Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 12 August 2011

The opposite of deprived

There was a highly significant moment on last night's BBC news - though you might have missed it if you blinked; a father, his back to the camera, explained that he could not control his son or prevent the boy joining the thieves and looters in the street outside.

'I can't stop him going out,' he said, 'I can't even lock him in his room'. His frustration is echoed by parents and teachers across the country, whose efforts to educate and civilize their charges are hampered at every turn by the orthodoxy of the child's 'rights'.

I've heard the same phrases used by affluent middle-class parents when their children have annoyed the neighbours with rowdy behaviour or loud music at all hours: "We can't stop her seeing her friends" or "After all, it's not as if we can take his stereo away from him." Why not? You paid for the thing and it's in your house!

The warning signs were out there when TV presenter Esther Rantzen, in a departure from obscenely-shaped vegetables and talking dogs, strayed into the territory of her reality-documenting spouse Desmond Wilcox and made Childwatch - a programme 'alerting the public to the prevalence of child abuse' (Wikipedia).

This was followed by Childline - founded with the best of intentions to give abused children somewhere to turn in desperate circumstances. Unfortunately one of the founding principles, duly expressed on several occasions by Ms Rantzen in media interviews, was that 'children do not lie about abuse'.

This was a gross over-simplification of the widely accepted finding that 'young children simply do not have the necessary experience or understanding to invent detailed stories of [sexual] abuse' (quoted by Mary MacLeod and Esther Saraga), an over-simplification which had far-reaching and disastrous consequences in childcare and education as those in authority went on to apply it to all children and all forms of perceived abuse.

And the early jokes about calling Childline because there was broccoli for tea instead of chips have now metamorphosed into a climate where parents really do feel that they cannot risk upsetting their children, whether by imposing discipline of any kind or denying them something they want.

What we saw on the streets this week is not the result of material deprivation - despite the best efforts of liberals to make us believe otherwise - but of indulgence, both material and disciplinary. Look at their trainers and the ubiquitous blackberries, to say nothing of the decidedly comfortable backgrounds of some of those appearing in court; many of these young people have grown up expecting to get everything they want.

Looting simply takes that to its natural conclusion.


  1. Barely any of those involved and probably most of their parents will ever have done a days real physical work, more educated or less educated. There is nothing like twelve hour shifts to keep you off the streets, unless you are digging them.

  2. Good post. We now know that false 'memories' of child abuse can be planted into suggestible children by over-committed therapists and social investigators. The damage done is incalculable and not easily repaired.

    I agree with Demetrius too.

  3. Even a few of the 'Guardian' readers must be getting it by now...

    The 'Mail', of course, is way ahead of them!

  4. Demetrius, though not all the rioters and looters were of afro-caribbean a fair number were; I wonder how all this looks to the Windrush generation whose hard work became a byword in London and Birmingham.

    Thanks, AKH; we aim to please.
    While the aims were laudable, there's no doubt that the legacy of the Childline movement has been tainted.

    JuliaM, fun, isn't it, watching the tortuous ideological struggles of the Guardianistas? I'm reminded of Tom Lehrer's analogy of 'a Christian Scientist with appendicitis'.


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