The Tall Grass


 

There is an old joke that goes…

One afternoon a Tory Minister was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass.

Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, “Why are you eating grass?”

“We don’t have any money for food,” the poor man replied. “We have to eat grass.”

“Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I’ll feed you,” the Tory Minister said.

“But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree.”

“Bring them along,” the Tory Minister replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, “You come with us, also.”

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, “But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!”

“Bring them all, as well,” the Tory Minister answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.

Once under way, one of the poor fellows turned to the Tory Minister and said,

“Sir, you are too kind… Thank you for taking all of us with you.”

The Tory Minister replied, “Glad to do it.

“You’ll really love my place. The grass is almost a foot high.”

 

I am sure you have heard it before, dear readers. Like all good jokes, one can recognise an element of truth in the absurd. Caring conservatism: cupping the cheek with one hand whilst exploiting with the other.

What follows was sent to me as a transcript from a House of Commons debate on January 31, 2012. It is shocking in the presumptions it makes. Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative MP speaks about….actually I am not going to say anymore. The MP speaks for herelf.

 

House of Commons 31st January

10.31 pm

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): Last year’s riots were unprecedented in their violence and in the damage done to our society. We saw headlines such as “Mob Rule” and “Flaming Morons”. I hope never to see such things again. We owe a debt of gratitude to the police, who had to clear up under such difficult circumstances.

No one made those young people loot and steal and cause so much damage and fear, and there can be no excuse. The punishments meted out were right and I fully support them, but since those days the headlines have changed. We are not talking about the riots and the problems caused by those people, but asking why they did it. What caused that disorder? Is it moral decline, that the young have no respect, the benefit society or something more fundamental?

I want to prevent that type of appalling activity from becoming the norm in Britain or any other society, as I am sure all hon. Members do. To do that, we need to look seriously at prevention. I want to put the case that prevention is not just kinder than cure but incredibly cheaper.

I want to focus on a topic that we do not often discuss in the Chamber: the importance of love. Love in a prevention context begins with conception. It needs to go on throughout the baby’s life, but the critical period is conception to the age of two years. There is a very important reason for that: a loved baby who has his needs met will generally learn that the world is a good place and that people are generally kind. That baby will grow up expecting to be able to form secure bonds, make friends and hold down a job, and will generally have more capacity to lead a normal life.

On the other hand, the baby who is neglected or abused, or inconsistently treated, suffers two profound impacts. First, the baby who is left to scream is unable to control or regulate his or her feelings. When a baby knows something is wrong, he does not know whether it is because he is too hot, too cold, bored, tried or hungry—he just knows something is wrong, and he looks to an adult carer to sooth his feelings, relax him and get him back off to sleep.

When a baby is left to scream all the time, the stress hormone in the baby’s body—cortisol—rises to a level where it harms his immune system, and that harm can be permanent. What is more, if the baby constantly experiences raised stress levels, he becomes tolerant of his own stress level. You or I, Madam Deputy Speaker, might be excited by a scary episode of “Doctor Who”, but somebody with a high tolerance of their own stress level might need to go out to stab somebody to get the same level of excitement. Being permanently left to scream therefore has a profound impact on a baby.

The second impact is even more amazing. When a baby is born, his brain is barely developed; he simply has the amygdala, with the fight or flight instinct. Between six and 18 months old, the frontal cortex—the social part of the brain—starts to develop and puts on its peak growth spurt. That growth is literally stimulated by a loving relationship between baby and carer. Playing games such as peek-a-boo or gazing into baby’s eyes and saying, “I love you” and “Aren’t you beautiful?” literally stimulates the development of the baby’s brain. Conversely, as we saw from the appalling situation in Romanian orphanages, the orphans, who had no human contact at all, literally suffered brain damage; they were unable to communicate in any way, because they had had so little human contact.

If someone does not love their baby, and they do not bond properly with him in those first two crucial years, they are literally impairing their capacity to lead a normal life. The sad truth is that research shows that 40% of children inBritain are not securely attached by the age of five. That does not mean that they all go on to become criminals, psychopaths, sociopaths, paedophiles or drug addicts, but it does mean that their capacity to deal with the things life throws at them and the problems they will encounter is much lessened. They are less likely to be able to cope with holding down a job, making friends, and forming and keeping a relationship. At the extreme end, a baby will have been severely neglected or abused, and that is where we will find sociopaths. Sociopaths are not born, but made by their earliest experiences in the first two years of life.

Before we all go out and throw up our hands in despair, I want to make the case that there is a huge amount that can be done. Things do not have to be like this. If we as a society committed to making the very earliest intervention to provide the support needed for families, we could do so much in the first two years of life, when the baby’s brain has the ability to reach its full potential. We could turn things around and do great things.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

The Head

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Filed under Education, Family, The Big Wide World

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