Saturday, June 30, 2007

Neil Lyndon: The Best Interests of the State

This is Neil Lyndon's recent conference speech, reproduced with his permission:

I hope you will have seen the quote from Daniel Patrick Moynahan which I am taking as the rubric for this talk but for anybody who hasn‘t, here it is. This is from his book "Family and Nation", where he said - "There is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos... And it is richly deserved."

Moynahan included that remark in his Godkin lectures at Harvard in 1986 but he wrote it, originally, in 1965 - which, it is a paradox to recognise, was possibly the last moment in human history when the ancient order that had more or less prevailed between men and women for centuries was still very largely intact. It was still broadly true at that moment that men went to work and women stayed at home to look after the family. It was still possible to raise a family on the single income that the father might earn. It was still true that most men and women had sex only with the person they married and expected to stay married to that person for life. Life, at that time, meant life. Such a state might not have been much fun but it was stable, orderly and predictable.

If Moynahan thought he was observing chaos in 1965, God knows what word he would have used to describe what happened thereafter. Within a year, the contraceptive pill for women would become freely available across the developed world and - for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, however you choose to view or interpret it - the entire order of things between men and women changed fundamentally, irreversibly and forever.

Everything that we now observe in the changed position of women and men - especially the reduced position of men in marriage, the elimination of men as fathers, the marginalisation of men as figures of authority and respect in the upbringing of children, the ridiculing of men in every quarter of the culture - all that stems from that pivotal moment in history when women became, for the first time ever, able to decide for themselves - with infallible certainty - whether or not to become pregnant and subsequently, with the introduction of abortion by vacuum curettage, whether or not to carry a baby to term. All sexual and familial power devolved to women from that instant.

For a moment, however, let’s just think back over 40 years to 1965 and for those whose memories don’t stretch that far, allow me to take you there with a wave of my magic authorial wand.

In 1965, I was 18 and taking my A-levels at a comprehensive school in rural north Dorset. It is a very big school now, with nearly 2000 pupils, but in those days there were only 650, in equal numbers of girls and boys. It was a remarkable school in many ways and I owe it my life for reasons that aren’t relevant to this talk but, looking back on it, the most remarkable thing that strikes me now is that, in the whole time I was there, throughout the early and mid-1960s, only one girl that we knew about got pregnant. Maybe there were others, though I doubt it. It’s possible that some girls got pregnant and were whisked away and the rest of us never realised what was happening but I doubt it. On the face of it, therefore, of the 1000 or so girls who passed through that school while I was there, only one got pregnant, had to leave school and gave birth. What became of her? She married the baby’s father.

We haven’t finished with 1965, we’ll go back there in a moment but let’s now spool forward to a moment in 2003, nearly 40 years later. I am talking on the phone to my stepson who is 18 - the same age as I was in 1965. He is on his mobile. He is standing in the street in the little town in Suffolk where he grew up. Suddenly, he breaks off. “Hang on a second,” he says, “I’ve just seen something remarkable.” Then he tells me that five girls he knew from his year at school have just walked past him and three of them are pushing babies in prams and pushchairs. When I asked him how many of the girls who had gone to his coeducational comprehensive school at the same time as him had subsequently become pregnant, he blew out his cheeks and guessed “25”. That’s out of about 200 girls. And how many of those girls were living with the fathers of their babies? Not one.

So in 40 years, in roughly comparable schools, each of which draws its pupils from roughly similar catchments in terms of social class and income, you go from a position where one girl in 1000 gets pregnant and she then marries the father to a position where one girl in 10 has a baby and the father of every one of those babies is nowhere to be seen.

What on earth happened in those 40 years to produce such an unprecedented change?

One thing I can tell you absolutely for certain: it wasn’t that girls suddenly discovered sex after 1966. My school in Dorset was positively thrumming with sexual intrigue and excitement from top to bottom and all day every day. Nothing in my subsequent life - and I worked at the BBC for some years which was like going to work in a Roman orgy at times - nothing comes close to the intensity of sexual interest and activity at that school.

Yet nobody got pregnant. Why? It certainly wasn’t thanks to reliable contraception. Condoms were the only form of mass-produced contraception widely available to adolescents at that time and most of us couldn’t afford them more than once or twice a year. The barber’s whispered offer of “something for the weekend” was available only to men in work and even they probably couldn’t afford more than a packet of three. No. Girls didn’t get pregnant because girls made damned sure they didn’t get pregnant; and the boys all understood that a pregnancy would be such a total disaster that it was worth suffering almost any pain or self-denial or second-hand substitute rather than risk it. A teenage pregnancy was a calamity for everybody - not just the girl but the boy, too, and both their families - one of which would probably have to give accommodation to the new baby under their own roof.

So why do girls today get pregnant and have babies - or abortions - in such numbers?

Can it be because - as we are constantly being told by hand-wringing social agencies - they don’t get good enough sex education at school? In other words, is it because they don’t know what they are doing?

Are you kidding (perhaps that’s not the best way of putting the question in this context)? Perhaps I should say: Are you serious?

The idea that hundreds of thousands of teenage girls in this country get pregnant because they don’t know anything about sex is as remote from reality as the notion that Father Christmas comes down the chimney. A generation brought up on East Enders and Neighbours, on Hollyoaks and Big Brother, on Girls Aloud and Sugababes is not short of the most graphic and explicit information on every aspect of sex - even those which many sensitive adults would want to receive only with their hands over their ears or eyes. My wife is a primary school teacher. She has had to give sex lessons to children as young as seven. She is adamant that, apart from special needs pupils who might not be able to comprehend the message, there wouldn’t be a single girl at primary school over the age of 10 who hadn’t been more completely informed about sex than my generation had been by the time we were of marrying age at 16.

So it isn’t ignorance that gets them pregnant. And it isn’t the lack or unavailability or expense of contraception. Girls today can get the Pill from their GPs at the age of 14 and no questions asked. Boys can get condoms free at contraceptive clinics, even at some schools. They’ve got a thousand times better access to contraception yet they have a thousand times more babies. There are approximately 40,000 teenage conceptions a year in England alone of which 60% lead to live births.

Why?

The answer must be that they do it because they get paid to do it. They do it because it’s the best career move on offer to them. They do it because they’ve got nothing better to do. They do it because the state makes it worth their while.

Every one of those girls my stepson saw in the street was living on state benefits to provide for their baby and themselves. None of them was working. Every one of them was living in accommodation provided by and largely furnished by the state. The government itself says that “benefit payments to a teenage mother who does not enter employment in the three years following birth can total between £19000-£25000 over three years”. If you multiply those figures by the number of live births, the total goes off the end of your calculator. It’s hundreds of millions of pounds a year from the national exchequer.

For what? For misery. For deprivation. For despair. For a depth of chaos which Daniel Patrick Moynahan could not begin to have imagined when he spoke about chaos in 1965.

There isn’t any dispute about the scale of the social catastrophe which follows from the birth of so many children to single teenage mothers. The government officially acknowledges that such children are greatly increased risk of “poverty, low educational attainment, poor housing, poor health, and lower rates of economic activity in adult life.” They are far more likely to get a police record, to appear in court and to be sent to prison. The young men who emerge from such households are generically incapable of forming stable relationship themselves, never acquiring - as Moynahan described it - any set of rational expectations about the future and are highly likely themselves to inseminate teenage girls and then to have no role in the upbringing of their offspring.

It is impossible to see any advantage at all to the state in any aspect of this set of circumstances. The cost is appalling. The consequences are frightening. The future is almost unbearable to contemplate.

So why on earth do we perpetuate this state of affairs?

We do it - I would like to propose - because we live in an age when the claims of the individual are held to be generally superior to the interests of the state and when, in particular, the holiest of holy writs is a woman’s right to act in any way she chooses - no matter how quixotic that choice may be and regardless of its consequences for society at large.

This has been the principle which has underpinned state policy on abortion for the last 40 years and it has been an unmitigated catastrophe. More than six millions lives have been stilled since the 1967 Abortion Act - a figure which is exactly equal to the decline of the native population in the same period - and there isn’t a single person, not even the most ardent proponent of abortion, who has a good word to say for that particular melancholy number. They may celebrate the freedom of the individual to make the choice to have an abortion but nobody celebrates the collective results of those choices. Nobody is triumphant that demand for abortions rises year on year so that it now approaches 200,000 a year in England and Wales - despite the free availability of contraception - and the cost continues to average about £1000 for each surgical procedure so a considerable sum of state money is being spent.

Nobody has ever claimed that any benefit proceeds to the state from this multitude of abortions except, I suppose it could be argued that if the state pays for an abortion it doesn’t have to pay to bring up an impoverished, ineducable delinquent who will become an unemployable criminal adult and the absent father or the unfit mother of yet another individual who will probably be exactly the same. But the best that you could say of that benefit that would be to describe it as negative.

But what if - what if - the state were to reverse its priorities. What if it were to declare that its own interests were paramount. What if the state were to say that - since there is no benefit that redounds to the state from these expenditures on single mothers or on abortions - that the state therefore ceases those payments? No more maternity pay. No more council houses. No more free abortions.

There would be no interference in the rights of individuals if the state took that position. A teenager would still be free to get pregnant if she chose to do so and would still be free to have an abortion. But, either way, she would have to pay or she would have to find somebody else to help her pay - which would probably be the father of the child and, possibly, her family. Or - as it always was in the past - she would have to turn to charity. The only difference would be that the state would no longer pay for the woman’s right to exercise her freedom. She would exercise it at her own - or if she was lucky - her man’s expense.

What then? What changes would result from that change in state policy? To get the answer to that question, I suggest you ask some teenagers. I have. Guess what they say? They say - immediately, without reserve - that the girls would make sure that they didn’t get pregnant. Which is exactly what girls did in 1965 and all the centuries before the present age.

If a girl knows that there is no advantage to be gained by getting pregnant - the word actually should be benefit - there is no benefit to be gained, she is going to pay a great deal more attention to the question of contraception. She is also going to want to know a great deal more about a boy’s intentions towards her offspring if she knows that she can only expect to receive material and emotional support from him if she gives birth.

Now, let’s ask this question: whose interests apart from the interests of the state would be served by such a set-up? Answer: the child’s.

It is, self-evidently, in a child’s interests to be conceived by a mother who can expect to be able to provide for him or her. It is obviously - and nobody argues against this - in a child’s interests to be born into a stable relationship between father and mother in which settled arrangements are in place for the child’s future welfare and upbringing. It is in a child’s best interests to have a family - not to be dependent upon the state as an absent, penny-pinching and impersonal parent. A piece in the papers yesterday spoke about the “father-hunger” of masses of black boys in this country who have been born to single mothers and have never known any father love except in the remote form of a gang membership. Such is the tragic outcome of a state policy which entitles a woman to have a baby at the state’s expense.

The policy that the child’s best interests should come first in the family courts has long and correctly been identified by campaigners for fathers’ rights as a sham because what it actually means - as Lady Justice Butler-Schloss’s has openly declared - is that the child’s interests are identical with the mother’s. But what needs to be restored to the operations of the family courts, the legislature and the executive is that their first duty is to preserve and uphold the interests of the state, not the individual. And if you take the interests of the state as being paramount, it becomes obvious that our laws and employment practices and our tax system and our system of honours and privileges should all be directed towards the support of the family - because it is in the family that the child’s interests can best be promoted and protected. In other words, the child’s best interests are synonymous not with the mother’s but with the state’s best interests and vice versa.

So, if we stop paying for abortions and single mothers - and save all that money that we would be spending on special schools and social workers and police forces and courts and prisons - what do we do with the money? I’ll tell you what we do (actually I wrote all this in my 1992 book No More Sex War): we spend it on families, preferably on families where the parents are married. We extend subsidies to mothers and fathers of young children so that neither of them has to work at all during the first year of a baby’s life. We remove taxes on their incomes to such an extent that a mother and a father each working part-time can support children up to school age. We make it beneficial and profitable for couples to marry, to take time off work to look after their own children and to stay together.

In other words, we should live in a state that puts the children’s interests first because theirs are the essential interests of the state.

How is this to be achieved? It won’t happen through a men’s movement, that’s for sure. I think by now we have to recognise that no cognisance is going to be taken in our lifetime of the injustices that have been inflicted on men in our own lifetime. I simply don’t believe that is going to happen.

It won’t happen through any of the established political parties because they are all indissolubly committed to the status quo, largely without the slightest tremor of recognition that it is unsustainable.

Maybe the Equal Parenting Alliance could consider these measures as policy; but, to my mind, change is most likely to come through a taxpayers’ revolt. The fuel tax protests of 2000 did give me a lot of heart because they demonstrated that a Poujadist uprising, even today can scare a government half to death. The limited risings of outraged pensioners who have refused to pay their increased community charge is also a heartening sign, in a little way. But if a grouping like the Taxpayers’ Alliance were capable of raising a million or more people who were committed to change and if they all said with one voice: stop paying for single mothers and stop paying for abortions in the name of the best interests of the state or we shall withhold our taxes en masse from next April 5 - then the government would be forced to listen.

So that’s what I am going to do. I am going to join and support the Taxpayers Alliance and I am going to try to get them to adopt these policies and I suggest you do the same. Why don’t we make it our aim to incite a taxpayers’ strike within five years? I could then spend my 65th birthday in prison which would be a fitting result.

Good luck and happy Father’s Day.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Fathers' Rights manifesto

I came across this video today on YouTube. It makes a very valid point.



Since the late 1960s, feminists have been saying "My Body, My Choice", talking of "A woman's right to choose". They insist that women have complete control over their own fertility. This would seem like a reasonable demand on the face of it. However, it does not consider the position of fathers. If the woman wants to decide, completely for herself, whether to have a child or not, then she should also take all the responsibility for that child. You can't have your cake and eat it. If she expects the father to contribute to the upkeep of the child, then he must also have some input into the decision making process. If he does not, then he is effectively a slave.

In 1776, a slogan of the American Revolutionaries was 'No Taxation Without Representation'. Yet fathers today find themselves in exactly the same position; they have no say at all in whether or not to have childen, but they can still be obliged to pay after the woman has made her decision. A father can be denied any contact with his own children, while still being obliged to pay for them. Fathers are subject to taxation with out representation. This is an indefensible situation. Women have all the rights and all the choice, while men have all the responsiblity.

Joint responsibility has to involve joint parenting, and joint decision-making. At the moment, a woman can choose to have a child knowing full well that others - the father and/or the State - will support it for her if she so chooses. This will affect her decision. If she had to take responsibility for the child herself, she might calculate differently. If she wants the father's input, then it cannot be completely on her terms. He is a human being too, and a parent, the same as her.

Given the existence of forced fatherhood (where she conveniently 'forgets' to take her pill), and paternity fraud (where she claims that some poor jerk is the father when she knows perfectly well he isn't), the situation is doubly intolerable. Men simply have no reproductive rights at all.

A basic fathers' manifesto should include the following:

  • If a pregnancy occurs and the couple separate, the couple should have a joint decision making process about whether or not to go ahead with the pregnancy.

  • If the woman wishes to go ahead without the father's support, then she cannot expect his finanical support either. The decision to have the child is her sole decision and thus her sole responsibility.

  • We demand offical recognition of the truth about domestic violence and child abuse. The scientific evidence is clear. The mother is as likely as the father to engage in such behaviour, and false accusations are endemic.

  • If lawyers encourage divorcing parents to make false allegations, they should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions.

  • Joint parenting should be the norm following divorce. Sole custody should be the exception, used only where there is verifiable evidence of violence. The mother's mere say-so does not constitute verifiable evidence.

  • In the case of sole custody, there must be no assumption of female custody. The father should be as likely as the mother to win sole custody.

  • Child support orders should never be made without routine DNA verification of paternity.

  • If a man is deceived into believing a child is his when it is not, the woman should be liable to criminal fraud charges.

  • Child support orders should never be made without commensurate joint-parenting orders. The role of the father extends beyond merely being a walking ATM machine for the mother to plunder at will.

  • Joint-parenting orders must be enforced by the courts. Mothers should not be able to ignore contact orders at will, safe in the knowledge that the courts will never enforce them. If contact is blocked by the mother for no good reason, she should face contempt of court proceedings, up to and including imprisonment. The children can reside with the father while she is serving her sentence.

  • Child support payments must be accountable. The mother should keep receipts and account for where the money has gone to, as is standard practice in the workplace.

  • The money can only be used for the benefit of the child, not the mother.

  • The mother can be asked to produce evidence, such as goods purchased.

  • The amount paid should be based upon the child's actual needs, not the father's income level.

Once we abandon the assumption of maternal custody, as I demand here, we would have to rephrase my points. Instead of talking of the 'mother' and 'father', we would talk of the 'custodial' and 'non-custodial' parents respectively. Remember also that sole custody would be the exception. For now, I need to express it in this way to highlight the shocking mess that is our Family Court system.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday morning coffee.

Sunday morning. I wake up early. No milk in the fridge for coffee. I put on my shoes and go out to the local Asian-run grocery store on the corner. Will it be open so early on a Sunday? I approach it, and see that it is. I smile. It's so reliable. Always there when I need it.

The young man who serves me is the youngest son of the family. He's disabled, very slightly built with eyesight and co-ordination problems, and mild learning difficulties. He is able to help out in the shop at quiet times, or when other members of the family are not around. He's clearly very proud of his work, and is always extremely polite and helpful.

I suddenly wished Germaine Greer was with me. I wanted to say to her, "Look, Germaine. It's your class enemy. He's oppressing you. He's a member of the evil Patriarchal ruling class, and you're a member of the oppressed victim class. Quick! You need to wage warfare for your own liberation!".

Or maybe it would be better if Valerie Solanas had been there. I could have asked her, "Is this what you meant when you said that a man is 'a walking abortion'?"

Or if Marilyn French had been available I could have asked her, "When you say that 'men are rapists and that's all they are', does that include my friend here?"

Or I could have asked Mary Daly, "You know when you said that you want to reduce the male population to 10% of the overall population, and maintain it at that level? What do you have planned for people like my friend here? A bullet in the back of the neck? Or would you include him in the 10%? How would you decide?"

As I looked at the young shopkeeper's face, a face of profound innocence, for some reason it suddenly struck me just what a deeply evil and perverted ideology feminism really is. To regard this man as your enemy, you would have to be a very sick individual. And yet he is a man. He is the enemy.

He gave me my change with many polite thank yous, and I left.

Sunday morning coffee. So relaxing.