Friday, June 30, 2006

Why I Like England (or Not as the Case May Be).

The following was written in response to the above question as posed by Dave Hill of Temperama.

I've been wondering - could it be that loving one's country, like loving one's kids, is the kind of thing that it's pretty easy to accomplish alarmingly badly? After all, it's seriously tempting to go about both enterprises in a thoroughly narcissistic fashion, it being so much fun broadcasting one's gargantuan pride in one's love object and basking in the supposed reflected glory. But then to this end, a narcissist must distort his representation of the victim, aggrandizing the poor flunky into a near-total fiction. And the sad thing is that there can be nasty consequences. A child who suffers this sort of treatment will most likely develop either a crippling sense of failure, his own narcissistic defenses or quite probably a bit of both. In the case of love of country, such behavior is probably a significant factor in starting wars.

Of course, it is perfectly possible to love both children and country without scrabbling around to fulfill the need for personal aggrandizement. This grown-up kind of love involves an inclination to see things as accurately as possible, and like as not, also working to make good.

Problem is, I do love England narcissistically. Don't seem to be able to help it. In equally dubious taste, I frequently love manifestations of narcissism in England. My life is ridiculously improved by neo-classical edifices rearing up out of deer-strewn parklands. I hanker after crumbling castles and cloisters of Gothic cathedrals. It's bad really seeing as it is all extremely dodgy ethically. Basically it seems I love to introject and crow about these patron-promoting bits of puff which also happen to be products of feudal/aristocratic societies.

I do, however, actually manage a more meaningful relationship with England and this time, I acknowledge more accurately what I'm getting into. I'm talking here about the issue of freedom for English families and the related matter of parental responsibility, particularly in the light of child welfare/education law. This is a proper relationship: I appreciate the good and fret about the bad though I don't hate England for these faults.

It is the case that the English have, until recently, had reasonable grounds to think that they may have some sort of private life, and that parents have a right to educate their children as they themselves see fit. This grew from a long history of respect for freedom and scepticism about the power of the state, as exemplified in the works of John Locke, Tom Paine, John Stuart Mill, E.G. West and Karl Popper. It is manifested today in the choices that parents can exercise with regard to the education of their children. I treasure the fact that families in England can educate children themselves, outside the school system. Home educating families and the related support and self-help groups that spring up as a result of this choice to take full responsibility for the life of one's family are, for me, inspiring lessons in the proper use of freedom.

But it is clear that the freedom we have enjoyed in these areas is threatened by recent changes in English law, such as the Children Act, 2004, as a result of which we may well lose all reasonable hope of a private life, and effectively hand over responsibility for the welfare and education of our children to the state. We are teetering on the very edge of this abyss and the situation is not helped by the fact that most families are not even vaguely aware of the threat.

It is the case that the Act and other bits of specifically English child protection policy are driving a wedge between children and their parents, since the state now not not only asserts its duty to ensure that our children be not abused, but that they must also provide services to ensure that our kids are happy, make positive contributions, eat their five portions etc. Local authorities will be judged upon whether they manage to achieve these outcomes.

The question that springs to mind here - at what point do parents lose responsibility for their children? If someone takes it upon themselves to ensure that children achieve a certain set of objectives that are not necessarily those of the parents, it is not unreasonable to think that parents have lost the duty of primary responsibility. I find this so saddening as well as terrifying. It eats into the aspect of Englishness that I love most of all.

The freedoms we have enjoyed in this country are worth cherishing and should not be relinquished so easily. The more people can be alerted to the threat that faces us, the better, since we should be prepared to fight for the things we love properly - for the warts and all.

There's a bundle of excellent information on the threat to the precious freedom for English families at Arch Rights Blog and their related Database Masterclass Blog.

1 comment:

Dave Hill said...

This is great!

I'll use it all!