Friday, 2 January 2009

Don't die of ignorance!

Way back, when I still watched television, there was an advertising campaign on UK television which featured icebergs in the ocean, The slogan was the above - "Don't die of ignorance!" There is an apocryphal story of a child who had decided, because his teacher had exasperatedly called him ignorant, decided that he must therefore have a fatal disease. He was both wrong and, potentially, right. The campaign was to do with AIDS and the need for people to be informed of risk. Admirable. But nowhere, really, did it mention sex - that was too taboo. Icebergs. Very sophisticated and very artistic. But WAY off the point. But the prime imperative was observed - nothing, not even the AIDS epidemic, must offend mealy-mouthed Christian morality. All measures to address such a crisis must address the sensibilities of bigoted moralists and body haters.

I was reminded of this by a post today by Aspasia. She links to a survey which reveals that, due to the puritanical nature of abstinence-only sex education, many young people are convinced that anal sex carries no risk of disease. This is surely putting them at risk of death through ignorance.

I have written before about the inadequacy of sex education the UK. I am admittedly getting on in years but must say that at no time in my primary or secondary education did I receive anything that could be remotely described as sex education. Even today, I believe, parents can opt their children out of on conscientious grounds. This is all in the name of the protection of "innocence". WTF does this mean? Obama was accused of a dangerous liberal agenda for his support of a programme which introduced young children to the concepts of "good touch" and "bad touch"! This is astounding. Who, apart from those who prey on chldren, could possibly object to those children being taught how to protect themselves?

I don't know. But the scale of the opposition to sex education causes me a high degree of unease. Recently, I listened to an interview with a senior police officer who was in charge of the investigation of allegations of serious, organised, sexual abuse of children on the island of Jersey. In it - I would link but the interview is no longer available online - he speaks of a high-level conspiracy to undermine and ultimately discredit both his investigation and his professional integrity. I do not, and cannot, know the full facts of this case but, I am afraid, have a horrible conviction that his allegations are right. Particularly as the allegations are merely the latest in a series of child abuse scandals that have afflicted the "childcare" system over the last couple of decades or so - on both sides of the Irish Sea.

There is much hysteria against predatory paedophiles in the UK and has been for some years. There was even a case reported of someone's house being torched because people had heard she was a paediatrician. Such hysteria is fanned by the popular press. Who also run vitriolic campaigns against "liberal" sex education - particularly when it is concerned with variations of sexuality. I have asked the question before and ask it again now. In whose interest are children kept ignorant? Only those who woud prey on them. Only those who would not want them to know that daddy's or uncle john's "affectionate" cuddles have crossed a line that should not, in any civilised society, be crossed.

But this is a line that is crossed every day. While editorials and news pages cry of the "dirty old men" who haunt the playgrounds with sweets and kind words, the majority of sexual abuse is being carried out in respectable families every day - or perhaps, more accurately, night. But the "family" and its values are sacrosanct. Thus parents can opt out of giving children the information they need to protect themselves. While I am in no way alleging that all, or even most, of the parents who do this are abusive they are nevertheless simply enabling, however devoutly, the abuse to continue. Just as Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict did when he instructed the bishops to keep a lid on accusations of clerical abuse. He forgot one of the injunctions of the putative founder of his church:

Luke 17:2 (King James Version)

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

The stranglehold that Christianity exercises on such things must be broken. Surely two millennia are enough? How much more evidence is needed of the total inability of the institutions to police themselves in this regard? How much longer will they be allowed to prevent children from accessing the information they need to protect themselves from abuse?

I do not know. But I do know that children are the only hope humanity has. If we do not empower them, we do not deserve to survive.

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