Monday, September 18, 2006

Cherie in slap flap

Swapped at birth: Sharon Osbourne, Cherie Blair
Well, wrap me up in tissue paper and call me Barbie – it is possible to get swift action if you have the right connections and know which heart strings to pluck.

Today, the Children’s Society launches its Good Childhood Inquiry a mere six days after one hundred leading ‘experts’ pushed the moral panic button and told the nation that childhood has morphed into a disastrous hybrid of Taxi Driver and Oliver Twist.

‘Today’s children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primary curriculum. They are pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini-adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past’, they shrieked in an open letter published in The Telegraph on Tuesday.

The term ‘moral panic’ was first coined in the early seventies to explain the Mods and Rockers phenomenon, an early form of youth disorder involving motor vehicles and conflicting fashion which had nearly ruined the country, or at the very least, Brighton back in the sixties. What happened there was that groups of young people appropriated accoutrements from a limited selection and used them as an expression of a tribal self.

Now we face the peril of confused and distressed children having so much trash culture pushed at them that they couldn’t extract a preferred identity if it leapt out of their iPod and whisked them off to Top Shop. Tragic. The obvious occurs to no one. Why don’t the people who are peddling corrupting product to children simply stop doing it if it’s causing all this grief?

Not that simple. The signatories to the Telegraph letter included such ‘experts’ as authors Penelope Leach, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman and Michael Morpugo.

‘It's gradually soaking like a poison into the culture’, sobbed Morpugo. There is less room for reading, for dreaming, for music, for drama, for art, and simply for playing.’

No time for reading, mmm, that can’t be good for sales.

Strangely the news of this moral vacuum that is engulfing the early years has not reached the children in my street who seem always out happily kicking balls about and riding their bikes up and down the towpath, not a fishnet stocking or spliff to be seen. And this is Hackney – one of the dodgy bits. Maybe they’re all on Prozac.

‘We are talking about one in ten young people with measurable mental health problems, including depression and self harm. That is a very worrying statistic’, intoned the Inquiry’s spokesperson Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

As we mourn the demise of innocence, we may pause to wonder where imagination went. Could it have been colonised by social workers whose self-serving agenda of perceived child endangerment is on the way to reaching the epic outlandishness that was achieved in the late eighties and early nineties when every parent suddenly became a potential child murderer? In the most famous cases, Cleveland in 1987 and Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands in 1991, children as young as five were snatched from their beds in the early hours of the morning and kept in foster homes for months. Nearly all cases were found to be complete fabrications.

The sad repercussion of these high profile social services fuck-ups was that the sensitive new age dads who had ventured into showing affection to their kids immediately backed off, living in fear of even being left alone with them. Hysteria peaked in 1996 when ITN newsreader Julia Somerville was arrested after popping some family snaps of her child in the bath into Boots for processing.

Every accusing finger will naturally be pointed at the poorer families, the Chav single mothers in council hell holes whose idea of reciting poetry is to reel off the Happy Meals menu. But what about the wealthy and powerful neglecters of children? The Sharon Osbournes of this world whose kids have had every emotional disorder known to psychology by the age of six. What about the children of actors and rock stars who commit suicide in high numbers or set up permanent homes in rehab clinics? What about the poor mites shuttled across the Atlantic between estranged parents or hidden away in boarding schools?

At least one celebrity child molester has been fingered this week. Sharon Osbourne look-a-like Cherie Blair was under police investigation after she took a playful swipe at a seventeen year old at a sporting event for making ‘rabbit ears’ behind her. UK Schools Games' organisers complained to police after discussing the incident with officials from the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), an organisation established to protect children from child abusers working in sport. Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that conversation…

1 comment:

kris said...

I see what you mean.