Monthly Archives: February 2007

OUR GRANDPARENTS’ SHAME

[First let me extend apologies for erratic communication with those of you kind enough to leave comments. I am dancing a nightmare fandango with my broadband and my landline and not even I am brave enough to attempt blogging from a mobile. So I am scribbling this and scurrying off to the nearest coffee emporium. If you are reading this it meant I figured out the process J

Morag is currently working on a project about the proposed changes to our benefit system that would see parents on benefits being made to return to work when their children reach the age of 12. Needless to say there is a huge outcry from the ‘I have made this choice to stay home and take care of my child why should I be penalized for it’ contingent. Followed by the ‘What is the world coming to that society doesn’t care about our children’.

Where do I begin on this one……..

First of all I would suspect that the overwhelming majority of us would like to stay home and raise our children but unfortunately that is not possible for many of us. I happen to be one of those people who believe that you should stay home as long as is humanly possible. Do without the holidays, do without the fancy clothes, and do without whatever you need to do without to provide your child with that love and care that only you can provide in their formative years. I stayed at home until my son was in Year One. It was really difficult and an incredible sacrifice financially – but that is what having children is about – maximum reward for which all sacrifice should be considered minimum. Yes I do realise that many people do not have that choice but I will always argue the point that many parents nowadays just are not willing to give up their luxuries and sometimes that is what needs to happen.

People I have been speaking with in conjunction to this project are trotting the well-worn ‘It’s not worth my while to go to work’. When people say that I feel that proverbial red mist settling over me. Have people totally forgotten the concept of ‘an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay’? Have we become so numbed by Big Brother contestants making millions for fumbling under duvets and footballers being paid £40,000 a week that we lose sight of a normal pay-packet. And living within the means provided by what is in that pay-packet. Can you imagine our grandparents saying ‘Well I can’t live on this so I’ll just stay home’. The shame that would be associated with that kind of behaviour would far outweigh any other consideration. Nowadays our idea of shame is not being able to send our child to school with the latest trainers on their feet and the latest gaming gadget in their pocket. On the weekends they must be in the newest football strip of their club or up at the high street shopping for England.

How did we become a society where so many feel the need to shower our offspring with ‘stuff’ to make up for the really important elements missing from many of their lives such as fathers and self-respect. And for heaven sake let’s not start blaming Maggie Thatcher again………not should we blame the current government. Kids are not in trouble because the government hasn’t given them enough youth centres (see my last posting) – a lot of kids are in trouble because we’re not giving them enough attention. Not the government – it is not their responsibility – us. When you speak with a lot of these parents who complain that they don’t want to go to work so they can spend time with their children you find that they may be present but they are certainly not accounted for. In other words they may be in the house when the child is there but the quality of the time spent is non-existent because they aren’t focussing on the child in the way that most working parents make an effort to because we know our time is limited.

Then there is the matter of setting an example. What does it teach your child when they hear you saying ‘It doesn’t really make sense for me to go to work I’d make more money staying home’. How do they develop a work ethic if that is the sort of example you are setting?

Yes people need help and support. But they also need to learn to help themselves. One of the people I am ‘conversing’ with is an unemployed mother of 4 who is horrified at the thought that she might be made to go to work. ‘I have made the choice to stay home and raise my children and it is society’s responsibility to help me do it’…………then she continued with the logic that she is ‘raising better individuals to strengthen society’ well I’m afraid that’s not what the figures are saying. I have yet to see evidence that single mothers with multiple children who stay home and collect benefits are raising an uber-class of citizens.

And I am saddened by this. I am not totally without heart. But I think it is time for us to insist as a society that if people don’t want to participate in the process of a productive life then they will have to deal with the consequences. Of course we do not want to see children suffering so we have to come up with a way to see that does not happy. And yes there will be help for those really need it but not for those who just want it – heck when I drag myself out of bed in the mornings and go off to do an honest day’s I think how badly I would want it. But then I remember my how disappointed my grandmother would be if I held out my palm, without needing to and my feet hit the floor.

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SEI – Addressing the UNICEF Report and the South London Shootings

In a week that has seen yet more shootings of our young people and a damming report placing us at the bottom of the league tables regarding quality of life for our youth I think even the most disinterested among us must realize that it is time for action to be taken. No not action like flinging more money down the hole that is the bottomless pit of our nanny-system. No not action like turning a few dozen armed policeman on the streets. But action that is going to have a solid and proven effect on eradicating the problem.

About seven years ago Morag came across a report on the state of the nation’s youth. Thousands of young people across the country were interviewed on all topics under the sun. One of the main aims of the exercise was to find out what kept kids on the straight and narrow, and what caused them to go off the rails. Was it lack of education, was it lack of funds. Lack of facilities. Lack of a father-figure. Was it living in the country – living in an inner city council estate. What the heck was it that caused a child to decide to pick up a gun or put down a schoolbook. Push a pram instead of a pencil. The people interviewed came from every kind of background in every nook and cranny of the UK and you will never guess what they found…..

Yes there is something that disaffected youth had in common, and for the record disaffection comes in ALL postcodes, all ethnicities, all genders. Just because Arabella and Charlie are away at boarding school doesn’t mean they’re any less disaffected than LaWanda and Jose. The overriding commonality in young people (it’s actually all people but let’s try to stick to today’s topic) who make ‘bad’ decisions is :

LOW SELF-ESTEEM……..

How do we know this? Enter the SEI – Self-Esteem Index. A psychological exercise which measures the following four areas :
[Academic Competence] – measures self-esteem in school, education, academic competence, intelligence, learning, and other scholarly pursuits.
[Family Acceptance] – measures self-esteem at home and within the family unit.
[Peer Popularity] – addresses the quality, importance, and nature of relationships and interactions with individuals outside the family unit.
[Personal Security] – contains statements about an individual’s physical appearance and personal attributes such as distinctive traits of body, character, conduct, temperament, and emotions

The information is then tallied and you are slotted into a scale, which indicates what your attitude towards yourself is and where you feel you fit in the grand scheme of things.

So if we now know that the one thing that kids who make bad decisions have in common is low self-esteem then it seems to make sense that what we really need to do to have a long term solution to the mess we are in is to do our best to ensure that all our young people have higher self-esteem than they do now. You can rest assured that young people with low self-esteem making bad decisions will grow up to be adults with low self-esteem making bad decisions. And at £100,000 per prisoner for construction of new prison places we should do this if for no other reason than fiscal responsibility.

Yes you can spend all your time haranguing kids about ‘don’t take drugs’, ‘don’t hang around with a bad lot’, ‘don’t be promiscuous’, ‘don’t watch porn on the internet’…but trust me, it’s a lot easier when they make those decisions themselves. And there is only one way to do that and that is ensure that they have a solid sense of who they are (whatever their circumstances). Some of our finest citizens have come out of single-parent families in highly-deprived areas so it is NOT impossible. We must stop flinging our hands up and start rolling our sleeves up. Come on people we’ve got to sort this out – it’s costing us on so many, many levels.

Whose responsibility is it to do this? ALL our responsibilities. Here are three things to think about:
1. A recent survey found that over 70% of the media coverage given to young people in this country is negative (People grow into the mirror you hold up in front of them)
2. It was recently noted that calls for help for children in poverty in this country engenders very little to no response yet similar calls for children in Africa will bring in hundreds to thousands of responses. (Is that because we are embarrassed at our short comings as a society so we feel if we don’t look at or acknowledge then it doesn’t exist)
3. I have noticed in my short time blogging that posts that refer to children in the title will usually bring in a substantially lower response.

One of the reasons Morag lives in the UK is because ‘it is a wonderful place in which to raise my child’. I have spent a decade looking rather pityingly at friends from distant shores who say ‘would you ever consider coming back’. Oh no! Trying not to look too smug. It is sooooooooo much better for children here. I wouldn’t even consider living in (fill in the blank for whichever country these well-meaning folk were hailing from). So this week I’ve just put one of those automatic “I am away on holiday please do not leave a message” emails on. Because I know that everyone in my address book from Latvia to Hungary, Holland and Norway – even the Damn Yankees will be sending me ‘soooooo I thought you said………………………dead last out of 21 – behind Hungary and Poland….oh the SHAME!!!!!!!!!

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“With the deepest respect…” – Footprints/Schmutzprints

Am I the only person about ready to pull their hair out after this week of media bombardment on climate change? I feel like I have been listening to a group of six-year olds trying to explain human reproduction. Some of it makes sense, they seem to have the vague general idea but yet you just know in your heart that so much of it is way, way off base. And you also know that if they go about ‘solving the problem’ in the way they are describing they stand about as much chance of success as the six year olds who believe’ if you do it standing up you won’t get pregnant’.

First of all what exactly is it that they are trying to accomplish? Fix the world? Turn back the hands of time? Errrrrmmmmmm I don’t think so. Richard Branson is offering $25 million to a scientist who can save the planet. That sanctimonious twit that is David Milliband is flapping about tut-tutting for England. A cleric has said he isn’t flying anywhere for a year (whupp-di-do ) and we’ve been told that if we buy leeks from Llanduono rather than kale from Kenya that it will all be ok.

There are some questions in this world that do not have easy answers. How do you solve poverty? Eradicate racism. Fix the NHS – cut taxes while improving services. How can we make sure all our children get an equal education and our older folks live out their days in comfort and security? And what is under Joan Collins’ wig? Well forget all that for now we all have to get cracking on Saving the Planet. The spinmeisters have been at work overtime and we are all taking notes so we can get au fait with ‘carbon footprints’ ‘green crimes’ ‘carbon dioxide emissions’ and all the other terms to describe what is wrong with the planet and what we as individuals need to change to make it all right.

This is a big problem – I am not denying that. But first we need to use the tried and true method for successful problemsolving:

[Properly Identify What the (HELL) the Problem Is]. And in practical terms. No more ‘we are disrespecting our environment in such a fashion that within 60 years the world will no longer resemble…blah-blah-blah’. A few simple, clear-cut statements geared towards the general public not scientists, marketing gurus and politicians.

[Come Up With Workable Solutions That We All Can Affect]
We have known for many years that we needed to change a lot of our habits. Cut down on packaging. Cut down on rubbish. Recycle. More fuel efficient cars. Alternative energy sources etc.etc.etc. Make the changes practical; cut the issue down into bitesize, practical activities that everyone can do.

[The Solutions Need to Be Fair to All]
“With the deepest respect, the farmers in the villages where I come from don’t have televisions, they don’t have refrigerators, they don’t have even one car, let alone two, they don’t have motorbikes, they’ve never even been to our country’s capital let alone flown all over the world on holiday — so don’t ask those farmers to pick up the cost of environmental problems you in the industrialized West have caused.” This was recently said by a gentleman named John Kanjangaile who represents a Tanzanian group called the Kagera Cooperative Union. And truer words were never spoken.

This entire situation reminds me of the 20-stone woman who decides in March that she needs to be bikini-beeyootiful by June. Years of abusing of resources, disregarding of warnings, ignoring of the facts brought her to that place. But somehow she is expecting that somewhere there is a magic wand and a fairy godmother. Against all odds a wand is going to be waved and all will be well in the kingdom.

$25,000,000 is not going to create a miracle. Neither are most of the other ‘solutions’ being bandied about so far. We have to keep in mind that there are economic repercussions for us turning our back on the farmers of sub-Sahara Africa. Over a million lives will be immediately affected if we do that. We also need to be aware that the facts behind this issue are not always as simple as they might seem. There are instances (apparently) where products from Africa might have a smaller carbon footprint (keep up with the lingo J ) than something that we commercially produce in this country or Europe. So let’s be careful when we are being sensible more than virtuous. In Morag’s opinion there seems to be an awful lot of sanctimonious twaddle being bandied about and maybe we need to get to the bottom of it before jumping on the bandwagon – oh and make sure the bandwagon isn’t a 4 x 4.

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Come See Me and Come Live With Me – Behavior Guide for Immigrants

There is an old Jamaican saying ‘Come see me and come live with me are two different things’ which basically translates to ‘aspects of a person that are amusing/interesting/tolerable in small doses can often swiftly become less so when their feet are permanently lodged under your table’. Put that together with the oft delivered admonishment ‘When you go to the houses of other folk don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Behave properly, politely engage in their conversation, eat whatever is put in front of you and whatever you do don’t bring shame on your family’.

Archbishop Sentamu doesn’t always get it right but when he does he can be spot on. He has now urged people coming to live in Britain to ‘adopt and cherish UK values’. Another way of saying ‘when you go to the countries of other folk, don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Behave properly/politely engage etc.etc.’

I come from many distant shores myself but I now reside in the United Kingdom and I expect my behavior to reflect that. I do not expect to dig a pit in my back garden and roast a pig. If someone annoys me I will say ‘now that made me cross’ rather than ‘….. you can kiss a donkey’s……..’ (actually let’s not even go there). It isn’t about denying who you are it is about being respectful of the culture you have decided to foist yourself on.

If you don’t want to learn what the British school system has decided is appropriate to be taught – then don’t come here (and no setting up your own schools is not the answer). If you don’t want to speak the language – then don’t come here (and no us paying for translators when you’ve lived in the country for 15 years is not the answer). If you don’t want to follow the laws – ditto. If you don’t like the religion of the country – oh well……… If you don’t like the politics of the country – mumble quietly like everyone else. But this ‘I want my own schools, I want my own this, I don’t want to do that’ has just got to stop. It is insanity and we all are starting to pay the price for it. Descendants of the original settlers are suffering as are us ‘recent’ arrivals who are more than happy to put milk in our tea and butter on our sandwiches.

One of the things I love about this country is that unlike the Benetton advert aspect of multi-culturalism that one gets in America in the UK there really is genuine interaction. Take it from a brown person who has lived hither and yon until recently we had it skewed very well here. Yes the ‘pack yer bags and go back to whatever tree you swung down from’ brigade would always have something to complain about. As will the ‘you sold our people and now you owe us for eternity’ lot. But in the main it was a nice mix. Wee blondie girls from Cheltenham College wearing bindi’s, a black man leading a prestigious hunt, Mrs. Beale on the bus chatting happily with Mrs.Choudhary. Interaction on the surface and also interaction on a deeper level.

But now we are being ripped apart and all because some folk came and didn’t behave properly. Or as the Archbishop says are not ‘adopting and cherishing UK values’.

Maybe we need to take a page out of the book of the good burghers of Herouxville, Quebec.”We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here,” They have made it clear that women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write cheques, dress how they want, work and own property.”Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to… kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc.” Maybe we need to have something similar here………….

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