Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking Out For The Kids.

In 2009, a man in Bakersfield, California bit out his four-year-old son’s eyes. He may have eaten one of them. He was under the influence of PCP at the time.

In 2005, China Arnold put her 28-day-old baby Paris into a microwave oven, and cooked her to death. She’d had an argument with her boyfriend.

New Jersey, February 2010. A 21-year-old man kidnapped his three-month-old daughter from his estranged wife. He wrapped the baby in a sleeping bag, and threw her off a bridge into the freezing waters of the Raritan river.

January 2009: in Melbourne, Arthur Freeman threw his four-year-old daughter Darcy off the Westgate bridge to fall something like sixty metres into the Yarra river. She lived long enough for the ambulancefolk to try to revive her. Freeman had been arguing with his ex-wife, apparently.

I’m not going to go farther into the details of these incidents. You can if you want. I’ve included the necessary links. I’ve had all the horror I can handle for the moment.

This meditation is triggered by page eight of my local newspaper, which featured an article on China Arnold and her dead baby, right next to another article about a man who shot his wife, then his three small children, and then himself. Currently, my kids are in Perth with Natalie, visiting their grandmum. I’m enjoying the solitude, and the ability to sleep as I see fit... but the gap the kids leave is enormous, even if it’s a relief to be on my own for a while.

It’s an increasingly overpopulated world. Nearly seven billion people. I’m old enough to recall when it was four billion. Since I’m not a geriatric yet, it’s pretty obvious we’re breeding at a terrifying rate. And every new human has needs, and — in theory at least — rights. At the very least, every new human being is exactly that: a human being, and if we treat them in any lesser fashion, we demean ourselves. More importantly: the creature that can voluntarily hurt or kill a dependent, defenseless, innocent child is a thing that has at least temporarily given up any possible right to be viewed as a human being.

And yet the horrorshow rolls on. I listed only four incidents, and I deliberately limited myself to the US and Australia. I hate to think what the list might look like if I really did some research, and considered the whole world.

What I’m saying is this: we have to be licensed to drive a car. You need a license to fly a plane. You can’t practice law or medicine without going through all kinds of training and oaths and examinations and licensing. You need a license to wire up a house for electricity. You need qualifications to teach at school. You need certification to handle food in a shop or restaurant. You’re even supposed to have a license to get married.

So how the fuck is it that we collectively don’t have the stones to step up and ask for some kind of goddam evidence that people can be fit parents before we put them in charge of children?

Right about now, there’s a whole bunch of people reading this, collective sucking in wind, getting ready to bleat about human rights and freedoms. Right about now, if I could, I’d slug each and every one of those people in the solar plexus to make them cough, whoop, and shut the fuck up while I ask the obvious counter-question: what about the rights of the kid whose eyes got chewed out? Where were Darcy Freeman’s rights in the last, terrifying, flailing three-and-a-half seconds (‘cos yes, folks, that’s how long it takes to fall sixty metres. It’s high school physics. Check your watch. Count it off. Three and a half seconds. That’s how long Darcy had to think about what was happening to her, before she hit.) of her life?

The state already acts like an extended nanny-system to kids. The state demands the kids participate in an education system which is, quite frankly, fucked up. The state demands all kinds of censorship to ‘protect kids’. Including that idiot Conroy’s Great Internet Clusterfuck — and, of course, the lack of an R-18 classification for computer games. The state insists kids can’t drink or smoke. The state tries to mandate minimum levels of exercise for kids. The state prescribes where and how childbirth is to take place, and under whose observation. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of all this shit, the state instead tried to insist that people becoming parents demonstrate reasonably sound judgement in the first place?

When you decide to become a parent, you agree to put your whole world to one side in favour of someone else. You have to, or you’re worse than a fool. A child doesn’t have any choice about being born. The choice - limited as it may be by religious idiocy on birth control — belongs to the parents. Sperm and egg have nothing to say about the whole process. Neither does the foetus.

If you’re not ready to reshape your whole existence so you can nurture a new human being — do not fucking well become a parent. If you find this has happened to you accidentally: either get yourself straight, or admit you fucked up, and allow the kid to be adopted. There are a large number of eager, well-qualified couples desperate to have kids who can offer the child a real life.

And finally: the political group that steps up and says “Yes. We need to impose some kind of education, licensing, and restriction on parenting, and we’re going to do that. We’ll match it with improved support for new parents and their kids, of course,” is going to get my vote. And I don’t give a flying fart in a windstorm for 'the devil in the details’, or ‘the rights of the parents’, or anything similar. Because no kid should ever, ever have to answer a police inquiry with the words "My daddy ate my eyes."


  1. Nothing you saying I disagree with in the above piece, except this phrase "When you decide to become a parent, you agree to put your whole world to one side in favour of someone else" and there's the rub.

    Some people who have children don't - and there in lies the fault.

    The first incident you quote was used to remarkable narrative effect in the excellent Kirkman comix 'the walking dead' volume 12 'Life among them'. The character was illustrating how there was evil in the world long before the undead variety appeared. But its the way he describes how the story haunted him, "I can't stop myself from filling in the blanks of the story..The details not told but implied".

    anyway its a power piece in an outstanding series

  2. That first incident still gives me the absolute horrors. There are people in Australian spec fiction who ask why I don't write more horror. I use that little incident to illustrate the prime reason: reality itself is more horrific than so-called "horror" writing, by and large. (Paul Haines excepted. You want to read bad-ass, disturbing, elegant stuff that is truly horrific? Haines is the man.)

    Most "horror" is just dark fantasy, or even gore-porn. Real horror is human.

  3. I struggle to disagree, But. *stepping to one side to minimise the expectant punch to the solar plexi*
    When a government passes a law "Thou Shalt / Shalt Not do X, Y &/or Z" it must also decree a consequence or penalty." EG drive @ < 15 kph over speed limit $150 & 2 points, >15 but <30kph over the speed limit...
    My first question: what is your consequence for procreating without authority? A fine won't help the kid be brought up in a loving & literate family, nor will banging the parent up in goal. Compulsory courses are notoriously crap. Eg the court mandated "safe driving" & "drugs are bad Mkay" courses.
    Q2; Who is culpable? the mother? the father (if known?) both?
    Q3; Is residence in Pitsworth / Gympie exculpatory?

  4. As an aside, we know what a glass jaw is, if one is more than usually susceptable to punch in the Solar Plexus, would that be described as solar plexi glass?

  5. Can't disagree with you either FH. But those stories, and ones like them...I just can't read them, and if it's on the TV news I will avoid them whenever possible. I frankly find those stories too distressing. I've dealt with some pretty horrific stuff in the past when doing what could broadly be termed 'emergency services work', but that all involved adults thankfully...anything with kids involved creeps me out. And that only got worse when I became a parent myself.

    And yes, a licence to be a parent is an idea with merit.

  6. Worked with street kids, aka the ones thrown away with less thought than pop bottles, for 5 years. Saw their living conditions and bruises and deaths. Could not take it anymore. Had to leave. Right after going to one of my student's funerals with her 3 day old baby and her 3 year old in the same casket. She was one of my hopefuls. It nearly destroyed me for life.

    I have no words for it. It is pure and simple horror. I don't go to horror films. I have seen the real thing.

    And I didn't have children though I have many who call me mom, Grandma, Godmom, Mommy, Mama...

    I am mother of the neighborhood and every kid I can find who needs me.

    And it's good. Sometimes I want to go shoot people for what they do to innocents, including elderly who are also defenseless in beds without proper care, and yes, abused.

    On that happy note, Dirk, your gmail is shooting back to me. Change it again?

    Love you and your kids.

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  8. and while not in the same league as those above there a parents out there who do this to their child.

  9. N-Bob... I tried to offer an intelligent response, but Google shat on my comments, so I gave up. It's the next day now, so I'm trying again. Here it is:

    The questions you raise are about details. And I admit, I have no legal or legislative background. I'd leave all of that for people that do, except that I'd be as active in the related debate as I always am on topics I think are important. My point remains: currently, we're doing nothing, and we're paying an unacceptable price in an already overpopulated world.

    We regulate drugs. We regulate sex. We regulate computer gaming, for pity's sake. How is it we don't take the slightest interest -- as a society, that is -- in the skills and resources and the mental, physical and emotional state of persons who decide to be parents?

    How come I have to do a multi-week course complete with written examinations and practical tests and inspection visits just so I can be a "community coach" and teach physical skills to school kids for a few weeks a year -- but nobody said 'boo' when my wife and I took on long-term responsibility for THREE kids?

  10. Bondi: I know what you mean, mate. I respond really badly to stories of children being abused. It was never something I handled well, but now that I have kids of my own and that I work with kids in martial arts and at school -- it's one of the very few things that could potentially make me lose my cool and do something serious. I'm a little frightened to discover I still have a hot-button like that.

  11. Mr Barnes: I'll see your "Like-button" parents, and raise you a mother administering Botox to her 8-year-old daughter to "help her win beauty pageants".

    Happily, the woman in question has now lost custody of her botoxed daughter. Unfortunately, it's probably too fucking late. The girl has already been convinced she needed botox for her "wrinkles". At eight years of age.

  12. Ginny: I don't know why my gmail is rejecting you. I'll go and check on it.

    And as for the kids you have worked with... yes, I know what you mean. And it fills me with despair and horror. On another forum, I've had one or two of the inevitable criticisms about using "outliers" to create an incorrect statistical picture - but I did so for purposes of shock. Because I think we're by and large all too accustomed to the quotidian horrors to which you refer.

    Biting out a kid's eyes is news. Stuffing kids with junk food, raising them by television, neglecting them outright -- that's not news any more. That's every day. And that's the stuff I think we might help with some kind of licensing and education and support for parenthood.