A few years back, a friend of mine expostulated with his son who was making a nuisance of himself because he was bored. “For God’s sake,” he said, “stop behaving like a child!” There was a pause. “But Dad,” answered the ten-year-old, “I am a child.”
My friend is not the only one to have forgotten the distinction between child and adult. In early June, six children (one as young as ten) gave evidence to a British parliamentary committee about the need for an official commission on children’s rights. Fred Tyson Brown, 14, looked forward to the day when the children’s rights commission would set up offices all round the country so that children could “drop in and say if they had problems”: for example, a parent who did not let them stay out until three in the morning, or a teacher who gave them a bad mark for their homework.
As every tyrant knows, no tyranny is complete until parents have learned to fear denunciation to the authorities by their own children. Of course, in brave new Britain, children will not go to the secret police; rather, they will go to a benevolent (if legalistic) authority, established solely to confer a benefit upon them and to protect their interests. We are not a boot-in-the-face people: ours will be a friendly fascism.
A commission would be pointless unless it had coercive powers: perhaps to remove a parent’s legal rights over his child, or even to grant monetary compensation. For too long, parents have lorded it over their children!
No one who looked at patterns of child rearing in Britain could doubt that something is wrong with them. Our illegitimacy rate is 40 per cent, 25 percent of our children grow up in single-parent households (families isn’t quite the word), and in some areas of the country—the poorest, of course—the figures are even worse. Child neglect and abuse, encouraged by the growth of serial stepfatherhood, are rampant. At the same time, children are exposed to an almost constant mental diet of images of depravity. It is hardly surprising that violent and brutal antisocial behavior occurs at ever-younger ages, and that old people fear to travel on buses in which children are present.
These, we can be sure, are not the problems a future children’s rights commission will tackle. For on the one hand, the state remains studiously agnostic (despite all the evidence) about the kind of family in which it is best for children to grow up, and refuses steadfastly to take any fiscal or other measures to encourage such families; and on the other, it wants to let everyone know that Big Brother is watching. Its intrusion is not for the sake of doing good, but for the sake of exercising power. The ancient principle of divide and rule will henceforth be applied to British families.