children’s rights – ignorance or weakness?

Travelling over the last years, I felt here and there a bit ashamed – not because of hearing so bad things about the country. On the contrary, because of the praise I heard. First, it had been because of the celebrated bedside rug which, though from beginning outstretched on the floor pretended to be a tiger. Then, after the final total K.O. of the cat, because

…”Well, you Irish are so self-controlled, so disciplined when it comes to bearing the consequences of the crisis. No useless protests, just carrying on …”

I frequently said I am not too much friend of these attributions: ‘the Irish’, ‘the French’, ‘The Germans’ – dolce vita cannot only be found in bella Italia and the Greek police forces and their (para-)military helpers showed recently how much they are favouring law and order, probably doing better than the home-country of the high-ranking German visitor, Mrs Merkel.
Still, not being friend does not mean one can push such attributions easily away. At times it comes to my mind too: “we Irish”: first pushing the child into the well …, then shedding crocodile’s tears and finally coming up with an attempt to save the child from definite decease.
And as much as this is the pattern underlying the approach to the economy – actually since the 1950s (see the working paper Tíogar Ceilteach – An Enlargement Country of the 1970s as Showcase? in the series of William-Thomposon Working Papers) – it has found a new field of showing evidence, now actually literally dealing with children. All is about a referendum, scheduled for november now. The Taioseach (Irish Primeminister) bravely stepping forward, overcoming his apparent usual schizophrenia by uniting now the two souls:

As Taoiseach and as father I’m asking people to vote yes

Good boy – …good man, I should say and could add: a real politician, not just like the official administrator we know from Max Weber as being characterised by

Sine Ira et Studio

Rather, the real politican, engaged with all fibres of his body and soul. Well done, right? And we may wish to see more in this.

And although I try to be optimist a but asks for being allowed to enter the debate – it is not about “but don’t vote in favour of these rights as they are suggested with the change. It is more about the question

But why are you not really serious when it comes to children’s rights?

Let us have a brief look at the text of the Proposed New Article 42A – I saw it first here in the journal. And it reads as follows:

Children

1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.

2. 1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.

3. Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.

4. 1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings –

i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or

ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

And it found positive feedback from here and there. Apparently a broad consensus  – and that is good so. But I am wondering if we would find this consensus also in case of taking things serious, not looking at the corpses but looking for, i.e. in favour of the living. The state should work towards conditions and their legal anchoring that allow children to develop freely under conditions of respect and equality. – Interestingly, the article mentioned first, making reference to experts, does not refer to children.

Having said before ‘The state should work towards conditions and their legal anchoring that allow children to develop freely under conditions of respect and equality’, means we have to look for a society that is not about

Work. Consume. Be Silent. Die.

as I saw it recently on a website, dealing with a young man who committed suicide.
This person made a choice – a tragic choice. But as tragic and individual, not to say lonely as this choice had been, one sentence on the website shocked me more than the decision itself. The sentence:

Es hat den Anschein, als würde man die gesamte Sozialpolitik in die private Verantwortlichkeit von Individuen verrücken.

or in my translation

It seems that the entire social policy would be shifted to the private realm of individuals.

It is exactly this what moral approaches to social policy frequently forget. It is exactly this what heads who claim to support social rights forget when they reduce these rights on the level of protection, forgetting the more fundamental issue:

Rights are fundamental and need to be defined in a perspective of social quality. They have to be defined as rights for everybody, from the very beginning rather than for the drowning child.

And of course, this goes back to the debate on the stillborn kitten which disguised for some time as strong tiger, before being unmasked as bedside rug. This is not about general values and ethics. It is not about muttering ‘that is neoloiberalism’, briefly shaking the head and continuing business as usuals. – Heads should know this at this stage: heads of politicians, and heads of academics working in the areas of social policy, social work and law alike. – I am freqeuntly surprised that my student’s usually know more about the complexities of realities than highly paid people working Sine Ira et Studio.
__________

PS: Being member of the editorial board, I am currently working for SOZIALEXTRA on one of the special topics of one of the issues: Human Rights – Children’s Rights – Human Rights as Question of Everyday’s Life

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