Monday, 30 March 2015

The jewel in the British education system

Although the state education system has continued to disappoint there has, at least, been one jewel in British education and that is the public school system, or the independent sector, as it is now more accurately known. Without these schools there is no knowing what kind of dire state our country would now be in. Just one statistic spells out their achievement – for many years roughly 50% of all Oxbridge undergraduates came from independent schools, despite accounting for only 7% of pupils, and this was attained in the face of repeated changes to the admissions policy to favour pupils from the state sector. In the A-level league tables, only six of the top 50 schools are in the state sector and all of these are selective, ie grammar schools. There are no comprehensive schools in the top 100.

Needless to say liberals loathe the independent schools, denouncing them as elitist institutions that cream off resources to the detriment of pupils in the state sector. It is worth remembering that parents who send their children to independent schools face three financial burdens, since they pay fees to the independent school, they pay taxes to fund the state education sector and they save the exchequer the cost of educating their own children.

A favourite argument of liberals, repeatedly employed, is that if the independent schools were brought into the state system, the performance of the latter would be raised out of all recognition, as a result of the increased pressure to improve standards that would come from parents who currently use the independent sector. Such wild optimism ignores the precedents of the destruction of grammar and direct grant schools, that resulted in a levelling down, not a raising, of standards. The true reason that liberals want to finish off the independent sector is that it provides a constant reminder of the failure of most state comprehensives to meet its high standards.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Thatcher government response to the comprehensive schools takeover

Following the large scale introduction of comprehensive education, discontent on the Right about the direction of education policy began to mount. In 1969, the first of the Black Papers on Education was published. These papers, there were five in total, were fiercely attacked as 'reactionary', a favourite term of abuse employed by liberals to denounce and marginalise heretical ideas. By the end of the 1970s comprehensive education was coming under increased attack by a more assertive Conservative party. The 1979 manifesto included a commitment to 'halt the Labour government's policies which have led to the destruction of good schools; keep those of proven worth; and repeal those sections of the Education Act which compel local authorities to reorganise along comprehensive lines and restrict their freedom to take up places at independent schools'.

On returning to government, the Tories introduced the Assisted Places Scheme, which allowed children, whose parents could not afford the fees, to obtain free places at schools in the independent sector, provided they could pass the entrance exam. However, although this was a welcome move, the numbers taking up such places were relatively small. At the same time the Tories also introduced the 'Parents Charter' which gave parents more rights on the choice of school, along with some other measures. Although a step in the right direction such limited action did little to address the mounting concern about the standard of education provided in the state sector. It was not until the late 1980s that the Tories started to address the problems of education more forcefully, but alas not necessarily more effectively.

Tory reforms introduced from the late 1980s included establishing a national core curriculum with assessments at the ages of 7, 11 and 14; replacing O levels and CSEs with a single GCSE examination; giving schools control over their own budgets based on the number of pupils attending; allowing schools to expand up to their physical capacity; establishing 'City Technology Colleges' supported by industrial sponsors and allowing state schools to opt out of LEA control, by applying for grant maintained status funded by the Education Department. Unfortunately, these proposals sent out a mixed message. Those that encouraged parental choice, and freed schools from the dead hand of LEA 'progressive' educational orthodoxy, were welcome.

However, the introduction of the national curriculum and assessments were highly prescriptive measures, which can now be seen as precursors of the managerial and interventionist approach that was later developed to a fine art by New Labour under Tony Blair. GCSE assessment included a large element of course work, unlike O-levels which were purely examination based and thus appreciably more rigorous academically. This confusion demonstrates the lack of will by the Tories to implement the radical policies that are essential if educational standards are to be raised. The Blair government introduced a new Education Act which gave a modicum of greater independence to schools. It appears to have been more popular with the Tory opposition than with Labour backbenchers. The Tories were probably correct when they said it was a step in the right direction, but it still left too much power in the hands of local education authority bureaucrats, as well as enshrining the ludicrous hostility of New Labour to any form of meaningful selection based on academic ability.

Monday, 23 March 2015

NSPCC – The ultimate bogus charity

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was once a highly regarded and worthwhile charity which protected vulnerable children from cruelty. However with the rise in council run children’s services it found itself struggling to find a credible role to play in these changed circumstances. It responded by gradually adopting a highly charged feminist politically correct agenda which sought to ferret out instances of 'abuse' against children, a wide ranging term which has had the effect of demonising men. Many honourable and decent people still give generously to this 'charity' believing that it must still be a force for good, unaware of its true agenda. At the present time nearly £20 million of its annual income is funded by the state. In addition, vast sums received from donations are used for its highly emotive advertising and paying the inflated salaries of its staff.

It is because of the activities of the NSPCC and other similar organisations that the paedophile hysteria has taken such a hold, although the gutter press is equally culpable in fanning the flames. In spreading suspicion against men the NSPCC creates a climate which is destroying the social fabric of the nation. As a consequence most men now keep well clear of children so as to avoid the accusation that they are intent on 'abusing' them. Even the most innocent of contacts is seen as suspicious, which risks interpretation as an attempt to 'groom' a child for a sexual purpose.

The stated objective of the NSPCC is to stop all cruelty and 'abuse' against children. However, if this goal were to be achieved the NSPCC would no longer serve any purpose and the vast amount of money currently generated for it would dry up. To prevent this outcome the NSPCC devotes an inordinate amount of energy into conveying the message that children are continually at risk from 'abuse'. The more this fear is stoked up then the more society will conclude that it needs the NSPCC to combat this evil. Although not openly stated the implicit message is that men are the cause of this threat to children because potentially they could all be 'abusers'. To strengthen the message the definition of 'abuse' becomes ever wider.

In its attempt to highlight abuse the NSPCC has in the past promoted claims which have subsequently proved to be groundless. For example, in the early 1990s the NSPCC was responsible for the publication Satanic Indicators which gave rise to the 'satanic abuse' panic that caused some social workers, most notably in Rochdale and the Orkneys to take large number of children from their families. Recordings of the interviews made by NSPCC social workers revealed that flawed techniques and leading questions were used to gain 'evidence' of abuse from the children. The NSPCC are still heavily involved in the controversial recovered memory syndrome in which many women, after months of 'therapy', claim to have been abused in childhood. Virtually all of these claims are eventually proved to be baseless or exaggerated but in the meantime the lives of the accused, invariably men, have been destroyed. The most high profile activity recently promoted by the NSPCC is the Full Stop campaign against child abuse, a definition which has become increasingly wide. This campaign is nothing more than a racket to mint money for the organisation which it does on a colossal scale. The income raised by this campaign is quite considerable, since £250 million was considered necessary to fund the initial stage of the programme. None of the gigantic sums raised actually helps any child, since the NSPCC has no control over what goes on in people’s homes. There is no way that it can enforce this objective, and in any case it undermines the rights of parents to disciple their children in the manner they consider most appropriate within the law. Needless to say the NSPCC wants the law changed to make smacking by parents a criminal offence. If such a law is ever introduced it will give children enormous power to blackmail parents, with the inevitable result that they will be even more indiciplined than they are currently.

As part of the Full Stop campaign the NSPCC sent out nine million survey forms designed to 'educate people on things they may not know and (to) find out their attitudes towards abuse'. This is known in the trade as 'advocacy research', the main aim of which is not to elicit information about public opinion, but to trawl for support to reinforce an already agreed policy position. The survey questions are loaded to 'educate people' about the rightness of the NSPCC’s own mindset and priorities, namely the supposed massive incidence of child abuse which, it is suggested, is still occurring despite all the safeguards, warnings and campaigns on the matter. It also lumps together under the definition of child 'abuse', some of the more harrowing incidents of child cruelty, along with reasonable and necessary parental discipline such as shouting, smacking or criticising children. The letter accompanying the survey explains that 'we just want to know if our message is getting across'.

The implicit message here is that families are dangerous since they can harm children, and that it is only charities such as the NSPCC who can be trusted to provide protection. There is no evidence that such campaigns do anything very much to reduce the relatively infrequent incidents of genuine child cruelty, but they do manage to spread a poisonous message of mistrust that is conveyed in insulting slogans such as 'stop parents getting away with murder'. As such they undermine the family as the best means of bringing up children and insinuate that only child protection professionals can be trusted, not parents. Children are not best served by being brought up in such a climate of fear and suspicion. The continuing expansion of the child protection industry, with its modern alarmist orthodoxies and high public profile, is likely to further fuel the damaging obsession with child 'abuse'. Child protection workers risk overlooking serious cases of cruelty that warrant intervention, because of their preoccupation with rooting out generalised child 'abuse' that they have persuaded themselves is widespread amongst ordinary families. The best protection for children is when their parents are married. Needless to say the NSPCC has nothing to say on this believing that all parenting arrangements, including single motherhood, are equally valid.

Despite its high ideals the NSPCC does very little to protect children from what most concerns them which is bullying and family breakdown. It has become a money making machine creating fear amongst children that men are all predatory child molesters, and implicitly maligning men as potential paedophiles. Its advertisements and begging letters show a wholly distorted image of child/adult relationships and are often nauseatingly offensive. This is one 'charity' we can all do without.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Children's charities in the politically correct era

During the past few decades a vast child protection apparatus has grown in the public sector, taking over and considerably expanding the role formerly carried out by children’s charities. However, these charities still continue to exist and work in partnership with the local authority social services in a shared agenda driven largely by a politically correct blueprint. This consists of a heavy emphasis on raising awareness for fighting 'child abuse', a much broader and more questionable concept than child cruelty, or harm to children. Predictably, there is no recognition that the primary cause of genuine child abuse is the breakdown in marriage, and there is also a blackout on any discussion about the problems that arise from the huge increase in single parenting.

It should be recognised that all those involved in child protection have a difficult path to tread. On the one hand they are condemned for not intervening earlier, as in the Baby P case, but they are also attacked when they act with unwarranted zealotry, as in the Rochdale satanic abuse scandal. Unfortunately, many parents today appear to lack parenting skills and seem less able to properly discipline their children in a firm yet caring way. There is thus an inherent conflict between the principle of allowing families to bring up children as they think best without interference, and the need for the state, and its agencies, to intervene to protect children from harm which sometimes occurs in the home.

Clearly, children need to be protected from all those who seek to cause them harm. For over a century charities such as the NSPCC and Barnardos fulfilled this role with distinction, retaining the confidence and support of the public with very little, if any, criticism. But in recent years a more questioning attitude has arisen towards the outlook and priorities of the 'child protection industry' as it is now sometimes labelled. Many are now asking whether child protection services are intruding too deeply into what more properly belongs within the domain of private family life. In addition, some have questioned whether child protection campaigns are generating a climate of exaggerated fear and concern, without impacting much on the problems they are seeking to address. Striking a balance on this will never be easy, but society needs be on its guard against the state nationalising the upbringing of children.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The coming ice age

For most of the 1960s environmental protection was a relatively low priority with both government and the general public. However towards the end of the decade increasing concern arose about the levels of pollution, and the damage caused by mankind to natural habitats through industrialisation. During the 1970s influential campaigning groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were established. As part of this enhanced environmental awareness, some scientists at the beginning of the 1970s became concerned about the cooling trend of global temperatures that had taken place over the previous 30 years, which had ended a fifty year period of warming that began in the late Victorian period.

Scientists were unclear as to what was the cause of this cooling but a prime suspect was the level of pollution that was blocking out sunlight as outlined in the following comment from January 1970. 'Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution debris from manufacturing processes has been accumulating in the atmosphere to such an extent that the earth is now enveloped in a layer of dust which has the effect of reflecting back into space a portion of the energy radiated by the sun. The result has been a measurable lowering of average temperatures, not merely in industrial areas but worldwide.' Some pundits were predicting that if the trend continued drastic action would need to be taken to combat the problem even suggesting 'outlawing the internal combustion engine for vehicles and outlawing or strict controls over all forms of combustion.'

As the decade wore on concern about the global cooling started to mount as this comment from November 1973 makes clear - 'with regard to the present cooling trend a number of leading climatologists have concluded that it is very bad news indeed. They say that it is the root cause of unpleasant weather around the world and they warn that it carries the potential for human disasters of unprecedented magnitude.' Others however were less pessimistic 'we observe these trends in the northern hemisphere, and we've seen they're real.... but it is thought that the present cooling trend will reverse itself for natural reasons, aided perhaps by the greenhouse effect.'

At this time scientists were still sufficiently open minded to admit that they were uncertain about both the cause of the cooling trend and likely future direction of the global climate as this comment from March 1975 reveals - 'The cooling trend observed since 1940 is real enough, but not enough is known about the underlying causes to justify any sort of extrapolation. Particularly dangerous would be any attempt to generalize from even shorter-term experience, like the bad weather in 1972 and following years, to prognosticate any future weather patterns. On the other hand, the cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.'

Nevertheless scientists were concerned about the impact of global cooling as these next two observations from March 1975 illustrate. 'In the last decade the Arctic ice and snow cap has expanded 12 percent, and for the first time this century, ships making for Iceland ports, have been impeded by drifting ice' and 'Many climatologists see signs of evidence that a significant change in climate is taking place- a shift that could be the forerunner of an ice age.' With regard to the last point many scientists had begun to fear that the cooling trend might not be caused by human pollution but instead was the early stages of the next ice age as demonstrated in this observation from October 1979 'climatic disruptions, such as the changing influences of polar cold fronts, which resulted in the winter of 1977, one of the most severe on record, seem to add credence to an advancing ice age hypothesis.'

One of the features of the present global warming alarmism is the doom laden scare stories not only for the future but also the present. Needless to say the 1970s ice age theory also stoked up alarmist fears from environmental pundits such as the following choice example from 1976 - 'This global cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000.' Does this kind of hysterical exaggeration sound familiar? Sadly it is the case that greenhouse or ice age, flood or drought, vocal leftist political activists will all call for the same remedy. We must have bigger government, more political regulation and control, higher taxes, and permit less individual and private sector liberty if we are to survive whatever current modish environmental horror story that is being promoted.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Sir Humphrey embraces diversity

In George Orwell’s 1984, the aim of Newspeak was defined as 'to narrow the range of thought – to make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words to express it. In fact, Orwell’s fears on this were somewhat misplaced. There is no need for authority to maintain control of society by the minimalist reduction of language that took place in 1984. A far more effective and subtle approach is to alter the meaning of words in everyday use. The liberal establishment that now has an iron grip over the major institutions of this country has proved itself adept at exploiting this process. Previously innocuous words such as ‘pride’ and ‘inclusive’ have had their meaning hijacked, and so provide a constant reminder of the determination with which the politically correct elite pursue their subversive agenda. However, one word that has exceeded all others in its new menace is ‘diversity’.

It is difficult to recall precisely when diversity changed from its traditional meaning of ‘the quality of being different or varied’. The new use may stem from the perception that ‘multiculturalism’ had become somewhat tarnished, or maybe some Home office adviser recommended that the equality agenda needed broadening. Whatever the origins of the change, there is no doubt that ‘diversity’ has now become one of the top priorities in the liberal long march towards utopia.

The issue of diversity has been taken up by Whitehall in a big way and as a result all civil servants are compulsorily required to attend diversity workshops. Documents handed to this blog from a senior civil servant in a London Whitehall ministry outline how these workshops operate. The aim of the workshops is to achieve ‘a diverse workplace that encourages those with differing life experiences, frames of reference, ways of working, thinking and communicating, to participate fully in developing, managing and delivering services’. Thus this new model bureaucracy will ‘allow people to make their own unique contribution by challenging conscious and unconscious perceptions and perceived ways of working’. However, this pseudo-idealised gibberish deliberately disguises and obfuscates the real motivation, which is to impose still further the degree of indoctrination surrounding the dual liberal obsessions of ‘racism’ and ‘homophobia’.

The diversity workshops last for a day and consist of a number of ‘diversity scenarios’ played out by actors in the form of theatre workshops to ‘ensure that each one of us appreciates the importance of recognising and encouraging diversity within the Department’. About twenty members of staff usually attended each workshop. Three actors play the role of civil servants in a supposedly typical office.

To quote the civil servant 'the boss was a middle aged white male. His two junior colleagues were a thirty something white female working part time, and a younger black male who also happens to be homosexual. The first scenario was actually quite amusing. It consisted of the actors mouthing the most absurd stereotypical comments about the disabled, gays, women, men, blacks etc. allegedly based on real life office comments. Its dated and unrealistic outlook was reminiscent of some of the dodgier TV programmes from the 1970s. Nevertheless, it was quite good knockabout. The later scenarios were intended to be more serious. Some portrayals, for example the boss who suffered from increasing deafness, and the problems arising from part time working, were fairly uncontroversial. But others were considerably less so, particularly those relating to race and sexuality.'

'For example, we were led to believe in all seriousness that the gay employee suffered deep emotional stress because he was unable to openly express his sexuality in the office because of fears of a negative response from colleagues.' This self-indulgent attitude overlooks the fact that you do not need to be homosexual to enjoy sexual fantasies or practices that may not meet with the approval or understanding of work colleagues. Sensibly, most people have the courtesy to opt for discretion on this subject. 'After each scenario we broke into small groups to "discuss the impact of the behaviour that had been acted out". As a permanent record we were provided with a 54 page "diversity challenge" notebook.' The cost of these workshops must be quite considerable since all civil servants (there are nearly half a million) are required to attend them. But they are just one component of the diversity agenda in the public sector.

As part of the diversity agenda, civil servants have been given some advice on ‘cross cultural communication’. Terms such as ‘Oriental’ and ‘half-caste’ should be avoided. So too should ‘jargon, slang and metaphor’. There is a warning that cultural differences in body languages can contribute to misunderstandings and conflict. Apparently, words for the time of day such as evening or afternoon do not have the same meaning when ‘used by members of minority ethnic communities’. It would be quite wrong to assume that ‘when members of ethnic communities raise their voice they are necessarily losing control or becoming aggressive’. Finally, by way of balance, advice is offered never to ‘underestimate the influence of your own cultural background on your unconscious perceptions and behaviour’. This is all quite a minefield for the unwary.

It is sometimes claimed that the equality and diversity agenda is not there to provide minorities with any special privileges. Equality is defined as equality of opportunity not equality of outcome, quotas for minorities are unlawful and diversity does not mean being especially nice to minority groups, homosexuals, lesbians etc. This is the rhetoric but the reality is very different. The Civil Service, like many other public sector organisations, has routinely carried out what is euphemistically called ‘positive action’. For example, all government departments have been responsible for initiatives and schemes that, in the words of one ministry, ‘provide a career development programme for black and ethnic minority staff who wish to either enhance their own performance in their existing grade, or to progress their career into higher management grades’. At the end of such courses participants are ‘expected to gain a clear appreciation of their role as dynamic members of the Department, and be confident about their skills and abilities’. These kind of schemes either make no difference, in which case they are a waste of public money, or they achieve their objective. If the latter, then they must solely benefit ethnic minorities, who gain advantages that are denied to white members of staff – a shameless example of reverse discrimination of which there are countless examples throughout the public sector.

Although quotas are unlawful, ‘targets’ are central to the diversity agenda. Each government department has a target for the number of women, ethnic minorities and more recently, homosexuals and lesbians they employ. Needless to say, the high probability that white heterosexual males have almost certainly been discriminated against to reach these targets is of no consequence. Targets, of course, focus on equality of outcome, not opportunity, and if white men are found to be under represented this is never a problem that seems to trouble the diversity zealots. It is worth noting that as the ethnic population of London continues to increase virtually unchecked, the targets will need to increase to keep pace.

It would be naïve to assume that the politically correct truly believe in diversity in its traditional sense. What they are instead seeking is a stultifying conformity and obedience from society for their distorted and dangerous obsessions on race and homosexuality. They want to comprehensively narrow the terms of debate so that anyone who publicly expresses a dissident viewpoint on these subjects, however mild or rational, is vilified as ‘xenophobic’, ‘racist’, ‘homophobic’ or an extremist hater. On the subject of race and immigration in particular, what we are faced with is a systematic and deceitful programme of thought control to prevent the majority of ordinary people from expressing their perfectly natural desire to retain their own cultural heritage and the racial identity of their country.

Monday, 9 March 2015

New Labour introduces a diversity agenda

A fundamental driving force in the 'diversity' agenda is the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which places a 'general duty on all public authorities to promote race equality'. The duty aims to make the promotion of race equality 'central to the way public authorities work, and it is a positive one and not simply about avoiding discrimination'. Meeting the requirements of the Act in full imposes an almost incredible burden on public organisations. As a result of the Act, all public bodies are required to publish a 'Race Equality Scheme' of exceptional detail. This includes monitoring staff by racial group to identify those 'who are trained and promoted, who suffer detriment, who are involved in grievance and disciplinary procedure' and much more. In addition, there is a requirement to 'analyse data to find patterns of inequality', 'take action to remove barriers' and 'promote equality and publish the results each year'. There are further references to 'functions and policies on the promotion of race equality, 'arrangements for assessing and consulting on the impact of policies', 'arrangements to identify any adverse impact on equality' and so on.

This is a very brief synopsis, the full requirements seem endless, almost beyond belief in their detail and inescapably they require an inordinate amount of staff time. And all public sector authorities now have a statutory duty to carry them out. Further initiatives from the European Union add to the regulatory burden. For example, the EU Race Directive establishes indirect discrimination if 'an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons'. This Directive, like all other emanating from the EU, overrides domestic legislation, so cannot be rectified through the democratic system. Thus it also removes such matters from national political debate. It is difficult to see how this degree of state sponsored interference, in what are supposed to be autonomous public bodies, adds anything to community cohesion or the public good.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Macpherson Report paranoia

The years of John Major’s premiership from 1990-1997 were a period when the issues of race and immigration virtually disappeared from mainstream media discussion, despite the large number of third world migrants still entering the country, and the huge increase in the number of asylum seekers. Political parties were happy to sign up to CRE gagging orders not to raise the subjects of race and immigration in elections, in effect keeping these issues outside the parameters of democratic political debate. Party colleagues boasted that Major 'did not have a single racist bone in his body', a clear signal of the Tories desire to parade their liberal credentials.

However, one event took place in this period that was to have a profound impact on racial policy, namely the killing of black teenager Steven Lawrence in Eltham, southwest London by a group of white youths. Despite two trials nobody was convicted of this crime during this period. At the time the murder attracted relatively little media attention but a determined campaign by the parents of the dead teenager resulted in their cause being taken up by black South African president, Nelson Mandela, on a visit to London. In addition, publicity generated by the two trials, in particular the collapse of the second trial in which the defendants were acquitted, and a front page headline in the Daily Mail proclaiming the five main suspects to be 'guilty', resulted in the case becoming a cause célèbre. On return to Government in 1997 the Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, ordered an inquiry into the Lawrence murder to be chaired by a retired judge Sir William Macpherson.

The Macpherson report must rank as probably the most sinister and menacing document ever to have been commissioned by a British government in modern times. It contained so much malign nonsense that it is difficult to know where to begin. The report took the liberal establishment’s obsessive moral crusade against 'racism' to almost undreamt of levels of absurdity with such concepts as 'unwitting prejudice' 'unconscious racism' 'collective racism' and that which is causing the most damage, the notorious 'institutional racism', all based solely on highly questionable interpretations of the actions of a handful of police officers in this one investigation. The report defined a 'racist incident' as one that is perceived to be such, not just by the victim, but incredibly also by 'any other person'. Not satisfied with this, the definition is expanded to include 'crimes and non-crimes' each of which must be 'reported, recorded and investigated with equal commitment'. So, instead of concentrating on the investigation of criminal activity, the police are now expected to divert scarce resources to examining 'non-crimes' (whatever this means) if 'any person' considers them to involve a 'racist incident'.

Macpherson did not limit himself to introducing absurdities in the public sphere, he also sought to criminalize what people say in the privacy of their own homes. His recommendation to 'allow prosecution of offences involving racist language or behaviour proved to have taken place otherwise than in a public place', would have given the green light to allowing political establishment thought police to eavesdrop on private conversations and take action to silence the expression of any views deemed 'incorrect' on the subject of race. Had this recommendation been implemented, George Orwell’s Big Brother would have become a disturbing reality. As a further measure, Macpherson advocated the introduction of a massive state funded propaganda drive into the public sector and the educational system to extol the supposed benefits of 'cultural diversity'.

Instead of dismissing the Macpherson Report for what it was, namely a warped, guilt-induced expression of liberal paranoia, the Blair Government used its 'findings' as a pretext for humiliating the Metropolitan Police and for extending the race relations bureaucracy still more intrusively. The report triggered an orgy of confessions from public leaders admitting their guilt to the newly discovered original sin of 'institutional racism'. No organisation in the public eye appeared to want to miss out on this collective mea culpa, so the leading lights in the health service, education, higher education, civil service, the churches, the trade unions, local government and many others all owned up to their failures. Those that appeared a little tardy in admitting their guilt on this matter, such as the Army or Fire Service, discovered that other more socially aware bodies were happy to intervene and do it for them.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The promiscuous society

As a consequence of the permissive society promiscuity has now become widespread with the predictable result that the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has relentlessly increased. The cost, both financial and for family breakdown, of this reckless behaviour has to be borne by the majority who act with more self-restraint. Until the late 1960s strong social pressures largely upheld the taboo against 'sex before marriage'. In the event that a girl did become pregnant the man would come under strong family pressure to marry her. As a result of this restrictive outlook, 'venereal diseases', as STIs were then known, were kept to a relatively low level.

This wide consensus in society for maintaining sexual restraint had broken down by the end of the sixties, swept away by the rising tide of 'permissiveness' and the availability of the birth control pill. As a result, in a very short period, sexual activity broadened from a pleasure largely confined to marriage, into one that many thought could reasonably take place after the most casual acquaintance, for example by a couple who had just met at a party. This change was reinforced by films targeted at young people, such as Alfie or Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, that portrayed male predatory sexual behaviour as a normal recreational activity with women as willing, albeit passive, participants. Although mainstream television programmes took some time to catch up, they too started to introduce story lines, tentatively at first, but gradually more explicitly, which sent out the signal that casual sex was entirely natural and that there would be no consequences, either physical or emotional, to such promiscuity.

The link between promiscuity and STIs is one that seems to have become very blurred in our society. The standard mantra, endlessly repeated, is that 'safe sex' is a defence against all risks. Naturally, if safe sex was practiced on all occasions, and preventative measures always worked, it would be a sound defence. But the inescapable fact is that STIs have continued to rise, despite all the propaganda for safe sex, and the reason can only be that a significant number of people are ignoring this message and 'sleeping around' without taking precautions. This trend is mirrored in the rise in the number of 'teenage pregnancies', a modern euphemism for illegitimate children, a term now considered derogatory. Back in the 1950s there was no lack of teenage pregnancies and no one thought it a problem, since the vast majority of teenage mothers were married, at a time when marriage generally took place at an earlier age than today. What appears to be forgotten, in sex education, in magazines aimed at young people, in tabloid newspapers and in films and TV drama is that promiscuous sexual activity can be a highly contagious, and sometimes even lethal, activity. But, quite the reverse impression is given, that sexual activity between near strangers is perfectly natural and risk free and that to condemn it is to be judgemental.

So can anything be done to address the rise in STIs, principally AIDS, the spread of which is fuelled by promiscuity? Although pornography can be both offensive and degrading, it provides a fantasy view of women which few men are likely to regard as realistic. The same cannot be said for TV soaps, films, magazine or newspaper articles which promote or portray casual sex as normal and acceptable behaviour. It is this normalisation of promiscuity in the mainstream media that is so pernicious, particularly to young people many of whom will lack the maturity, experience and/or judgment to resist the plausible message that sleeping around is fun and cost free. However, measures to tackle the problem are likely to be controversial since they will require some form of censorship. Until the late 1960s casual promiscuous behaviour was never portrayed positively in films, TV drama or magazine articles due to the rigid censorship regime which included an element of self-censorship. One option available would be for the government to sponsor a voluntary code of conduct in which the media agrees not to promote promiscuity. However, such voluntary self-restraint is unlikely to be successful as it will be resisted by the liberal media as 'right wing' or 'authoritarian' and by the popular media because it is likely to diminish sales or viewers since 'sex sells'. So without a more responsible attitude by the mainstream media the problem of STIs and teenage pregnancies is not going to go away anytime soon.