The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.
UNICEF – Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries.
When the United Nation’s Children’s Fund released their report on child well-being in industrialised nations earlier this year, UK politicos were justifiably nervous – with the report tarnishing the UK’s foreign image as a Mary-Poppins-esque kid-friendly country, the aim of keeping the report from the mainstream media’s attention was a relatively high priority for the government.
Measured on 6 ‘dimensions’ and drawing on 40 separate indicators relating to children’s rights, lives, and overall well-being, the UK came last: twenty-first out of the twenty-one selected OECD countries. The report makes for a very sobering read, of which the BBC did a good job of summing up. If you’re American, don’t go feeling smug about this though; as Neal Lawson of Compass – New Labour’s think-tank – said:
The reason our children’s lives are the worst among economically advanced countries is because we are a poor version of the USA, so the USA comes second from bottom and we follow behind. The age of neo-liberalism, even with the human face that New Labour has given it, cannot stem the tide of the social recession capitalism creates.
The best commentary on this report I’ve read so far was written by Maria Hampton of Cambridge (UK) for Adbusters. I could quote this article all day and never get bored, but instead I implore you to go and read it yourself, please. Yes, it’s relatively long, but it is easily the most thought-provoking article I’ve read so far this year. The sensationalism ends with the headline (‘Generation F*cked: How Britain is Eating its Young’), and instead the author allows the facts and figures to speak for themselves – and that they do.
As Richard Esguerra fears, this article lays out a blueprint that our countries seem to be drawing for Generation Y (that’s you and I: the children of the baby-boomers). A narrowing of our cultural experiences coupled with the by-products of ‘neocapitalism’, such as “overpowering consumerism [and the] decline of public value (like public spaces or the public domain)” makes for a grim future that the more socialist Nordic countries appear to be bypassing – or at worst, delaying.
I don’t know what else to say on this matter, so I will pass it over to you with this final quote:
The first stirrings of major intergenerational conflict are already being noted. The basic rights of the recent past – a safe job, free education and healthcare, secure homes to raise a family, a modest but comfortable old age – have slipped quietly away, all to be replaced by a myriad of vapid lifestyle choices and glittery consumer trinkets. Excluded from a national social housing scheme sold off by their parents, unwilling to give birth in the UK’s draconian new system of rental accommodation which gives tenants no more than six months grace from eviction, and unable to afford homes of their own in 85 percent of the country, today’s iPod generation is stunted: trapped halfway between childhood and adulthood. It now takes them until 34, on average, before they can afford a house, let alone have a family of their own. Little surprise that they are such woeful models of grown-up responsibility for their younger siblings to emulate. Mom and Dad aren’t much better. By blowing their children’s inheritance on 80 percent of the UK’s luxury good purchases, from SUVs to cruises and anti-wrinkle creams, Britain’s baby-boomers seem hell bent on ensuring that, even without the coming resource shortages such as Peak Oil, their offspring will be the first generation in living memory to have a lowered standard of living.
Update: Edited and re-posted to Lone Gunman. Updated two links (Adbusters‘ article and Richard Esguerra’s blog post) to Internet Archive links.