….is about how cultures treat their children. Right-Left discussions tend to focus on how workers are treated by those who rule over them and their labor, and to what extent governments provide for the safety and well-being of families. Rarely mentioned, however, is the relative weight given to the treatment of children by society as a whole, when in fact, this is a fundamental socialist — but not capitalist — concern. Socialists view children as the special responsibility of society (not just parents), not because socialists want to indoctrinate them, but because their political convictions are founded on a humanistic ethos.
In the sixties, disembarking in Rome with a child born in Cuba, I was stunned to be told to go to the back of the security line; last year on a visit to Russia I noticed that parents with toddlers automatically go to the front of a line for embankment, including with carriages. (Although Russia is not officially a socialist country, President Putin shares the same democratic-socialist outlook as the European countries. Russia today abounds in special schools for the gifted, and while President Putin holds televised discussions with individual students, the Trump White House hauls immigrant toddlers into courtrooms to face a judge!)
The saga that has resulted from Trump’s zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration is inconceivable in a socialist country: In recent months, when Latina mothers with toddlers fleeing violence and/or poverty in their home countries tried to apply for asylum in the US, they were separated from their children and detained — with no records kept of who belonged to who and where children were sent to be cared for — which was often to other states! Such was the zeal to punish, that none of the hundreds, or thousands, of government employees involved in this kidnapping were instructed to keep records! And now, weeks after federal courts gave the president a deadline to reunite them, many parents find themselves back in their home countries still not knowing where their children are, or when — if ever — they will be reunited! The US’s emphasis on legalisms has resulted in hundreds of those parents now being pronounced as ‘ineligible’ to be reunited with their children. So accustomed are Americans to bureaucratic/legalistic jargon that the media fails to demand any explanation. (The ironic thing is that the implementation of an overall policy designed to keep the US white is resulting in the government bringing up and presumably naturalizing thousands of Latino children!)
As I write this, the latest issue of Harpers’ Magazine publishes an essay about the enduring effects of childhood fear from the latest book by the noted writer Martha Nussbaum. Titled Naked and Afraid its opening sentence is “You are lying on your back in the dark. You see, you hear, you feel, but you cannot act. You are completely, simply, helpless….most of us have nightmares, but this horror story is the condition of every human baby.”
Following upon references to the complete dependency of the human child from classical literature, Nussbaum turns to modern psychological theory, quoting David Winnicott, an eminent psycho-analyst, who said that in order to develop concern for others, children need a ‘facilitating environment’ that includes “a core of basic loving stability free from sadism and child abuse”. And Nussbaum adds: “There must be basic freedom from violence and chaos, from fear of ethnic persecution and terror; there must be enough to eat and basic health care.” Later she signals what is apparently a non-conventional attitude : “Winnicott thought that a key job of government was to support families.”
Alas, the American ethos is so far from that of the world’s mostly democratic-socialist societies, that bureaucrats mindlessly carry out policies that are guaranteed to adversely affect the development of thousands of children who will grow up to become American citizens.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.