Village Idiocy - Jacinda Channels Hillary
Welcome to our village, wee one.
So read the tweet sent out to the nation by St Jacinda and the fisherman to announce the arrival of their first born. Of course, they have every right to their joy and it would be a churlish and mean-spirited hack (and certainly not this churlish and mean-spirited hack) who would bemoan the couple’s obvious delight.
But it's a private joy, don’t you think? Shared with your family and a thousand or so of your closest Facebook friends. Certainly not something for newspaper headlines or women's magazine covers. But I guess they don't have a choice though, do they? Being who they are – a sort of kiwi John and Jackie Kennedy, except role reversed with Clarke wearing the evening gowns.
Or do they? Perhaps there’s a political method to their madness.
Let's look at that tweet again. Odd choice of wording, isn't it? "Our village"? Why not "our country"?
Dim bells began tolling in the old noggin. Not my usual Sunday hangover, but a recollection, a memory, forming.
"It takes a Village" is the title of a piece of sophistry in book form written by Hillary Clinton back in 1997. Actually, ghost written by Barbara Feinman, who got very pissed off when Hillary failed to acknowledge her work on the book. Typical of Hillary, a woman who once claimed she was named after our own Sir Ed, when she was born six years before he climbed Everest.
Yes, at the same time her husband was playing hide the salami (and the cigar) with chubby interns, Hillary was telling the nation how best to raise kids. The title is inspired by a proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" from that continental exemplar of family values, Africa. (That high HIV rate isn't due to their adherence to monogamy, is it?) Meaning that we are all - you, me and Mike Hosking’s barber- responsible for the sprogs of the nation.
Could St Jacinda have been echoing exactly these same sentiments in her post baby tweet?
Am I going to have to drive little Neve to ballet lessons?
Clinton’s book was a warm fuzzy filled encapsulation of something progressives had been keen on for some time -the diffusion of parental responsibility.
Even if Clinton’s book is not on St Jacinda’s book shelf, it’s in keeping with her philosophy. Look at her personal crusade to reduce "child poverty". Laudable as it is, her policies to achieve this (conveniently vague so far) assume collective (state) responsibility for other people's kids.
But there is another way to improve the lives of the kids in "our village". A time tested, reliable but deeply unsexy way, currently out of favour.
St Jacinda has been held up in two fawning Guardian articles (one penned by her cobber former PM Helen Clark) as a "model for women" and a "hero of the global left."
To deserve any kind of admiration from this conservative, and I'd wager a fair few others, she needs to do one simple thing.
And advise others to do it too. By modelling a plain old boring vanilla nuclear family, she will be doing more for the New Zealand poor than taxpayer cash could ever do.
New Zealand has the third-highest rate of children living in single-parent homes (23.7%, OECD study, 2011). 51 percent of these children live in poverty (Family First report, 2016). In a classic case of academics-state-something-bloody-obvious-to-us-all, a Sussex University study for the U.K Department of Work and Pensions concluded two years ago that "marriage matters and is a central factor in children's chances of success in life" and "children do worse if they are brought up by a lone parent or by parents who are not married." Research among youth offenders in our own city of Christchurch has found 65% of them were not living with their biological father (NZEDF, 2000).
None of this is to suggest that the fisherman will be a deadbeat dad, or that little Neve is destined to rob dairies. The elite can break the rules. The poor can't afford to.
Reality TV, Youtube, Pop music and movies are saturated with the delights of singledom and promiscuity. Many young men and woman seem to get the message that they can have kids and continue to carry on like the Kardashians in heat, commitment free.
Many (and not just the young) will counter that marriage is just a "piece of paper". Well, so are a hundred dollar note and a piece of bog paper. I know which one I’d rather have in my wallet.
It's about value.
Valuing the life long commitment of marriage, as the ideal for raising a family will benefit those people St Jacinda says she cares for the most.
Families not villages.
If she wants to be a role model, that’s where to start. Or rather (let's be traditional about it), that's where the fisherman needs to. Stop gutting hapukas mate, and get down on one knee.
As the young people probably don’t say anymore: (I wouldn’t know I’m over forty.)
"Put a ring on it, Clarke!"