Monday, 6 July 2009

Enlightenment on the no.19

To any liberal or sane person (or those I know anyway), the Daily Mail is an unequivocal symbol of all that is wrong with British society. Fascist and overly obsessed with Diana and/or illegal immigrants, I have always avoided it for reasons I hope you can identify with. However, it struck me today that I haven't ever read it from front to back, as I would have done a set text at university. Having an allegation thrown at me from a disgruntled subject of one of my more vitriolic posts has perhaps made me more considerate of my outpouring. So, when I by happenstance found a copy of the Mail shoved between two bus seats this evening, I picked it up and started the flick-through. Yes, the readership of the London Paper reduced by one (or two because I used one to shield myself from the rain earlier) as I delved into the unknown, into the pages of the newspaper equivalent of a young girl dressing in her mother's clothing, calling herself a woman when she is an ignorant slip of a girl; a tabloid in a broadsheet's ill-fitting clothing.

I have to say I was surprised. And pleasantly at first. Shock horror. They lead with an article about Gary McKinnon, who is the subject of an extradition order due to his hacking into Pentagon computers to research his theories on extra-terrestrial life. The US are apparently trying to get him sent over so they can incarcerate him for 60 years (10 per crime). The UK want him here for what may be only five. The crux is that this guy has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Anyone who has an autistic family member will know what this means - basically that Gary has brilliant capabilities and a phenomenal intelligence, which is the good side of autism. But Gary also finds it difficult to get on socially. He probably can't look people in the eye when he talks to them, and finds interaction uncomfortable; he doesn't have any ulterior motive but to satisfy his own curiosity - using his own means to do so, which just so happen to be that little bit more advanced than the rest of ours. The US are using a law designed to impede terrorists to extradite this man, in order to enforce a sentence that is longer than that endured by rapists or some murderers. The Mail have launched a massive campaign towards disabling the extradition order - no doubt motivated by their incumbent opposition to the liberal US environment - but nonetheless, the have struck a good chord. I'm thus far convinced.

The next article I read was regarding Harriet Harman, the Labour minister for women and equality and her views on the recent "pink" war between Tories and Labour. Harman is not without fault, but I don't really want to bother commenting on the expenses furore, it's been done. Regardless of that, Harman has made a few brilliant points recently. Both Labour and Conservative have been vying for the "pink" vote. This means gay. Both have been actively badmouthing those who make judgement on same sex marriage, both suggesting that equality is the ideal state of human interaction. We all know that's the way forward, don't we, but does either party mean it?

Sarah Brown appeared at the London Pride march. David Cameron - of late - has been sitting in on plans to financially reward the married heterosexual couple and bandies about statistics suggesting children in a separated or non-traditional heterosexual mother/father unit will be significantly disadvantaged. I am willing to listen to attitudes that suggest an orthodox family unit spawns happy and adjusted children, but I have dozens of examples and personal experience that informs otherwise.

So, the main statistics are:

1. One in eleven married new parents split up, as opposed to 1/3 unmarried new parents
2. Children do best when brought up by two parents who are committed to each other, long term
3. Children of separated parents are 50% more likely to do badly at school

Fair enough? Not really. The Tories haven't bothered to look at statistics on marriage. Marriages in 2008 were actually at the lowest they have been for 150 years, which means that the people getting married - for the most part - are thinking about it considerably more, and making the decision sensibly. The financial implications for divorces are also a factor.

However, as a child of divorce, I have quite strong feelings on the matter. My response to the statistics are this:

1. Once you're married it is more difficult to separate. Financially and socially. Parents of newborn children are equally stressed whether they're married, co-habiting or otherwise. It's just more difficult to separate when you're married.
2. Children probably do do better when they're brought up by two parents who are committed to one another. They also so pretty terribly when they are brought up by parents who are together for the sake and appearance of marriage but aren't committed to each other.
3. Children of separation or divorce are 50% more likely to do badly at school? I refute this. My parents separated when I was in the middle of my GSCEs and I had more friends whose parents were apart than were together. Yes, single parents are at a disadvantage, and they must spread themselves more thinly. Rewarding married couples and doing nothing to help them - a la Torie - will not resolve anything. Children should not be penalised or influenced by their parents' decisions and feelings.

So, on to the main rant.

Of course, the true colours of the Mail come out in the Comments section. It's so much easier to let a columnist wax lyrical about her disgust with equality than admit to it in black and white, isn't it?

I'm not sure who Melanie Phillips is, but she is undoubtedly characterised by the subtitles to her own article: "Abuse", "Bigotry", "Bullying". All pre-requisites to working for the Mail it seems. In a completely weird and misguided column, Phillips outlines her support for the Conservatives' line on marriage, but states it is in contradiction to their stance on gays - in that they should be equal. I agree, actually. The Tories' behaviour smacks of approval seeking with no preference of how its gained. Gays: yes. Married: yes? Gay Marrieds? NO! This is clearly ridiculous.

What infuriates me is that the objection Phillips has it towards the gay aspect of Conservative policy. She isn't actually critiquing their stance on marriage, she's refuting their Gay policy. Admittedly, its well dressed-up as a debate on Conservative consistency, but statements like this give her away: "...marriage is a not a 'relationship' but a unique institution for safe-guarding the upbringing of children. It has to be protected in turn by a web of law and custom, tradition and attitudes. That web has been destroyed by the 'all is equal' doctrine". What?!

If you want to take that tact...Fred and Rose West were married and brought up their children together. Quite a lot of other things have also been destoyed by the "all is equal" doctrine - like inequal pay, only men being able to vote, apartheid being outlawed...

Unfortunately the Mail has not quite redeemed itself!