Monthly News Round-Up for January 2016

January! Traditionally a time for fresh starts, new plans, fresh visions. Do YOU feel like you’re stuck in a parenting rut? Looking for hints and tips on how to improve family life? Think that the right person to help would be a right-wing millionaire with unimaginable levels of lifelong power, wealth, privilege and status? Well, you’re in luck! For our glorious leader and exemplary father, David Cameron, is here to save families! http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/10/david-cameron-parents-children-lessons

Yes, a man who left his own child in a pub toilet, who commemorated the death of his own severely disabled child by implementing disastrous policy change for sick and disabled people, and the parents and carers of sick and disabled children and adults, whose policies in general have made lives appalling for all the “hardworking families” (stay at home mums need not apply) he purports to admire and be trying to help, and whose government have put child poverty levels back to pre-WWII levels, is here to help parents do their jobs properly (although remember that parenting isn’t actually work at all). Presumably he’s done the figures and worked out that he can’t arrange for all children in the UK to be born into unimaginable wealth, privilege and opportunity, but denied much love and bundled off at as early an age as possible to the upper class’s version of a BOGOF offer – buy the finest education available for your child and get a sociopathic personality caused by lack of affection and too much entitlement for free. So he’s plumped instead for what comes natural for men of his kind – telling people whose lives he couldn’t even begin to imagine how to live those lives.

The Tories are obsessed with controlling families. It is the way their patriarchal drive to control women’s reproductive capacities takes form: by controlling and destabilising the bonds of mothers and children, and undermining the work, worth and knowledge of mothering. Get those children into childcare as early and fully as possible. Get them into school as early as possible, plan to lengthen the schooldays and reduce the holidays. Get the parents into parenting classes. Cut funding to places like Sure Start that objectively supported the differing choices and parenting styles of mothers. Make sure that every family in on-message with the model of parenting and family that will best serve the capitalist state and benefit the masters, turn Potential Economic Units (what Tory policy calls mothers instead of the actual word ‘mothers’) into actual Economic Units and make sure that all Future Economic Units (what Tory policy calls children) don’t experience any individuality or attachment to a primary caregiver above what the Tories deem absolutely necessary. And they have the cheek to use ‘the nanny state’ as a kneejerk criticism of their opposition!

It goes without saying that the Tories believe that poverty and deprivation is caused by some innate fecklessness of the poor, not circumstance. At least their disgraceful attempt to redefine child poverty so as not to have to own up to the way they have destroyed so many children’s lives, futures and opportunities, sorry, I mean publish annual figures on income-based child poverty, was blocked by the House of Lords this month. http://independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-loses-vote-to-keep-child-poverty-numbers-secret-a6833156.html

I cannot begin to tell you how mad it makes me that a party that has done so much to reduce and block opportunities for all but people the same as them (the very people who already have a surfeit of unfair opportunity) keeps trying to blame a lack of opportunity on the people it works to ensure have none.

Of course, these notions are part and parcel of neoliberal society, and very much part of the spectrum of identity politics – whilst it offers an attractive veneer of “you can be whatever you want to be and say you are” and “be your true self” like some cheesy self-help movement, what it actually feeds is the deeply conservative, regressive, paternalistic notion that humans are born as a complete ‘I’. There’s no need to analyse any problems or oppressions or circumstances present in someone’s life – and certainly no need to challenge or change things, or, god forbid, actually think about anyone other than yourself – because, and this is where identity politics gets confusing (clue: because it’s bullshit) you have to hold in your mind two contradictory and immature beliefs: 1) that a person and their life are the way they are because they are innately born that way, so they are fixed, and it’s okay to treat them with less respect or whatever and yet 2) There are no exterior reasons why someone is a certain way, so, despite being innately inferior, they could identify out of that state, and if they can’t, they are simply not trying hard enough.

Be it the Victorian notion of the undeserving poor bringing upon themselves now staging a full-on comeback under Cameron, or the insistence that women call themselves ‘cisgender’ to infer both a natural and a chosen compliance with gender which posits them as inferior, lesser, pathetic humans, born to serve & service & be objectified, the identity politic spectrum appeals because it is, well, stupid. Put more tactfully, it’s simplistic, reductive, knee jerk, doesn’t require any mental effort, and allows people to justify and even celebrate feelings of Them & Other, of The Other, of hierarchies being right & proper, etc., which previously they’ve felt a hit bad or worried or ashamed about feeling.

Then, the day after feigning a semblance of earthling emotion on Holocaust Memorial Day, Cameron saw zero irony in speaking out against the UK helping orphaned refugee children already in Europe. Presumably, he was the only person who watched the programme about the Kindertransport that night who thought “how terrible” about their rescue, instead of about the regime they fled. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/12126267/David-Cameron-rejects-calls-to-take-3000-orphaned-child-refugees-from-Europe.html

Seems like he wasn’t the only one who makes himself feel like a real man by hating and hurting children, after reports came from Sweden of hundreds of masked men going on a rampage in Stockholm’s main train station with the express purpose of trying to scare and hurt refugee children. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hundreds-of-masked-men-bear-refugee-children-in-stockholm-a6843451.html You know, how far does a man have to take his racism and misogyny (because hating and hurting children is a manifestation of patriarchal dominance) before he stops to consider if hurting desperate, traumatised children who’ve lost everything, might not be a positive reflection of both his personal and political integrity… ?

Still, at least they did it in public. Men with far more horrific agendas have slowly and surely been preying on children in the refugee camps in France, just as feminists and multiple groups have been warning the authorities they would, and their refusal to care has meant that Interpol now estimates that upwards of 10,000 children are now missing. The majority of those will be sex trafficked, the rest trafficked into slavery www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/30/fears-for-missing-child-refugees (please try not to growl at the disgusting use of ‘sexwork’ by the Guardian to describe what awaits these children).

If the supposedly-good do not help the needy and desperate, the bad are more than willing to take them. The fate of those children was already bleak; now, thanks to the racist apathy of those who have so much, their fates are unimaginable and unbearable.

And finally, January was the month when the world learned of the Zika virus. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35459797 While there is still no absolute proof of the link between infection and the birth defects, the discovery of final proof appears to be more a matter of time than anything else. Women in Latin America have been warned to put off having babies. Sensible advice – IF this wasn’t putting all the responsibility onto women in countries where their rights are atrocious, where the rates of rape, domestic violence, etc., are appalling, and where their deeply Catholic nations forbid contraception and abortion. We’re talking here about countries like El Salvador, a country with the world’s most draconian and obscene abortion laws, which even imprisons some women for having suffered miscarriages and stillbirths. When influential Catholic figures regularly blame women for, well, everything, such as Spanish archbishop Braulio Rodriguez recently proclaiming that domestic violence is caused by women not obeying men http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/07/disobedient-wives-to-blame-for-domestic-violence-says-Spanish-archbishop-5606606/ is everyone really expecting women to both obey men and yet refuse any sex that could get them pregnant? How does that work then? The message should quite clearly be focused on MEN. Women having unprotected heterosexual PIV sex do not get pregnant by some sort of spontaneous magic (no, not even Mary, my dears). When their culture and religion say that sex is their right, and women must obey them, it is men who need to control themselves.

Of course, it goes without saying that this advice stands for every situation, not just concerning the Zika virus.

And where is the Pope in all this? The caring, groovy, right-on Pope who really cares for women’s rights that we keep hearing about? Hmm, he’s strangely silent on something that really matters for women in a part of the world where the majority of those that see him as the representative of God on Earth reside. If he cared at all about women – and, let’s face it, if there is a God and he (?) is worth believing in a single jot – he would proclaim that contraception in those areas was an absolute necessity and abortion was every woman’s right. But of course, if he cared about women, and if a deity existed and deserved to be believed in, and who actually made things happen, either directly or through his chosen representatives, these things would be a universal right already anyway.

I cannot see how this is going to be resolved. Not getting pregnant if that’s what you want should already be a given for all females worldwide; insisting women not get pregnant in societies based upon oppressing women by taking away their choices and chances not to, is simply not going to work. And that’s before we even touch on the issues of telling women not to get pregnant being on the same spectrum as telling them they have to have children. Frankly, the only real hope in the situation lies in the expediency of medical science to come up with a solution as soon as possible, because the patriarchy is going to take a bit longer to smash.

Finally, a big shout-out to a friend of mine who has recently moved to Jersey, and who, despite being on maternity leave, was told by the Social Security office that, as she has 4 children, “you won’t be working then”. Join me in ending this monthly round-up with a bitter laugh on her behalf… -EP

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