Sunday, 15 April 2018

Special, Entitled, Front of the Queue - the Parental Fallacy

Afternoon - thanks to the half dozen or so people who endured my thoughts on the subject that follows the other day.

There is often a scramble for time off work during certain periods of the year, with some invariably being disappointed and having to come in over Christmas, during the kids' school holiday or at another time when it would better suit their living arrangements not to. What actually prompted this piece was a comment I heard on that general theme last week, namely that those with children should get priority in this regard over and above individuals who have no offspring or dependants - i.e. if there are two people asking for the same block of time off work and only one can realistically have it then Mum or Dad are at the front of the queue and the childless can go hang. Interesting.

We live in worryingly collectivist times, where the manufacturing of 'grounds for special treatment' is proving to be one of the few areas in which we can safely say that a skills crisis does not exist. With that in mind it's probably unsurprising that 'support for parents' (often dressed up as looking after children) is just the latest in a long line of 'more stuff for me' moments that have typically been on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, having had a sex change or simply being in either the majority or a minority. To say "that person over there can only have the time off work that I don't want" is a self-identification of oneself as some sort of special case, that much is clear.

We could always go further down fantasy avenue and suggest that working Mums and Dads receive more holiday time and/or are paid a higher basic salary than those serfs who have never been impregnated or impregnated somebody else, be that through good fortune, misfortune or deliberate design. Actually this happens to an extent already, with "sorry the kid's sick" being used by some to claim an impromptu day off or 'work from home' (a laughable scam that is routinely abused and employers should have more tools to clamp down on). As far as remuneration goes, a story from my late teens remains illuminating to this day, even if it makes for uncomfortable reading.

When I took my first 'proper' job at eighteen I'd replied to an advertisement that pitched the salary at precisely ten thousand pounds a year (it was there - salary = £10k in clear and unambiguous print with no asterisk next to it). Upon being deemed 'the successful applicant' I head off for a meeting with my new boss and am told "seeing as you've come straight from college we'll be paying you nine grand". Now, understanding the power dynamic in play I recognised there was basically nothing I could do, but it smacked of 'false advertising' and was an ominous portent of certain naughtiness that would follow further down the line (probably one for Patreon and not here).

Anyway, I resolve that 12 months of hard work and 'proving oneself' would remove the excuse of inexperience and see me paid the proper 'adult rate' for the job I had. Not so - despite an above average performance review I get the two per cent increase that had been applied across the board. Still aware of who was calling the shots here (or at least most of them), I decide to frame my enquiry along the lines of "please tell me what I have to do in order to make myself worth more than I'm currently on", as opposed to coming over as somebody making demands. The response I got to this question didn't really answer it at all and, on reflection, was absolutely astonishing.

Amongst the fluff, blurb and non-response that I got was an observation that "oh well, you'll just have to put up with your parents nagging at you for a while longer". Now the need to mention something like this serves as a real insight into the genuine motivations for the employer's penny-pinching and flat-out refusal to honour the content of the job advert more than a year earlier. Since I still lived with Mum and Dad, rather than having built a life with significant other and kids elsewhere, somebody had clearly rationalised that I didn't need the money as much as certain other people who had different living arrangements, so it was only 'fair' to pay me less than them in line with this.

In reality there is nothing 'fair' about this ugly form of paternalism at all - living alone is probably the 'lifestyle choice' that incurs the greatest costs of living but to suggest that I'm therefore 'owed' something over and above what I'm prepared to work for as a form of compensation would be infantile and absurd. That's entirely my problem and I have to find my own way of working it out - similarly, demanding 'free stuff for me' on the grounds of parental status (regardless of how effective a parent he or she might be) is just another variant on the collectivist silliness that appears to have engulfed modern society. If you can't afford to support a 'big family' then don't have one. Simples.

The British welfare state has always looked after parents under the guise of supporting children. One of the areas in which people on my wing of the political/philosophical thread vary wildly is that regarding the treatment of young people, and I'm actually a bit of a Statist in the realm of 'UBIs for kids' although that 'help' comes with caveats. A free education up to 18? No problem, including something that resembles the 'pupil premium' to help the poorest. Free school meals? On balance I'm more for that than against it. Free uniform vouchers if your kid's school is fashion prescriptive? Ok - I'm open to just about anything that moves benefits away from parents and to the kids themselves.

Although my first choice would be to do away with 'uniforms' of all kinds - that's for another day.

When I was growing up the next door neighbour was busted for circa £40k worth of benefit fraud, including falsely claiming disability and payments based on her husband having 'fled the scene' when he most certainly hadn't. I remember reading about her court case in the local rag and, in an attempt to avoid a custodial sentence, her solicitor had offered up the "she's got kids" defence in the hope that the judge would show leniency (to his great credit he didn't). It's an interesting concept that a Mum or Dad could rob a bank or stab somebody 24 times but get off with a slap on the wrist while the childless serve several years behind bars. So much for 'equality before the law' eh?

We're all familiar with the graduate who stabbed her boyfriend but was spared jail because she was 'supremely talented' and could go on to achieve great things, or the Anthony Joshua 'possession with intent to supply' case in which his undoubted ability as a boxer was offered as a mitigating plea. Sorry, but surely somebody in that situation should weigh up what they are potentially throwing away before embarking on their chosen course of action? Once you start affording leniency on the basis of factors that have nothing to do with the case then are you not letting down the victims of crime while giving those possessed of 'potential' or 'talent' a relatively blank cheque?

And...just as "but I'm so talented" should not detract from the facts of a case, surely the 'defence' of "but I've got kids" ought to have zero effect on the outcome?

I'm also interested and amused by the use of the "have you got kids?" line to 'win' arguments, as if merely becoming a parent represents some moment of epiphany or profound truth - out pops the kid...and Karen from Telford spontaneously turns into Tolstoy or Shakespeare. It is of course complete bollocks but I've run into something along the lines of "but if you had kids you'd think differently/agree with me" so many times that it's clearly something that a lot of otherwise sane and rational people genuinely believe. In reality it's what I've previously referred to as a 'legitimate outlet', used by those seeking to unleash their 'inner shit' and justify all manner of authoritarian nastiness.

Off the top of my head - I'm one thousand percent against any call to restore capital punishment and cannot foresee a situation in which I'd even consider changing my mind. While it goes without saying that adults knowingly having sex with kids or gorging on childporn is absolutely, completely wrong (and stick the perps in jail if there's evidence of anyone having done this) I refuse to join in with the current 'nonce-catching' hysteria which strikes me as having unpleasant motivations of its own while demeaning all of us. Torture is inexcusable, invariably yields misinformation and cannot be justified in any circumstance. Apparently if I were a parent, I'd feel completely differently about these issues.

Speaking of torture I remember an episode of Questionable Time several years ago, during which a complete bastard called Hugh Hendry stated openly that if you needed to torture somebody to get valuable information out of them then you should definitely do so. When pressed about this by a member of the audience he justified his stance by saying "Hugh Hendry's just a guy with two kids who lives in London", as if parenthood had at least clarified and maybe even radically altered his would-be answer to the question. No, Hugh Hendry supports the use of torture for the previously stated reason, because he is a complete bastard. Parenthood was just a semi-legitimising vehicle.

I haven't even got onto the curious 'parental right' to inflict GBH on their offspring in the name of 'correction' or 'discipline' - be assured we'll cover that subject separately and elsewhere.

So surely the mere status of being a parent should entitle an individual to precisely nothing. No new rights, no 'free stuff' or cash benefits over and above or at the expense of others. I'm aware that it's a difficult job (one I was probably never cut out for, although I wish many others possessed that kind of self-awareness) that most who take on do so with the right intentions and a desire to take it seriously. Hey, some people really enjoy being Mums and Dads for all the right reasons and good for them - if you're one of those people then I sincerely hope you don't take what you've just read as a 'hit piece' or anything like that. There's no ill-will intended towards you here.

It's just..."I'm a parent" is no stronger a claim on preferential treatment than one's race, gender or sexual orientation might be. After all, once somebody is a special case then everybody is.

I'll be back midweek with something on racism or the destructive effect of 'fake families' - please vote now if you have a preference.

In the meantime here's Big Audio Dynamite - thanks for reading.

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