frontline vol. 2 issue 3.
Capitalism fails our youth
Adults always worry about children and lament their perceived loss of freedom. Many of us worry that conditions and the social environment for children are worse, particularly emotionally, despite the economic and technological advances of the 21st century.
In February 2007 Unicef provided us with a report card that showed that our angst had some legitimacy. The report showed that young people in the UK were among the unhappiest in the developed world. Our young people are condemned to the bottom of a league table that charts the emotional and physical well-being of children in 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.
But what is worse is that it isn't just emotional welfare. Our children live in the worst poverty despite living in the 5th richest country in the world. The rich of this country are getter richer and fatter, draining off the resources from the rest of us and there is little care or consideration about the impact of their greed on the children of Britain or indeed the rest of the world.
But there is a side to the Unicef report that is not to be welcomed. It places less value on lone parent families and step families. It tkas the position that children that do not live with both birth parents are automatically emotionally less well off than those that do. Britain socially is different from many European countries, in Britain the divorce rate is higher and there are more lone parents.
We know that being a lone parent usually and significantly means you and your children will be poorer but that does not indicate any emotional disadvantage.
In Sweden, cohabitation has been the norm since the 70s, with more than 50% of couples unmarried when they give birth to their first child; so what's so different for their children? The issue isn't that Britain has more single parents; the issue is our single parents are poorer. In Sweden just 7% of single mothers live in poverty as opposed to 50% in the US and 48% in the UK. Sweden taxes it's rich and has a social economy based on investing in children and people living with adversity, they take radical stances on the factors that create unhappiness, poverty and social isolation. Sweden provides child care for families, good quality housing, it has made hitting children illegal, it has criminalised men who buy sex and in their radical programmes they tax the rich to pay for it but their economy survives. There have been many attacks on the welfare system in Sweden and they no longer invest in the way that they once did but even with the erosion of social democracy and welfare system conditions are far greater than in Britain, who is many times wealthier.
The Unicef report does sadly show that British children of all classes lack self-esteem, with many of them feeling lonely and regarding their peers as a threat rather than a source of support.
We do not have a good attitude to children in Britain, children are seen as a burden or a barrier, we exclude them from many places. Politicians and journalists negatively report about young people and children as 'uncivilised', anti-social or call them 'neds'. It feels like a self fulfilling prophecy Ð if you don't like children, they won't like you and worse than that they won't like themselves.
But the countries that did well in regards to children, particularly the Scandinavian countries have a different attitude, children start school at six or seven, they are encouraged to play outside, there are more resources for children, Finland provides a healthy free school meal for all school children, child care is heavily subsidised, part time working does not equate to poverty.
In Sweden and the Netherlands they have a healthier attitude to sex, research showed last month that teachers and parents were 'too embarrassed' to talk about sex openly. British society is more and more sexualised, but we appear to be reluctant to talk openly and honestly about sex and how it impacts on us. After the US we have the highest teenage pregnancy in the developed world despite universal access to contraception. But perhaps contraception is not enough to prevent unwanted pregnancy in teenagers.
Young parents need to be supported and not condemned to living in poverty and without resources. It almost feels that in Britain young women are punished for having children. As socialists we need to campaign on the reforms that could immediately improving the living and social conditions of children, young people and all adult men and women.
Our emotional well being is impacted by how we live socially and economically. Britain's drive to promote the rich and reduce taxation has had a negative effect, predominantly on the working class, but the malaise appears general. Britain may be rich but it has failed, our class system and government fail us.
Could independence make a difference? Of course as socialists we believe that independent working class action to bring about socialism could and would resolve these matters and the SSP's demand for an Independent Socialist Scotland is a correct demand, we want the resources and the wealth to be distributed to those who need it. We want to build respect for our young people.
Of course an independent capitalist Scotland ensures nothing without pressure from the people to provide reforms in social resources and for taxation to be fair. Many in Scotland may not have come to conclusions about socialism yet but may feel that Britain doesn't work for them and want to see a radical change . For them, to vote for independence is an expression of that.
Our role as socialists is to agitate for a socialist programme within and around those who are coming to conclusions about how to achieve change. The SSP stands for the socialist change that society needs - but also agitates and campaigns for reforms that would immediately benefit working people of Scotland and their families.
In the forthcoming election we need to raise the banner of ÔPeople not Profit' and have a vision of a better future for all Jock Tamson's bairns.