Friday 18 December 2015

Suffer the children?

Yes they do!  It's a biblical reference ye heathens: Matt 19 v14.  Like Thich Nhat Hanh prefers to do his walking meditation with kids rather than with neurotic adults, so Jesus wanted kids to hear the message rather than being hustled out of the way by officious disciples.  I have a sorry tale to tell today about the commodification of children. It's only 80 years since the Lebensborn programme was launched 12 December 1935 in NSDAP Germany. One of the key legs of their racial purity nonsense was that the master race should be encouraged to have more children, so that eventually only Aryans were left.  In my book it's nonsense because cultural, genetic and linguistic diversity is what we should be aiming for: life is so much more interesting that way. Lebensborn = fount-of-life was initially a social welfare organisation which set up maternity centres and after-care services to support [some approved sorts of ] women, both married and unwed, to raise their children safely in a world at war. I don't think we have a good leg to stand on in complaining about the exclusivity of the programme. Catholics still get better access to education here and richer women certainly get better access to post-delivery maternity care. The current flap in Ireland is that agnostic parents are 'abusing the sacrament' by getting their children baptised to improve their chances of a place in the better local schools. Almost all schools are almost entirely paid for by me-the-tax-payer but Catholic boards of governors act as gatekeepers for pupils.

Later on the ethics of the Lebensborn programme took a plunge downwards when it started to process children, or whatever parentage who looked a good fit for the master-race. Most of the records were destroyed in the maelstrom of 1945, so we can only estimate how many children were forcibly separated from the parents and taken away to be raised as Aryans. Poland and Norway seem to have been more actively trawled because of the higher frequency of the blonde and blue-eyed preferred stereotype. But no part of the conquered territories was immune. In Norway after the war, as in other parts of Europe, those suspected of 'collaboration' with German soldiers were scapegoated and so were their children. It must take a disagreeable amount of priggish self-righteousness, not to say want of intellect, that could mete out punishment on kids for the sins of their parents.

Tsk! Tsk! we say as we judge the doings of folk back in the 1930s and 40s.  But we've very recently had a sorry record of cultural [white, catholic, patriarchal] imperialism in Ireland and have very recently allowed state institutions [Gardai, Social Sevices] to knee-jerk racial stereotyping to seize blond and blue-eyed children who were a poor external match for their parents. The press and their readership had a fit of the self-righteous vapours over those [temporary] kidnappings of children by the Irish state.  But that, if I might make so bold, is a useless, if not positively damaging, response.  We should rather look at ourselves and try to see the unconsidered certainties that blight our day-to-day actions and interactions. We had a good example of that at the end of last week: most commentators who were old enough to have adult children, and so brought up in an earlier era, were of the opinion that a no harm would come to a child who was occasionally given a slap by its loving parents. As Senator Jillian Van Turnhout responded "and no good came of such an action either".

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