Saturday, July 16, 2011

A New Breed of Social Retard

Forget the stigma of homeschool. There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to social retardation. And he’s far from educated at home.
Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room last week, I was conscious not to pull out my iPhone and check my email. Conscious because I was worried that my 10 month old might pick a scrap up off the floor and swallow it while I wasn’t looking. Conscious also of the fact that I would have been choosing to connect with this gadget rather than talk to my 3 year old. Conscious – just a little – of what everyone in the waiting room might think of my practicing what I think epitomizes today’s social retard.

I needn’t have worried about the latter pang.

Across from me sat a mother and her 15 year old daughter, still in school uniform at 5 pm. Both were equipped with mobile phones which clearly did more than just make phone calls or send text messages. Neither said a word to the other during the 30 minutes we sat in the room together. Both were completely engrossed in whatever it was their fingers were doing, their eyes were seeing, their minds were taking in.

I was impressed by the concentration of the teenager. Shame it wasn’t an exam. But more impressed by the mother’s interest in her gadget.

It is perhaps not surprising that children and teenagers pick up and become obsessed with digital communication. What is surprising is the rapid rate at which men and women in their 40s and 50s have caught on to this phenomenon. What’s more, they haven’t just caught on, they seem to be engulfed by it. What's missing in the lives of these midlifers that they feel the need to fill them with media?

Facebook and Twitter accounts. MySpace and blogs. Work and personal email addresses. Text messaging, iPhone apps, iPods and iPads. We seem to have more ways of communicating with those outside our sphere than we do with those within. Family members receive a few words a day from us – a conversation or two. Our 450+ Facebook friends receive multiple status updates, the value of which is utterly meaningless. We don’t live in the world of our numerous Facebook friends or Twitter followers any more than they live in ours. We’re lucky if we see half of them in a decade. Yet we pride ourselves on our level of social sophistication.

It must be that socialization has been redefined, because back in the day, if a child sat glued to her mobile phone (to say nothing of the mother) in the doctor’s waiting room… oh wait. Back in the day kids didn’t have mobile phones.

Welcome to the age of social retardation en masse.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Large Family Hysteria

Sometimes – not very frequently - stories of large families are published in magazines and their interviews aired on current affair programmes. These ‘day in the life’ style accounts serve rather to sensationalize than normalize the large family.

These days, any more than 4 children tends to catapult the family into the ‘large’ category, but for the purpose of gossip rags and current affairs television, 8 or more children is usually required.

Always the follow-on opinion, letters to the editor and online comment seethe with an abhorrence for these ‘breeders’, with many a dig about the lack of television, almost-certain religious foundations and cult-like indoctrination that must surely dominate the lives of these children.

How can someone handle so many children? spectators ask. One might ask how a teacher handles 30 children. Surely a mother can handle 8 or 10 of her own children of varying ages better than a teacher who has the care of 25-30 children who are all of the same age. Yet no one interviews the classroom teacher, turning her in to a cover story. It is just the late-30s mum with 8 children who bears the brunt of society’s anti-child vehemence.

So why do some families subject themselves to society’s scorn by agreeing to media coverage of their lives, even if only for a brief moment?

There is something to be said for living a quiet, happy life. Away from the media spotlight and without feeling the need to bring cameras into one’s home to show off how well one is doing with many children.

Children are a blessing. They are not an accomplishment.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Unplanned - A Review

The tale of Abby Johnson’s journey from Planned Parenthood director to pro-life inspiration - Unplanned - made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. And it’s little wonder.

While still in college, Johnson was won over as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, by the idea that increased access to contraception drives the abortion rate down. Johnson herself was twice a victim of this fallacy. Three times she fell pregnant and twice she aborted. All three times she was using contraception.

“There’s an incredible irony in the fact that I had a career in educating women about contraception and yet, for the third time, conceived while using contraceptives.”
(page 66)

Her book offers an insight that both pro-lifers and abortion rights advocates can learn from. Pro-lifers could take note that violent and provocative demonstration does more harm than good (note: the murder of notorious late-term abortionist from Kansas, George Tiller, served only to solidify abortion providers) and the pro-abortion camp could perhaps understand the reason pro-lifers stand outside clinics for hours on end in inclement weather - and it's not only to save the babies.

During Johnson’s time at the clinic, the peaceful, prayerful presence of pro-lifers outside the fence amazed the staff and impacted clients in a way the pro-lifers would never have known had Johnson not defected.

The book documents Johnson’s own harrowing experience with a chemical abortion and the ultrasound-guided abortion that led her out of the Planned Parenthood clinic and into the pro-life movement.

It also gives a clear picture of the far-reaching effects of the pro-life movement and the broad spectrum in which pro-life organizations facilitate women to make an informed choice.

Recommended as a challenging read for both pro-lifers and abortion proponents.

© Eva Whiteley 2011