—  Ben Capel responds —

The British writer, Ben Capel, responds to a private account of a young mother who when she sought the protection of Social Services they responded by taking her children.

This is a most sobering account of the invasive reach of a cruel and vindictive ideology, which seeps through the pores of different jurisdictions wherever the Anglophone language is dominant.

Without some independent-mindedness from someone in authority, who will not be swayed by the dominant ideology and concentrate instead on the material facts of the case and the law, a young family will be brutally dismembered by petty officials of frighteningly limited intellectual and ethical calibre. And perversely, these officials will have conducted their dismemberment in the name of kindness and compassion, without remotely being aware of just how obscene their actions (and the rationalisations which legitimise them) really are. From a psychoanalytic point of view, it isn't obscene to merely break a rule: if I am unaware that one should not attend a Buckingham Palace garden party in a state of undress, I am simply being eccentric, not obscene. Neither is it obscene to break a public rule in private. It IS obscene, however, to break a rule one espouses on behalf of that very rule. When I claim that I am committed to the principles of compassion and kindness but I am also entirely capable of ruthlessly tearing a toddler from her mother or her parents, I am an obscenity.

Selective kindness is no kindness at all; it's a narcissistic semblance of true fellow-feeling. If my kindness only extends to children, I can be ruthlessly moralistic in my judgment of their struggling parents, all the time valorising myself as a tribune of the vulnerable and powerless. This makes me little different to the devout Nazi, whose compassion extended only to fellow 'Aryans', while starving Jewish children and their parent could go to hell (as indeed the Hitlerites intended). Adolf himself, it is reported, was kind to children, but clearly not if they were Jewish children.

(Referring to someone who tried to intercede on behalf of the young mother) Of all the manifold absurdities underlying this state terror, one struck me as especially relevant to our paranoid and mistrustful times: the wisdom and experience of a lifetime count as nothing, it seems, against the possession of 'a qualification in child protection'. Should all prospective parents obtain one before a child is born to them? Should all members of the public stoically walk past a panicking toddler lost in a department store, waiting for a suitably qualified official to intervene instead? Should we suspend our fellow feeling in relation to a distressed and vulnerable young mother in need of fellowship and support until a qualified child protection official has told what we should think and feel?

What IS this qualification? These people aren't psychoanalysts, who not only spend years of doctoral-level academic and clinical study exploring the nuances, ambiguities and paradoxes of human subjectivity, but aren't allowed to practise until they've had sufficient personal analysis themselves. Neither are they psychiatrists. They are, for the most part, badly educated officials who have simply uncritically swallowed the dominant victim-feminist ideology, and who lack the integrity, the will and the ability to call received wisdom and official dogma into question, no matter how irrational and ruinous it grows.

Parents and children have needs and entitlements for attachment, for love, which are not opposed, but are instead deeply aligned, and those who would break these bonds of affection for 'professional' purposes are beneath contempt. In the wake of the horrifying Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter debacles, where the holders of child protection qualifications shockingly failed to see the most unspeakable acts of child abuse occurring right under their noses, social workers have become alarmingly trigger happy: the numbers of children torn from their families and placed somewhere laughingly called 'care' has skyrocketed. The suspicion must be that social workers are covering their own behinds against possible criticism rather than protecting children; they don't want to be blamed, but they're simply not competent to perform the tasks and assessments required of them, so another shocking tragedy is a stone cold certainty. In the meantime, struggling parents who have had the misfortune to come to their attention will pay the price.

Parents' rights and children's rights are not opposed or antagonistic, they're to all intents and purposes identical: if my child hurts, so do I, and if a child's parent hurts, so does he.

Never has it been more important for the narrow-minded, cruel tyrants who hold child protection qualifications to be challenged, to be told to fuck right off out of ordinary people's lives and get a proper job instead.

This story amounts to one such challenge, and I can only pray that others will be inspired to follow suit rather than collapse before the vindictive might of the punitive state.

Response from Ben Capel to hearing of a mother who died from an overdose after her children were taken from her

It seems to me that one of the most grotesque and heinous forms of torture any state can inflict upon an individual is the forcible removal of his or her children. People have survived physical torture at the hands of fascists and bloodthirsty theocrats by holding on to the hope that they will one day be re-united with their children; remove this hope and you commit soul murder (or at least try to - some individuals refuse even then to capitulate to the whims of their torturers).

No wonder the tragic and vulnerable young woman referred to in this article killed herself after her children were taken away from her: some things are not worth surviving. That she was herself a casualty of the appallingly neglectful, child-stealing 'care' system is itself moving and frightening testimony to the ascendancy of official Newspeak: how can this system ever, by any stretch of the imagination, be called 'care'?

But some people, by some miraculous means, find the strength and valour to fight their oppressors: as Alain Badiou is fond of reminding us, sometimes, miracles do happen - and our authorities hate it when they do.

The tragedy in the UK is that its 'social workers' - a term that has mutated obscenely from its original meaning (providing social support to isolated, poor and vulnerable people) - are completely and terrifyingly incompetent to execute the tasks they have been officially empowered to undertake. Under-trained, under-skilled, under-educated and, for the most part, utterly blind to their own conflicts, psychopathology and weaknesses, they are nonetheless positioned by the State to sit in summary judgment on their fellow citizens. They uncritically swallow the most pernicious ideology in our midst during their 'training', without having the ethical or intellectual resources to call it into question for an instant: the ideology of official child protection, which casts the interests of parents and the interests of children as diametrically opposed, when in fact they are as one. Little wonder that these conformist petty officials will make atrocious errors of judgement again and again, and will easily succumb to the institutional pressure of their employing organisation to strive with all their power to ensure that officialdom is not blamed for their brutish, authoritarian procedures and actions.

They get away with their brutishness simply because they have power - a monstrous power vastly in access of ability and wisdom, a power the State has foolishly invested in the same kind of provincial nobodies the Third Reich employed to conduct the Shoah: parochial non-entities with a burning wish to be recognized as vaguely important and to get paid for 'doing good works' on behalf of the State. They embody Hannah Arendt's shrewd observation during her coverage of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem: this mass murderer was actually a grey, boring, conformist little civil servant who, in doing good works for his State, engineered the slaughter of millions as efficiently as he could. Evil, as Arendt noted, is banal.

That law courts are reluctant to get their hands dirty when half-baked, absolutist social work decisions turn to rat-shit is deeply disturbing, although not surprising in our insane times, when officialdom is obsessed with protecting children during an era when they have never been healthier or safer.

Those who resist this poisonous dominant narrative are perpetually in danger of unspeakable, state-backed terror, or having their arguments cartooned, decontextualized and caricatured by the smug nobodies of the punitive state. Which is why they have my undying solidarity and love.

As Alain Badiou might put it, keeping faith with the truth is always a heroic project, because it dares to oppose, to punch a hole through, the spurious 'knowledge' built up by 'experts' (servile technicians) operating in systems of domination in support of that domination. Never give in.

"- - - evil resides in the critical gaze which sees evil all around." - Slavoj Zizek

For the fuller picture on the problems with Social Services, go back to the Index page.

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