Parentless

Have been watching the riot situation in the UK from afar. Eldest, who is still in the UK at present, yesterday vouchsafed over Skype that the rioters were “Disgusting.” Fortunately she’s in an area unlikely to be hit by major civil unrest. Although if push came to shove, we’d have her on the next flight / whatever out, either to relatives or friends far from the troubles.

With reference to my recent offering regarding my one time friend and work buddy ‘Dave’, and his grab bag of selfish and self destructive attitudes, I’m inclined to make the following observation; people like ‘Dave’ have one attribute in common. They owe more loyalty to a peer group than family, or the well being of their community. All they care about is their own worthless self gratification. Which is probably why they can’t be ‘reached’ except in extremis. Not that the PC culture currently endemic throughout the UK courts / social services will allow that hard line approach.

If a rioter were a puppy, sometimes the figurative rolled up newspaper or being locked in a dark shed for two hours might be the only way to get their attention. Failing that, if they still go bad / antisocial / feral and harm others, then the sad last walkies down to the vet as a (literal) last gasp. However, people are not dogs. Dogs are usually better behaved and more predictable.

The root cause of the rioting is, as some are waking up to, a lack of parenting and a cultural bias against bettering yourself. Absent / weak fathers, careless / weak mothers and fragmented families. Alienation from a stable peer structure always means the human animal will seek out an alternative. We need to belong. It’s hard wired in (to greater or lesser degrees) as a survival trait. It doesn’t matter what the peer structure is. It can be bullying or abusive, but the peer group structure has to be there, and it has to have status. It may be a perverted form of status, but if the peer group offers nothing else, that is what it must have. The opportunity to be more than the individual alone.

Now I don’t know all the answers. Far from it, but the fact that I’ve played my part in the successful (Stable, well socialised and now with good honours degrees) upbringing of two girls. I reckon that makes me more of an authority on the matter of parenting than any social worker / university professor.

It’s my assertion that you can’t teach parenting tick box style in classes. There are way too many variables. Every child is different. Some are more headstrong / others passive on a sliding scale of zero to infinity. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Every child will need a different approach. But it must be an active approach.

There is one key item. Respect. You can’t get it through beating / berating. That way only gets you the fear of the peer group, which is fragile as blown glass. You can’t get it by purchase, that only buys you contempt. You can’t just get it by simply ‘giving’ respect – that simply makes you look weak and powerless. You have to actively make your respect and approval worth having.

Now with my two stepkids I’m lucky because Mrs S is a strong willed woman with good teaching skills, but even that might not have been enough. She needed a pack alpha (me), a bit of a wild card, to defer to. A family guard dog, someone who cared what the kids got up to, and would turn out at ungodly hours to rescue their sorry asses. Someone who would be available to assist with homework, help celebrate their successes, and treat their failings with justifiable derision. Someone who loved them, but also made the limits clear (Get into trouble with the law and we won’t /can’t help). Someone who picked up their Mum when she fell, and promised the same for them. Someone who was fun enough to play with, but not a complete doormat. Their crusty old Stepdad. Me. Villain, hero, who knows.

In light of the above, there are some who might ask (In patronising tones) “So Bill, are you willing to ‘mentor’ some of these ‘lost’ kids? Willing to share your ‘expertise’ on the front line then?” In a nutshell, no. Being a Stepfather or Father as far as I’m concerned is a high stress occupation. Frankly, I don’t think I could survive another bout, and my ‘turn around the park’ was relatively smooth (For a given value of ‘smooth’). Although I’m steeling myself for step-grandchildren in the medium term. That’s going to be fun.

Have promised my Stepkids that I am going to be the most disreputable Grandfather ever; taking their progeny on motorbike rides, showing putative grandchildren how to hunt, fish, make things go ‘bang’ and generally have old fashioned fun that no drug can ever match.

This is what the rioters are missing. This is what many of them will never have unless they make a conscious decision to wise up and do something positive with their lives. To actively engage with their progeny. No one, not even the most ardent social reformer can do that for them. Only individuals, making a positive choice to make their kid’s lives better than their own were will do that. Sitting on your arse taking dole money or simply ‘getting by’ just won’t cut it. You have to try and share that trying with your kids.

For our own part Mrs S and I have always tried to deliver a message like the following to our charges;

Ineffectual? Middle class? Wet? Really? I’ll say this; it’s way better than the alternative, which from a historical perspective, always ends in tears.

Update: Must have done something right. Eldest just got the exact job she was after. Utterly delighted. Youngest due here on the island (with friends) to start a post degree gap year travelling through Canada in less than three weeks. We parents do have our uses.

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Reading and rioting

Watching the news come in about the continuing riots in London, I’m minded to recall an old workmate. Someone I considered a good mate and tried to support (when he’d let me), but always ended up being his own worst enemy.

He ticked all the boxes. Mixed race (Anglo / African) with a chip on his shoulder that almost made you duck every time he turned around quickly. A lover of ‘Gangsta culture’. Yet behind all that he was a good chap. A mate, a buddy. Someone I was happy to share off duty time with. My family liked him, my dog liked him (But then again my dog likes everyone, he’d even give Hitler a manic waggy tail welcome). We all thought Dave (Not his real name) was a ‘good kid’. Just frustrated and rather unhappy.

His major issue from what I could see, was a problem with authority figures. “The Police beat up us black people.” He was often heard to say.
I did try telling him once; “Dave, the Police beat up everyone if they’re causing trouble. It’s part of their job.” But my words fell on deaf ears. He just couldn’t see past his own sense of personal injustice. Every single ‘oppression’ centred around his skin colour and predilection for getting off his face with beer and ganja. Which was his way of coping with ‘fitting in’, or rather not. He was kind of a part time ‘gangsta’, but too gentle natured to be one of the real nasty bastards.

Yet he wasn’t a total waster. A better man with dogs I’ve never seen. He often talked of his ambition to become a breeder. For all his wide boy street talk he was both literate and numerate, when he wanted to make the effort. Yet because of his own attitude and reluctance to put the joint and beerglass down, he’ll probably never realise his dreams. This means that every so often his frustration boils over into angry outbursts. Like a child, he will strike out without discrimination.

In this way I see ‘Dave’ as typical of the rioters down in London. Doomed to personal failure by their own self gratification and lack of self worth they hit out at anyone seen to be ‘keeping them down’. Cops, Business people, anyone ‘better off’ with ‘more stuff’. So they see no problem with smashing everyone elses stuff up. Yet if their awareness and aim was better they’d be throwing rocks at themselves.

London’s Burning

Or at least places around Tottenham are. I recall the reports of rioting in the same area where Keith Blakelock was killed back in the 1980’s.

Looks like not much has changed with regard to the Broadwater Farm Estate and surrounding area, then. Tweets and other pictures here.

Police Officers have been fired at, shot back and killed someone who had a handgun. Tell me, aren’t handguns illegal in the UK? To the point where the English Olympic shooting squad has to leave the country to practice? What gun crime?

What seems ridiculous is that all the guys mates protest, then some decide to torch some of the area, yet who fired the first shot? The Police? Then how come they found a bullet lodged in a Coppers radio? Did the pixies put it there?

Gold

The price of Gold is high and getting higher. At the time of writing it’s around USD$1663 per troy ounce, which is a few grammes less than an Imperial measure. To put that in words; one thousand, six hundred and sixty three dollars for a nugget of 1.6 Cubic Centimetres. Which isn’t an awful lot of gold. In British pounds that is a gnats over a thousand, in Euro’s eleven hundred plus.

In 2006 I looked at the price, which was a shade under USD$400 an ounce and thought that was pretty steep. Now some pundits are predicting USD$2000 per troy ounce by the end of the year, but perhaps they just want to sell / talk up the price to make money. Gosh is that my cynicism showing? Wondered where I’d put it.

Now I find myself wondering if history is going to repeat itself with a re-run of the notorious 1933 US gold grab Executive Order 6102 or Australia’s similar actions in 1959. Although there might be another re-run as US citizens who own gold ship it to Switzerland or hide it from the IRS by other means. No doubt one of the boy presidents fawning fan club will suggest it to him. Perhaps they already have.

The more it changes.. the more it stays the same

I can’t think of a topic I haven’t beaten to death, which is why posting has been pretty sporadic of late. That’s because people who simply refuse to use their brains insist they are fit for elected office, and because there are so many people who live in a fluffy pink la-la world, and think everyone else has to, too. I’m just trying to ignore them and hope they’ll go away.

For myself, I’m busy welding words together over a red hot keyboard, and have resurrected the ‘Stepdad’ Manuscript, which is a humorous but hopefully instructive treatise about my experiences as the stepfather of two teenage girls. Which I hope to release shortly in cut down form as an eBook.

Seeing as I have survived the experience with health and sanity relatively unimpaired, and seen them graduate with honours from university, I think that now qualifies me as an expert on the subject. Although if asked, “Have you the right qualifications?” I might respond “There aren’t any, now fuck off.”

Posting will be even lighter than usual because there’s a lot of fruit harvesting and processing to be done. More plums than I know what to do with, and the grape vines and blackberry bushes in our little back yard look like giving up a bumper harvest. Hunting season starts in September.

So far, so – oops

Looking west across the the Pacific to Angry Exiles fabled homeland in Oz. In the wake of Standard & Poors downgrade of the USA’s credit rating (Horses mouth here), we hear the Australian State Treasurer say that Australia’s AAA credit rating will remain ‘safe’. Well yes, of course it will. Until they implement that half witted carbon tax that is. Although the Aussies are fighting back with a ‘Convoy of no Confidence‘ In fact 11 Convoys of no confidence. So far.

Guys, based on previous experience with countries that have lost the fabled triple A status, the financial dawn chorus informs me that it takes between 8-18 years of hard graft to get it back. That’s if the US starts tomorrow. Not that it will with the current incumbent in the White House, who was so busy with his birthday party he hadn’t noticed. Rome while fiddling burns springs to mind. (Flat pack Axiom from IKEA, may require some re-assembly)

Sharia? Sure

Apparently there are a bunch of people not happy with the law in the UK. It seems they want their own, that everybody else has to comply with while in said areas. Okay, say I. No problem.

I would only say one thing in return; a lot of those demanding their own system of law and morality are dependent upon the largesse of the state. Perhaps if they want their own code of law, then they should expect to have no more money in ‘benefits’ or any other payment or service from the country they so reject. No housing benefit, no more child benefit, no NHS treatment, no protection from any state agency, and perhaps they might want to form their own Police, Fire Brigade, and council services.

Oh dear, isn’t that what they wanted?

Can’t have it both ways guys.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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