Okay, you need to go and read this article from today’s The Sun newspaper in the the UK then come back here and read what I have to say.
Right, read it? And you came back. Good. I’m going to try and not over react to this but I’ll say from the outset that it will be hard. It’s difficult not to form very instant, very strong opinions about something like this. It’s also very difficult not to stereotype, so forgive me if I do. There are so many things about this story that are disturbing that I really don’t know where to being.
There are, hidden in the text of the article, some very interesting titbits of the family environment that these two children (and that’s what they are – they may be parents now, but they are still children) have grown up in. First, let’s take a look at Chantelle’s family.
She and her five (yes, five) brothers live in a local council-owned house with their parents – both of whom are out of work. This, of course, means that the family lives on benefit. Okay, so I could go off on one about ‘why are we paying for them to breed…” etc but I’m not going to. Look, my wife and I chose to wait until we could afford to bring up a child before having one. That was our choice. We’ve always know that some people choose not to wait and then feel it’s society's responsibility to look after them. That is the nature of the society we live in.
What worries me is that these six children have grown up in an environment where NOT working for a living is the norm, so how can we really expect that they will go out and do just that in the future? We can’t. Despite what many ‘do-gooders’ will tell us, we still learn our ways from our parents and if parents don’t work, chances are that the children won’t either. And it’s been borne out to some extent by the fact that the 15 year old daughter is now expecting the state to pay to bring up her son. Because she certainly doesn’t have the money to.
And there’s a worrying quote from the mother/grandmother.
“She’s my daughter. I love her and she will want for nothing.”
And how, exactly, does she expect her to “want for nothing” when the family’s only income is from the state? My wife and I both have quite well paid jobs and I’d never say my some will want for nothing, because I know there will be times when he will go without because I won’t be able to afford it. He’ll have all I can give him, but it won’t be everything he wants, that’s for sure. But then, I’m not able to go cap in hand to the local benefits office if I need a new bed/sofa/TV etc. am I?
Then we look at young Alfie’s family. He lives with his mother “on an estate across town”. Now, just a small point, but if they live so far apart – how did they meet and become boyfriend/girlfriend in the first place? I digress. Aflie’s parents are “separated” which since the word "divorce” wasn’t used I take to mean they weren’t ever married. And his father is a dad to NINE (yes, 9) children.
Now, hang on a sec, but if daddy has trouble keeping it in his pants, is it any wonder that the son can’t control himself either? So, cynical question, how many children do with think Alfie will end up producing? And by how many different women? I mean, it’s not likely (and I don’t know for sure as it’s not mentioned in the article) that Alfie’s dad’s nine kids are all by the same woman, is it? After all, there’s no mention of Alfie’s loving brothers and sisters living with him and his mom.
So, these two kids don’t have what I’d describe as an ‘ideal’ home life. Their parents seem to be, and forgive my stereotyping here, “breeders”. They are reproducing themselves and evidently reproducing their own problems and inadequacies. And this can’t be good for our society. It’s already evident (and you don’t have to look hard to see it) that there is an ‘underclass’ in Britain. An group of people who live outside the normal rules that the rest of us live by. A group who are supported by the rest of the taxpayers and cause a lot of trouble that results in those taxpayers having to pay even more.
And this underclass is getting bigger. I mean, my wife was one of a group of several women of a similar age at her place of work who all chose to have children around the same time. We’re talking late-twenties/early-thirties. And that group will probably have one or maybe two children each. They are all, as are their husbands, well paid, intelligent middle class, aspirational, professional people.
And yet the two families that prompted this entry have more children than all the professionals that my wife works with will ever have altogether. In other words, if they are part of the under class, the under class is getting bigger, while the aspirational class might well end up getting smaller.
And so we come to the other villains of this piece – the newspaper. One has to ask how much The Sun has paid these people for this “exclusive”. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s the right of the free press to pay for stories such as this – it’s long been a part of how the press in the UK works. But doesn’t it show just how much trouble that press is in when they feel they have to resort to this sort of sensational story to sell copies?
For those of you who don’t know, The Sun is a part of Rupert Murdoch's News International group. It is aimed squarely at working class in this country and it’s said that it’s Sun readers who ultimately decide general elections in this country. Back in ‘92, the paper famously claimed “It’s the Sun what won it” after John Major’s government was returned to power in a surprise victory. On the morning of the election The Sun ran a front page with the opposition leader’s head in a light bulb and the headline “If Labour Wins can the last one to leave Britain please turn off the light”.
They are the home of the world famous “Page 3 Girls” and will happily have a woman showing her nips on page three and then complain about the over sexualisation of the country on page four. And remember, this is the same global media group who will kick people off its MySpace website for showing a nipple or two in their uploaded photos.
The press in Britain is in real trouble. Sales and ad revenue are both falling as people increasingly turn to the internet for their daily news. I haven’t personally bought a newspaper of any kind for five or six years. And I know lots of other people of my generation are the same. Why waste money on something you’ll only throw away at the end of the day?
So yes, when a certain type of person finds out that their 15 year old daughter is up the duff by the 13 year old from across town and decides to call in the gutter press for a nice fat fee, you know that the media is, in part, to blame. Not completely, I still lay the blame for this whole sorry affair at the feet of the parents and the poor example they have set, but would they have been so keen for the pregnancy to go ahead if they didn’t see pound signs in their future? And how long will it be before we get the documentary on ITV or the big Sunday supplement on how things are going?
I’d also like you to think about the quote from the anti-abortionist at the end of the article.
“We commend these teenagers for their courage in bringing their child into the world. At the same time this is symptomatic of the over-sexualisation of our youngsters and shows the policy of value-free sex education just isn’t working.”
Just what do you make of that? She’s painting these kids as some kind of heroes and then blaming ‘society’ for the situation they have got themselves into. The fault here is not with the sex-education taught in schools. The fault is with the total lack of control that the parents appear to have over their offspring. I’m sorry, but if this had been my 13 year old son he wouldn’t be appearing in the newspapers and he’d be out finding work in his spare time (and studying bloody hard to make sure he had the qualifications to get a decent job the rest of the time) to help support the baby. (I should point out that my son is only three, so I might have to wait ten years to put this claim into practice, by which time the economy might have recovered and there might actually be some work for him to do)
I know I’m ranting. But this is the sort of story that brings that out of people. The last ‘kid’ to be a young father was twelve and he said all the same things about being a good dad that Aflie is saying. And as the article reminds us, he and the baby’s mother split up after six months.
One final thing, contrast this story with the news earlier this week that a set of parents in Norwich who had their three children taken off them and adopted after, what eventually were proved to be false, accusations of abuse. They have been told by the caught that, even thought they didn’t abuse their children and were actually good parents, they cannot have their children back now they’ve been adopted.
Can I dare to suggest that for her own good, perhaps the same authorities might be thinking that young Maisie would be better off with some loving adoptive parents rather than being brought up in the very same environment that was responsible for her premature conception in the first place.