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The second case involved a nine-year-old girl called Shannon who was reported missing by her mother and then found, 24 days later, hiding in the house of one of her numerous step relatives. She may have wanted to escape from the chaos at home, but one of her step-relations was charged with kidnapping. Shannon’s mother, it turned out, had seven children by five different men. The shocking detail in her case was that she referred to Shannon and another of her children, born a year earlier, as “twins.” She actually thought that they were twins because they had the same father.
The truth is that decades of intervention by social engineers who either do not understand the importance of fatherhood and family, or, more likely, think they ought to be undermined, is reducing British society to something barely recognizable.
As for Scarlett’s mother, her “whole lifestyle has been one from which the words responsibility or judgment have been excluded,” Melanie Phillips commented. People have been increasingly encouraged to think “they have an absolute right to live exactly as they want without anyone passing judgment on them.” Further, “our deeply irresponsible overclass has put rocket fuel behind the exponential growth [of broken family life] through tax and welfare incentives.”
TO DISCUSS THESE and related matters I had lunch one day with Peter Hitchens, a Mail on Sunday columnist and in my view one of the best journalists in England. He is the younger brother of Christopher Hitchens and disagrees with him about almost everything. (His review of Christopher’s anti-God book is available online along with many other excellent columns and articles.) We met at a small sandwich place off Kensington High Street.
The newspapers were saying that there are almost two million single mothers in Britain, while an additional three million people claim “incapacity benefit.” They have become such a drain that the government is threatening to resort to a truly draconian measure: incapacity claimants may actually have to demonstrate that they are incapacitated. Hard hearted! The Guardian will no doubt launch a crusade asking why the government is picking on the handicapped.
Couples sometimes deliberately split up to receive welfare that tops market wages. One in five children grow up in households where one or both parents are paid for being out of work, even as workers pour in from Poland because so many jobs go unfilled. About $56 million in “child benefit” is now sent every year to Polish families who continue to live in Poland after the head of household moved to take a job in Britain.
Hitchens had some rough figures showing that almost all of the country’s income-tax revenues are now consumed by these “social protection” transfers. The problem arose, he said, when a new law “allowed single mothers to go straight to the state” for support — no questions asked. He thinks that the Conservatives will not try to do anything about it because they support no principle that can differentiate them from Labour on the issue.
He told me of an occasion in 2001 when Tony Blair gave a speech, urging that “no party should ever again attempt to lead this country by proposing to cut Britain’s schools, hospitals, [or] public services. Never again a return to the agenda of the 1980s.” Few journalists were on hand so Hitchens took the opportunity to ask Blair if he did not think it odd to be setting not just Labour’s agenda but the Conservatives’ as well. Not odd at all, Blair replied. It was essential.
Anyway, the Tories since then have obeyed Blair’s edict.
“We may have had it,” Peter Hitchens told me, reflecting on how things have deteriorated since 2001. “I think this country has more or less had it.”
Government education is also falling apart, he said, and in ways that will sound all too familiar here. In Britain, 93 percent of children attend state schools. Some teachers face harassment, even physical attack by boys from broken homes. Often, teachers have to acquire the skills of social workers before they can teach anything. Amazingly, a new survey showed that 17 out of the top 20 schools in Britain, judged by exam results, are fee-paying. Further, almost all the best performing schools are single sex — boys or girls, not co-ed.
The continuing egalitarian obsession has actually put the children of non-rich parents at a disadvantage greater than it was in the old days. When I was growing up in Britain, the state schools still worked well; the brighter students could advance to schools where they could get into Oxford or Cambridge and so on. Today these universities bend over backwards to admit as many state-educated students as possible, but the competition is so fierce that fully 50 percent of their places are now taken by students from the small minority of fee-paying schools.
Some effective state schools survive, but markets rule one way or the other. If you try to qualify your child for admission to one of these schools by moving nearby, you will probably pay in housing what you avoid in school fees. House prices in the “catchment areas” for these schools tend to be sky high. As for those fees, Winchester (second in the league tables) charges $53,000 a year. (Westminster is top, Eton third.)
Even the private schools, Hitchens said, have revolutionized instruction in some subjects. English history, for example, has been rewritten in ways that reflect the new determination to abolish Britain. The goal is the “overthrow of the past,” and the removal “of rival or alternative moral and cultural forces and structures.” That is how Hitchens put it in his excellent book The Abolition of Britain (available from Encounter Books). Pointing out that in 1967 the Reith Lectures (BBC) blamed most of society’s problems on the traditional family, Hitchens has compared the ongoing revolution in Britain with Mao’s “concentrated efforts to bury China’s past.” The British version may have been more effective, however, because undeclared, and achieved by democracy, stealth, and consent rather than tyranny and coercion.
Parliament, when I was in England, voted not to hold a referendum on the new European “constitution.” So the people will not be able vote it down — as happened in France and the Netherlands. Yet the Labour Party had won the 2005 general election on a manifesto promising such a referendum. A former French president described the background in these words: “Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.” That is what is happening.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?