Common sense is becoming increasingly less common in Britain today. For evidence of this, look at the advocacy last week of keeping small children away from farm animals. The paranoid push to “look but don’t touch” comes after a series of E-Coli outbreaks at show-and-tell farms in various parts of England. There’s no doubt whatsoever that there were no malevolent disease-spreading cows, sheep or goats involved (for some reason, for once, chickens have escaped attack—which is nice, given that billions of them are forced to live in boxes or sheds knee-deep in their own excrement so Tesco can offer ‘em up for sale dirt-cheap).
The real scenario goes like this: child pets goat (or cow, or sheep). Parents busy talking or, statistics are supposed to suggest, arguing and planning for divorce. They don’t see child petting animal, or likely don’t give it any thought. Child then sticks finger in mouth or up nose.
Ninety-five per cent of those children indulging in such natural unhygienic and instinctive behaviour come to no harm at all. The remaining five per cent are put through a terrible illness that can, in rare cases, lead to fatalities but so far, thankfully and mercifully, none have actually died. No doubt middle-class parents across the land will no longer take their children to show-and-tell farms, allowing them to grow up thinking cows are two inches high judging from pictures only, and beefburgers are something else, that the plastic-coated bloodless meats on display in Tesco (isn’t it nearly always a Tesco these days?) come from a gift-giving carnivorous Santa Claus.
But wait. Back home, what is a parent to do with the kids? Everyone is now guilty until proven innocent of the most awful crime after murder, that of paedophilia. Those who have even just occasional and fleeting contact with children in public places as well as private are now required to undergo CRB checks to see if the offer of a lift to school or the promotion of a storybook to a classroom full of ripe youngsters are, in fact, mere covers for a monstrous urge to sexually abuse minors.
The most terrifying outbreak of unnatural behaviour is to be found among our politicians, health advisers and scientists who seem to think the proverbial boy in the bubble needs the company of the entire nation’s children to protect them from everything us adults weren’t ever protected from and yet, by some miracles, we still managed, most of us, to grow up. Of course not all children do. Some are struck down by illness, and a tiny but tragic number are killed by car collisions, plane crashes, other children, inadvertently consuming tiny amounts of animal excrement, and, of course, paedophiles. But would the paranoid legally-oppressed society of 2009 have prevented, say, the likes of the Moors Murderers from snatching children off the street? Somehow I think Hindley and Brady would not have had CRB checks and, when people do, there is simply no way of guaranteeing a clean record means no possibility of offence in the future.
This is not to say checks on criminality don’t have their place. They do. People in positions of trust and power who work with children frequently, they should be checked. But parents? Authors? Artists? Where, now the madness has been given the green card to race ahead unhindered by common sense, does it all end? Should door-to-door salespeople and Jehovah’s Witnesses be routinely checked, as there is every possibility small children could answer the doorbell? Should all supermarket staff, market traders, shop workers, be checked? The message is loud and clear: all you parents should be terrified of everyone who isn’t you where your children are concerned. Never mind trust. Trust is a foolish throwback to the days of real community. Forget your instincts. Abandon all need to involve your higher brain functions that separate man from beast. Just trust the law (more specifically, trust the law-makers).
Sad, pale young faces staring out of bedroom windows longingly at the grass outside, dreaming of playing football or just running around imagining they’re Doctor Who or cowboys or whatever. Isolated unsocialised children who only know farm animals from picture books that have been wiped with disinfectant, just in case someone else visiting the bookshop had germs. These scenarios are the stuff of nightmares, producing in adulthood people who simply don’t know how to act in company. Children who are isolated through fear and paranoia go on to become fearful and paranoid themselves at best, uncontrollably angry and self-serving at best. It is also utterly impossible to protect them from exposure to bacteria, at any stage of their lives, but that doesn’t stop the slew of TV ads and supermarket promotions for sprays to kill off anything microbial on all your household work surfaces. Until such time as the bugs become immune to bombardment, of course.
If you want to breed serial killers and abusers, cage youngsters like battery hens and intensively rear them on a diet of inappropriate TV shows and salty, sugary snacks. I was watching Futurama on Sky One the other night, at 6pm. I loved that show during its original four-year run, but it has changed. It has been brought back with new episodes that have more bitterness and anger in the scripts, and a lot more adult-oriented jokes and puns. It’s like Family Guy has had an influence, another show I love but knew from the start wasn’t for kids. Yet parents do let their children watch Family Guy, thinking cartoons are always for the young even when broadcast late in the evening. As for Futurama, I lost count of the number of jokes about vaginas, breasts and sexual intercourse. It was wrong to broadcast such material at 6pm. The parents of the nation were not, however, in uproar.
The reason? Parents without common sense, and there are a great many, don’t censure, don’t dictate, don’t use their brains because they don’t know how to, and don’t have a clue what to do unless the media advises them. It’s okay to pet a goat and then eat crisps… Oh. Wait. The man on the TV news says it’s not safe, no more petting goats for you, Britney. And still they don’t teach kids the importance of washing their hands…
I am sick of the phrase “think of the children” being used to push through every insane measure supported by a crack-pot consensus across the mainstream political parties, with just a minor difference here and there between them. Talk to the children, listen to the children, and let them do their own thinking. They’ve managed it for millennia, for the most part. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here today, all grown up, to risk imposing severe mental illness and social dysfunction on generations present, and to come.