26 Jan What does the future hold for my children?
I sometimes wonder what the future holds for my children. I think about what they will be when they grow up (based on recent conversations my daughter will be a teacher and my older boy a train driver – on the northern line apparently, not the DLR mummy – it doesn’t have a driver silly…). I wonder whether they will be lucky enough to find someone to share their lives with, and maybe even have their own children.
With recent political developments the future for my children is even more in my mind
When Brexit happened a friend of mine posted on Facebook “what have we done to our children’s future”. Personally (and I appreciate I am in the minority in the uk) I am disappointed at the prospect of Brexit, both as an economist (it literally makes no sense) and as a human being. But possibly more worrying currently is that Brexit is being taken forward by a prime minister with no official mandate (she was not elected), and in a parliament with no credible opposition.
Then there is the rhetoric of protectionism coming from the new US president. A man with no political experience whatsoever but who has a Twitter account. Part of me thinks it will all be ok, when President Trump realises what is actually involved in the job, his views may change. He may realise that the oversimplification of the issues (which is natural in a business man focused on profit maximisation – or in non-economics jargon – prioritising making money above all else) is just not possible as the leader of one of the largest countries in the world, with an important role in every international body from NATO to the IMF (for the time being at least) and a huge nuclear arsenal at his disposal.
And what about the sexism
The dismissal of sexist remarks as simply “locker room banter”. I don’t care where the conversation takes place or how many (or few) men are present. It is not acceptable. Let me say that again. It. Is. Not. Acceptable. Ever. In a time when we have women in some of the leading roles internationally (British PM, German Chancellor, and head of the IMF) how is such sexism possible? The men I know would not find that kind of banter amusing (in fact they would not call that banter at all). The thing I find most staggering is that this is a man with two daughters. Surely as a father of two women you should be championing women’s rights, not seemingly trying to undo over 150 years of suffrage.
This is compounded by President Trump’s reinstatement of the ‘global gag rule’. One of his first acts as President was to reinstate a rule that prohibits foreign organisations, such as aid agencies, that receive US family planning funding from talking to women about abortion. Any organisation that wants to receive this type of funding from the US Government is not allowed to offer advice or information on abortions, or to provide abortions, even if abortions are actually legal in that country. This act was all the more poignant when images came out of the President signing the documentation surrounded by a group of males. Not one female was present. This may be meaningless (it may simply be because no females working for him were part of this process), but the image was striking.
Having children has changed how I perceive events like these
Politics impacts on every aspect of our lives, and as such has always been important to me. But since having children my interest in politics has gone beyond simply what does this mean for now, our current world, jobs, state of being. I now worry about what these changes mean for the future and the world my children will live in.
I am also aware that my older two are at an age where they are listening to and absorbing what is going on around them. We have been watching the news a lot over the past six months (and frankly if there is a TV on my two will watch it no matter what is on!), and they are picking up on the fact that we are in a period of quite dramatic change (even if it only enters their consciousness for a few fleeting seconds before being replaced by the prospect of some cBeebies once mummy’s programme finishes). But it is definitely going in on some level. In particular, I love the fact that my older son recognises our PM as soon as he sees her on the television or in the paper, and more importantly thinks nothing of the fact that she is a woman.
Recent developments have also instigated some interesting discussions with my daughter about politics. Over the summer in the post referendum chaos, I found myself having to explain to her that there was a big vote and majority of population decided that they did not want to be part of the group of countries we were part of (she wanted to know what this “Bexit” thing was). That was fine. It got trickier when we had to discuss why people decided they did not want to be part of the group, as this gets into some complex issues (how do you explain protectionism and intolerance to a five year old???).
I do not know what they will remember of all of this, or how it will influence them as people. I suspect my older son is still too small to have internalised much. But it was a useful exercise in demonstrating to my daughter that people have different views and it is important to try to understand other people’s perspective, to ask questions and join the discussion, but also to be strong in your views and and make your voice heard. If she can take that with her for the future then maybe there is some silver lining to this whole mess.