more skeptical and critical digest of the film's core themes. Indeed, one aspect of the nightmare future presented that struck me very deeply, despite being a fairly minor aspect, is of foul-mouthed vandal children causing trouble while adults are all but helpless to stop them. The remarkable thing about this is that in 1990 it was intended to be shocking - to be about as far removed from reality as the main character's bionic technology. Eighteen years later however, this aspect of the film has lost almost all of its shock value - indeed, it perhaps takes the context of films such as this to reveal to us how dire a mess we have gotten ourselves into in the upbringing of our children.

That said, although my chance encounter with Robocop 2 provided an excellent opener to this article, the film itself is perhaps not ideally suited to illustrate my point. As anyone familiar with the film will know, the main cause given of such nightmarish social and urban decay in Robocop's Detroit, Michigan is essentially unrestrained free market capitalism. In typical '80s style, the Reaganomics ideal of small government is misinterpreted as weak government, with malevolent corporations filling in the ensuing power vacuum. Under the guise of serving the community, the corporation then uses its power and influence to pursue its own interests while 'stepping on the little man' to maximise its profits. And in case the message wasn't getting through to you, they even use flags and banners shamelessly reminscent of the Nazis [1] (incidentally the anti-capitalism of the National Socialist German Worker's Party and its repugnance for the Anglo-Saxon 'commercial' mindset is something we shall just have to ignore here).

Sadly, the Robocop franchise seems to have had no small impact on my generation, many of whom like me, will have grown up watching it. Indeed I have known many, many young people who share the vague, half-baked opinions contained within its hypothesis - a very tired hypothesis, that time and time again has proved to be very much that of fantasy, quite often based on the twin evils of ignorance and prejudice. Its foundations rest on the assumption that the two pillars of our free society - freedom of the press and an independent judiciary - can be easily bought off and/or intimidated. In making such assumptions its followers give little credit to the mettle and sincere conviction coursing through these long established professions. For only somebody with either no faith or no understanding of these civic institutions and the wider rule of law could arrive at such assumptions.

Funnily enough this brings us to our culprit. Bitter experience has proven many times over in this country that, far from free market capitalism being at fault, it is government that is responsible for social decay. In Britain it has taken less than twenty years for us to realise some of the things that must have seemed unimaginable in 1990. Unlike Robocop however, in the real world it was not OCP wot done it - it was (dah-dah) the Labour Party. It is precisely their Fabian predilection for tampering with the delicate fabric of our society - to 'remould it nearer to the hearts desire' [2] that has set in motion a sequence of unforseen consequences that have grotesquely perverted the course and nature of our society.

The dangers manifest in pursuing such goals are not often given enough credit. We are, for example, informed by those on both sides of the political fence and by experts of varied persuasions that genetically modified crops will reap a dangerous and uncertain dividend because we are meddling with systems far too complex for us to ever fully comprehend, much less envisage all the conceivable outcomes and variables [3]. GM farming does not have many friends among the general public, much less socialists, but for some reason we continue to delude ourselves into thinking that we can succeed in applying this same principle to the practically unfathomable complexity of society. Let us put this into perspective for a moment. What we are talking about here are the infinite personal, social, and professional interactions of almost 59 million people, to say nothing of the elusive and intricate workings of the individual human mind. By legislating on vague notions of secular morality and abstract 'progressive' ideology rather than the common sense inherent in time-tested norms and values of the people, Labour - as ever - comes into conflict with the interests of the very people it claims to represent.

In the most frightening aspect of this conundrum, Labour has managed to dismantle those core norms and values governing our most important citizens - our children. As a very happy child of the '80s (I was 12 in 1997) - I can honestly say I would not like to be a child growing up today. A top-down ideological approach to 'protecting' our children has succeeded in making every adult a suspect of child abuse. My own parents have recently left their Roman Catholic parish in disgust and protest at being asked to fill in a background check simply because they participate in the Eucharistic Ministry (that's giving out the bread and wine to you and me) and as such come into the smallest public contact with children. It has rendered teachers, parents, and members of the community feeling either powerless or fearful of disciplining children. Indeed, since the completely pointless and unenforceable law on smacking in 2004, many parents are under the impression that physically disciplining their children in any way is illegal.

There is widespread confusion over the matter. Anyone attempting to find out will quickly realise that it is still difficult to find the correct interpretation of what is meant by 'leaving a mark'. When confronted with unruly behaviour in public, many parents - sensing real or imaginary judging eyes around them - simply do not take the risk. I have been sickened to the core by the amount of times I have personally heard parents negotiating with their young children and resorting to asking them nicely if they would 'please' behave. Only last week in the shopping mall in which I work I had the displeasure of witnessing a child who could have been no older than six attempt to strike his father repeatedly in a rage while he did nothing but half-heartedly shrug him off. In the end the child, enraged, actually spat at his father. Though what really shook to the bone - as if this wasn't enough - was the expression on the child's face. It was something that left me with a quite stiffening sense of disbelief, as I had only previously associated such contortions of violence and hatred with that of adults.

When you're confronted with this sort of thing on a regular basis in your neighbourhood and place of work, it becomes very difficult to not take on a somewhat Orwellian sense of foreboding on the situation. That is, that the government - intentionally or otherwise - is turning our children against us. It is a most chilling premise, but I fear, if one takes a few steps back, not altogether far from the truth. Children, being the rapacious little learners they are, quickly discover that they are protected by the law in almost anything they do, and that there is very little anybody can do to stop them. To varying degrees parents and teachers (much less members of the community) fear even laying a finger on them, making any verbal discipline utterly toothless. The results, to be generous, are disturbing.

A recent survey of the police services has revealed such horrors as a four-year-old held over a drugs offence, two-seven-year olds reported for driving carelessly while drunk, and a six-year-old who was believed to have carried out a burglary. Statistics recently released under the Freedom of Information Act testify to a total of 1,825 crimes committed by under-tens across Britain in 2007-08, though the true scale of the phenomenon is believed to be much higher, owing to the fact that our already paperwork-swamped police forces are not actually required to log crimes committed by those under the age of criminal responsibility.

The policies and legislation that has made this grim situation possible has, as with most socialist policy, sprung from the assumption that children (and humans generally) are essentially good, that their better natures will prevail in the absence of such liberally undesirable discipline. This ignores what any sensible parent will already know - that our children are only, and can only be what we make them. Indeed the bedrock, even origin of our whole system of liberal democracy and free market capitalism - the two achievements of our civilisation that have changed and benefitted the world more than anything else - stems from the principle that humans, like animals, are naturally lazy, ignorant and selfish - that only the virtues of discipline, hard work, and personal responsibility can ultimately save us from these characteristics.

Despite this, in the name of compassion and understanding, we have taken the opposing view that all men are born morally pure and untouchable. In doing so we have removed said virtues from the upbringing of our children. The necessary shift in the law, and hence values, of this country has been implemented by a party who in the pursuit of abstract ideals and thinly veiled ideology has cut itself off from the core values of the honest working people it claims to represent. In its ivory tower of State morality and ideological purity, it has legislated against their interests while at the same time nurturing the 'it's not my fault' culture in its place, further weakening working communities and furthering their dependence on the state. Indeed, it is the very fact that this approach is so intrinsically intwined with Labour Party thinking that they will most certainly lose the next general election. As a party that is itself all too often ready to blame the media for every election defeat they suffer [3], they will most certainly have their work cut out for them when this twisted outlook on life is finally and decisively rejected by the long-suffering people of Great Britain.