Again Paula Bennett moves into very dangerous territory suggesting the government wants the ability to issue court orders preventing some people from having children. She stops just short of calling for mandatory sterilisation of citizens. Just.

As in the case of offering free contraception to women and their daughters on benefits, this proposed change does not change how the government acts in reality. Currently the government already removes babies just after birth or at birth from some citizens; 148 in 2011 and 177 in 2010. Simply telling people “don’t have more children” and offering contraception will not prevent births and so the government would be left with… removing the babies at birth. Which it already does.

This again begs the question; if this proposed change will not change government actions towards these same people, then why the proposed change at all?

One answer which fits logically is that it seeks to legalise government involvement in citizens reproductive rights. Once government is legally allowed to tell us whom among us will be allowed to have children, and who cannot, the next step is to enforce this difference through forced sterilsation.

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

– this quote is attributed to Martin Niemöller, a German who originally supported Hitlers rise to power.

My main reason for opposition to this policy is it allows government to go where no government should ever go. I agree that people who have abused and killed their children should certainly not have more children, but the state already does remove such children from their parents.

Our economic system has for generations now created inequality. The wealth gap is growing ever greater and will continue to do so as long as our money is based upon interest bearing debt. This is the logical outcome.

If a society allows a growing number of it’s population to be impoverished and excluded from wider society this will breed resentment and a higher crime rate among the disadvantaged. It breeds an “underbelly” in society. Left for too long, anything of three generations or longer, and this underbelly becomes entrenched.

The answer as the wealth gap grows is not to penalise and control the poorest citizens. The cause of the problem will not be solved by doing this, it will only allow society to slide towards dictatorship.

The answer is to address the underlying cause of inequality which is the very structure of how our money works. I have written about this extensively, see the category on this blog “money and the economy”.

A restructuring of the economy to allow near or full employment would allow all citizens to participate fully. It would all but eliminate child poverty and allow the poorest of parents to provide for their children with a decent weeks work. Once the poorest members of society can provide all of the necessities for their families then most of them would do so. Crime would reduce, education participation would increase. Not all problems would be solved, some are too far entrenched in behaviours over generations to be reversed so simply, but the state could then have funds to focus on support and assistance for parents.

Just as it takes three generations at minimum to entrench disadvantage, it would take three generations at minimum to reverse the problem.

I would much rather live in a society which seeks to address the causes of our problems rather than uses knee jerk reactions to the symptoms of our problems. I would much rather live in a society which cares for and supports parents than one which punishes us when we get it wrong and constantly judges us on our performance… oh wait, that’s the society I live in.

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Cotton Wool Kids

October 15, 2009

Zoo trip 044

Imagine a childrens’ playground on a Sunday afternoon. Parents, strollers, kids, climbing equipment, slides, and a large rock stack for climbing. Chaos.

When kids get to the rock stack (it’s big, like 15 meters high) the parents rush over and tell the kids that’s off limits. There are very few kids on the rock stack, the only ones seemingly allowed up there are older boys of at least 7 or 8. Parents are so afraid of kids falling and hurting themselves, they are totally overprotective and do not allow kids to explore their environment in a natural way.

Girls are generally not allowed on the rock stack, because it’s dirty. Girls are hovered over when they achieve any altitude, warned to ‘be careful’. Boys are allowed a little more leeway. A little.

If we were so stupid as a species that our offspring did not have an innate knowledge of how to remain safe at height (and around large bodies of water) we would be extinct. Kids if left to their own devices from a very young age will learn by appropriate stages how to manage such situations. If not allowed these learning experiences, one day Mum and Dad will not be there and kids will have accidents because they have not been able to learn how far they can safely go, yet they have the physical maturity to attempt more than they have learned to cope with.

I put this into practice with my son before he could walk (or crawl properly – he did a weird commando thing for ages). He showed me he was interested in helping me in the garden by cutting grass. So I gave him a knife, at 6 months of age. I simply gave him the handle, and said just once, the other end is sharp and could hurt you. I pressed it gently to his palm to illustrate, and left him to it. He cut the grass. He never cut himself. His dad came home early one day and saw him with the knife and totally flipped out, but by that time this had been going on for several days.

My point is, kids, and indeed babies, have an innate knowledge of their own physical safety that is strong. If allowed to learn at their own pace, they will grow stronger and more confident.

I put two caveats on this approach to raising physically confident kids; electricity and vehicles. Neither are a part of our evolutionary history. These are the things we need to be protective about.

The Nuclear Family

September 21, 2009

white picket fencehousewhitepicketfence

When I was in my twenty somethings I was insistent that I did not want to have children. Yet, when I turned 30 I completely changed my mind. Happily, my husband at the time was also comfortable to have a child and so we had my beautiful Jack. Once he was born, my life changed completely and forever.

I found myself suffering from terrible post natal depression. When we discuss postnatal depression in our society, it is rarely a useful discussion. We are urged to ‘get treatment‘, which of course comes in the form of a pill. We talk about practical support like cleaning the house, cooking some meals and maybe doing some laundry. I believe this is often not enough, and does not address the deeper causes of our high rates of postnatal depression in some western societies.

I came to believe that our nuclear family set up is not healthy for women and children. It is not healthy for a woman, alone, with a small baby to be stuck within four walls day after day, with only a very few other adults in her world for a few of her waking hours. It does her ego no good when she does attend a social function, and is asked the ubiquitous question ‘what do you do?’ , the reply ‘I’m currently at home with my small child/baby’ often results in a glazed over expression from the questioner and a quick end to any conversation. Combine this with sleep deprivation, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is not healthy for children, especially only children, to spend so much preschool time apart from their peers. Once babies can walk and talk they need their peer group for their social development.

Why do I think this is not a natural way to live? We all need human contact. We are herding animals, more like wildebeest, unlike loners like cheetah. We live in social groups. To isolate individuals at such a vulnerable time in their lives is unnatural, and inhumane. It also places the full burden of caring for an infant upon one person. Consequently, the bond between mother and baby will be stronger than it would in a more social environment, to the extent that babies will become very distressed if separated from their mothers (most, but not all babies). This dependance can from time to time be felt as suffocating, especially if it does not lessen as the child grows older.

Babies do not go home from hospital with an instruction manual. There is a lot of society’s baggage, about what it is to be a ‘good’ mother, and if you get it wrong it’s all your fault of course. Unfortunately for new parents, real learning outside of books is often missing. Because of the structure of the nuclear family, many of us will have no experience at all of how to look after babies or children. We may have had very little contact with babies or children until we hold our own. This is not conducive to a good start as new parents.

For fathers, beginning a family places a huge financial burden. With falling real wages and now increasing unemployment due to the developing recession/depression, this is only going to become more difficult to achieve. Mothers are sometimes forced back into work before they are ready for financial reasons, leaving the care of infants to strangers. I’m not going to go into all the ways this is so wrong as a society here, suffice to say this is not optimal for any of the parties concerned; parents, children, or the caretakers who often leave their own children in other poorer countries to care for kids of others in richer countries.

There is a native American tribe in the Amazon, in Venezuela, the Yequana. Their babies don’t cry. The people live in joy, not stress like we do. The babies are not the center of attention and adults are constantly surrounded by other adults. I believe this is a much better model for women and children, for society as a whole.