Monday, 31 March 2014

Hard hearts and hard times

There are parents who if their children were hungry would give them a stone to eat. There are parents who think that providing for their children means looking after them like animals eg. giving them shelter and food. Such parents see their offspring as burdens and the whole of their childrens’ lives are blighted due a distinct lack of love.

Hard hearts are aplenty in the weird (and less wonderful) world of parenting. Some people are just incapable of it and perhaps society is starting to understand as legislation in the UK is making emotional abuse a criminal act. Too little, too late is my take on the naievete of law makers who believe that emotional pain was ever absent from physical and sexual abuses to children.

The game plan for an abuser is to destroy a child’s self esteem and this is done in several ways. The most basic and cruel way is to not be tactile and affectionate. There are no hugs, kisses or kindnesses so grains of fear and mistrust are planted in an innocent heart. The child, whose emotional circuitry is set by the age of five, then sees himself as unlovable and displays these symptoms in a myriad of ways. Some become withdrawn , some become boisterous and some are at the start of their bi-polar journey from which they don’t often recover.

Emotional abuse compromises the full development of a child’s intellectual abilities. A child who receives little or no loving attention will not value themselves enough to succeed at school. They already suffer from feelings of inadequacy and despondency so what’s the point of trying to be good at anything? Prisons are full of felons with low academic ability and there’s a direct correlation between a lack of parental interest and becoming  a societal cause for concern.

Parents need to take a long hard look at themselves. They need help and certainly every parent should be compelled to take a parenting courses to understand the proper care and feeding of babies, toddlers, teenagers. A parent needs to know how to feed minds and nourish hearts as this is the only way to create  well rounded individuals. The body should not be cosseted at the expense of the mind.

Bringing up a child requires inspiration and dedication and to pass on such qualities, parents themselves need to know how. Leaving your child playing for hours on their play station is not the way to do it. Allowing children to spend hours holed up in their bedrooms on mobile phones/social media is not the way to do it. Trying to be your child’s friend and giving in to every childish demand is not the way to do it. Not showing your child that there are rewards/consequences for good/poor behaviour is not the way to do it.  Being a weak role model is not the way to do it. Not saying “no” to your child because you fear them is not the way to do it.
Parenting takes perspiration and if you want to reduce your body odour then keep a check on your baby-making equipment. Take precautions, be selfish and leave parenting to those energetic souls who can take the heat and stay in the kitchen. Not everyone is cut out for parenting just as not everyone is cut out for space exploration!

If we don’t apply  strict controls on who sign up for parenting then we are going to have to deal with the aftermath and that means an ever increasing prison population. We don’t need to build more prisons if we build better parents.

If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world then the cradle’s contents has seen the fist and suffered the effects of bruises and black eyes. Young hearts stained with neglect and pain develop into young adulthood making poor life choices. The girl who marries to get away from her parents only to find that she’s married a man in a similar vein. The boy who gets into the grip of substance addiction or indulges in abuse himself since he doesn’t want to or can’t do any better.  

Low ambition and insecurity dog the footsteps of the unloved. A law to out emotional abusers is too little and too late for those of us who now purporting to be effective role models, pillars of the community and politicians. The law must not only dole out suitable punishments to abusers but supporting the victims is even more critical.

Hard hearts can’t be changed by law but bringing them to book might make them think. Schools, doctors and the police must lead the crusade for better treatment of children by paying attention to anti-social behaviour. Many a teacher can also abuse and the government must root out those who are not fit for purpose.

Hard hearts beget hard times and that’s not good enough for any child. A child’s heart is marshmallow soft and spirit even more fragile. A child cannot make sense of the environment its born into and is prone to emotional disturbance. If a child lives without emotional protection then every fairy story is a lie because there is no triumph over evil and certainly no happy-ever-after. 


Thursday, 6 March 2014

An Empire State of Mind

Having recently returned from my first ever transatlantic crossing to the Big Apple I can now evaluate the experience.

The sights are as spectacular as its written about in all the best guide books but here’s my take:

Grand Central station – exquisite architecture for a railway station

New York Public architecture – grandiose and magnificent spectacle on 5th Avenue

9//11 Memorial – water fountains now mark the spot surrounded by plaques where the names of those who perished are inscribed. A poignant reminder of the dark side of human nature.

Battery Park – covered in snow

Skyscrapers – lots of them so don’t break your neck looking at them

Empire State – the view from the 86th floor is not be missed

Times Square – aaah the bright lights and David Beckham running around advertising his undies!

 Statue of Liberty – the lady with the torch and the book. Apparently, Mr Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) had to be draughted in to build the structure. It was a clear day with so the lady looked great framed in blue.

Shops: 5th Avenue & Macy’s will delight those bargain hunters and if you’re from across the pond….they’re irresistible! Love the 50% & 75 % off everything sales.

Eateries: plentiful and cheap. Some exotic finds were giant pretzels and Kronuts

 New York, New York – so good they named it twice! Hmmm… my Asian-European eyes, my particular area of interest is the immigrant experience. After all, surely America grew up to be the super power it is based on that hardworking bunch……so….. they may have a thing or two to teach other nations.

Surely they do but not all of it good. Those poor souls who arrived on Ellis Island were the ne-er do wells and lesser fortunate emigres  looking for opportunity and adventure. Perhaps the combined vision of so many peoples, cultures and languages was a little skewed and so the establishment of a new order brought more controversy than harmony.

New York is not so much as melting pot but more of a giant frittata – it’s a bit of this and a bit of that. This amalgamation of cultures has created a diversified dilemma: how do you preserve unique cultures and human rights whilst building a country? You don’t…….America’s success is based upon a survival…the survival of the fittest…..and the fight to be top dog.

Irish, Italian, Jewish, African, Chinese, Russian –New York is all of this and more. In this helter-skelter new world, the gun was mightier than the pen and it was every man for himself. America may be wealthy but its heart has been ripped out. America suffers from a cultural inferirority complex due to its dubious roots. Slavery and its legacy is the permanent blot on the landscape and third generation African-Americans wear a haunted look.

New Yorkers, as I observed during my brief soujourn, appear to have frozen facial muscles. If you’re expecting a warm welcome, beware……smiles are not forthcoming and politeness may be going out of fashion……except on Fifth Avenue. “Please” and “Thank you” are mostly heard only when spending copious amounts of dollars and I don’t recall too many people saying: “Have a nice day!”.

America is a conundrum that the British relinquished after much bloodshed. It was a beast that couldn’t be tamed and wanted its freedom and independence. Once freedom from the rulers was obtained they appeared to be reluctant to abolish slavery until Mr Lincoln declared all out war on this tyranny.

America did put the first man on the moon and that was an awesome feat along with its other technological developments but it must help improve and care for Mother Earth.  Reducing pollution and recycling its garbage would be a great initiative and I didn’t notice a lot of that.

Big countries have big problems and, with Obama, at the helm there will be progress but the one who follows him will have a tough act to follow.

Every American is not born equal since not everyone’s driving a Cadillac! But every American is born into a gun culture and with no free medical care if you happen to get in the way of stray bullets. Human dignity is a concept that requires interpretation for our bretheren across the pond: the right to be human and be valued and accepted in spite of our human frailties. It’s a global work-in-progress and every country has “could do better” on its report card.

A truly empire state of mind remembers and cares for the impoverished and downtrodden. I was surprised to see TV ads asking for funds for ex-military personnel who have been maimed in global conflict. Every tax paying US citizen must carry the burden of military action or America needs to re-think its foreign policy...and stay out!
  You may throw money at the problem but it’s not a long term solution. America (and the rest of the world) needs to refresh its thinking and strive to make  hearts and minds as rich as their tax havens……and that’s a state I can relate to.