Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Wisdom Of A Four Year Old

Mrs. N ,s father was from Trinidad.We met before I took any great interest in politics and the subject of colour never presented itself as an issue one needed to have an opinion about . Looking back ,this was partly because the little woman was brought up by her Welsh mother, in no-nonsense Bermondsey and has little patience with an “identity” ,that to her is a pose. It is also , not a subject , one has to obsess about ;and I don`t
I sometimes regret, therefore, that in taking an interest in the cultural wars over the soul of England ,I have become so much more aware of the meanings race has for many .
When I got home last night I was told that our eldest son Elliot , a curly haired and sloe eyed four year old , was under the impression he was white . Don`t imagine that this was a dramatic moment , one has many bizarre conversations with a child .Still the snake had slithered into the garden ....” Does he think black is worse than white ? ... “What made him assume he was white ?” and so on
We had a chat in which I explained that we were all slightly different colours .I was the palest , mummy the brownest , and he was roughly half way between his brothers one of whom is dark the other fair . I concluded that we were all the best, a paradox that he is still entirely comfortable with ...and then he said , “...anyway Daddy would you get on with the story ...”.

Just one of those silly things really. This morning I read that the French Government’s attempt to define its National identity had become emerded with vitriolic rows about immigration and race, and so it goes on . I has previously wondered if our children would qualify as black enough to get on short lists and quotats even the prospect that one might be black enough the other not ? I have no idea , in a small way , though , I thought , not for the first time , that any special treatment of anyone , good or bad on the basis of their colour can only be a harmful thing.Cultural rivalries and judgements are valid , National alleigance and memory are good things but as to colour , the best advice is to .."Get on with the story ...". ..and I did

17 comments:

Auntie Flo' said...

Your son's reason for thinking himself white is likely to have far less to do with race or colour than to be a factor of peer group and paternal indentification.

The fact that I'm part Irish (on my mother's side) was a matter of great pride to me as a child because my best friend was part Irish too. I completely ignored my part English and part Jewish ancestry at that time - which I now know hurt my father - solely because I so much wanted to be like my friend, just as she wanted to be like me.

This wish to be like my friend was so compelling that I demanded that my - lapsed catholic - mother have me baptised a catholic so that I could wear a long white dress and throw petals from a basket as my friend did.

And, even when it was plain and obvious that my eyes were hazel in contrast to my friend's blue eyes, I flew into a temper when anyone dared to try to tell me that my eyes were not blue like my friend's.

A child's need for identification with peer its group and same sex parent is a hugely compelling one.

One further factor was that I saw far more of my Irish grandparents, so identified with them, rather than my other grandparents who died when I was a child.

Your son is a boy, it may show that he is well grounded in his masculinity in wanting to identify more with his father and his father's appearance than his mother's. As you've three sons, perhaps you need a daughter so your wife has a child to identify with her :o)

Philipa said...

Yes. I was thinking about cultural identity just yesterday and though it is sometimes an uncomfortable thing to define I think it an important thing. The law cannot encompass every possibility and we largely rely on a society made up of people who broadly live the same way and have similar values and behaviours. Introduce too many into a society who live differently and have different values and behaviours and society fractures, becomes confused and there is hostility within the group. Tis so but this has nothing to do with colour. You're correct.

Philipa said...

Happy New Year, Flo.

Auntie Flo' said...

On the subject of children and stories, I'm reading a book about Cameron which has a lovely anecdote about him.

The book goes into much detail about his time with Carlton and what the very young Cameron learned from his time there, placating Sir Philip Green and his press detractors. Green used to fly into rages at the drop of a hat and Cameron was brilliant at telling him to "calm down, Philip", he was the only one who dared, apparently.

A bit of a siege mentality appears to have developed during criticism of the Ondigital business. Cameron had to put up a defence for Green and was criticised for this by some in the media for his stonewalling and arrogance: traits he perhaps drew from Green?

Yet when Ivan was born Cameron is said to have changed dramatically. Ivan's dreadful disability knocked the Camerons sideways. The struggle to control his continuous, devastating fitting and to deal with his fits and other health problems and keep Ivan alive totally changed and dominated the Cameron's lives.

Auntie Flo' said...

Cameron shared parenting with Sam and took to carrying a basket with the babe in it around with him to meetings at Carlton and Westminster. He was often seen feeding and changing the baby, whom he totally adored, during key meetings.

The enormity of Ivan's health problems and the fact that he might not live for more than a few years put everything else into smaller perspective for Cameron and made him mature quicker than most of us.

Ivan had to be admitted to hospital for emergency treatment up to 16 times a month and Cameron would sleep fitfully for a few hours on the hospital floor beside his son, then have to get up and go into Westminster for PMQs or into Carlton for an important meeting.

These are all old stories, I know, but reading the devastating details of Cameron's life at that time, when he and Sam had very little nursing help with Ivan, has increased my admiration for the man in spades.

This experience had Cameron interacting with ordinary, working class people - other sick children, their parents and hospital staff - and, as we know, he's fought for them ever since.

There's a story in the book of Cameron having settled Ivan in hospital on one occasion, then reading a story to two other sick children at 4 AM before leaving a few hours later for a demanding PMQs.

It speaks volumes of him, in my view, that he was able to carve a successful career out of such adverse circumstances.

I think our Cameron is going to make an astonishingly good Prime Minister. If anyone can deal with UK's nightmare debts, he can.

Auntie Flo' said...

Happy New Year, Philipa!

Philipa said...

Soz Flo, I have just caught up with previous comments.

Your comment about Cameron V.interesting but my lack of confidence in the Conservative party is not due to my thinking that Cameron is not a nice bloke or a good father. I'm sure he is a nice bloke and a good father. It's the Conservative party as a whole and their policies that doesn't impress me. If I was voting for a nice chap then Cameron would definitely get my cross in the box. But it seems that all parties are advertising their political wares and putting out their stall. So we shall see...

Newmania said...

Thanks for that Flo I was interested in your first comment especially .

Phillipa its either Cameron or Brown that ought to focus your thoughts.

I like David Cameron myself, always have done

Auntie Flo' said...

Newms: what are your grounds for this extraordinary claim about Philipa :o)

Philipa: I don't believe this claim for one moment.

I'm not suggesting in my post re the book about Cameron that he's a goodie - if I have suggested that, I was wrong to do so. What comes out of the book is that, while he has a very good side to him, Cameron is also very tough and can be ruthless.

Here's one story from Eton: Cameron and his group were with their classical (sort of 'life') tutor discussing members of the group's opinions of the other members. One rather blunt northerner when asked what he thought of Cameron looked at him and said something along the lines of, "what no one realises about you is you're hard as nails, you are." No one questioned this, not even Cameron. The tutor said though he'd never thought of it previously, he recognised the truth of this.

But then Cameron had a quite extraordinary and inspirational father. The more I read about Ian Cameron, the more I admire him, he was an amazing man. I can't think of a better father or role model for a future Prime Minister.

One aspect of the book that's surprised me is how unlike Blair Cameron is. As the book puts it, whereas Blair climbed up the outside of Labour and opportunistically took it from the top, Cameron worked damn hard, climbing level by level inside the Conservatives and the Treasury (and, as an advisor, in the Cabinet and to number 10), acquiring detailed technical knowledge of the party and the business of government and the office of Prime Minister.

He seems to be a lot cleverer than I'd realised too, Bogdanor, his PPE tutor at Oxford said he was one of the best 5% of students he's ever taught. The fact he studied PPE makes him seem like so many other politicians, yet for someone with his Eton background, it was most unusual. Cameron was apparently one of only two former Eton pupils to study PPE and to study it at Brasenose in about 30 years. He's mostly used that intellect well in his political career too. I think Cameron will as PM will do what he's always done: streak from the rear and surprise everyone.

Mu Tai Dong said...

I am white I dont kniow about you as you are Luther Vandross i thinking...

El-Kevo said...

Half and half is a very fashionable thing to be at the moment.

Why do we whities crave a sun tan !

Newmania said...

Hi EK it amused more than anything ..I am ridiculously proud of my boys who are all vastly better looking than me (not hard)

Flo thanks for that I do have gre5a hopes of DC its such a pity that the Economy was busted by New Labour , the options are so much fewer

Philipa said...

Thanks flo, your comments are always compelling but I do take issue that Cameron has got where he is today by hard work. he may have worked hard as well but a call from the Royal Palace to the Conservative Party kinda helps. It's not what you know that opens the most doors. And there are many brilliant academics that have worked hard all their lives that are reduced to making students lives a misery as an expression of general resentment and satisfaction.

Philipa said...

Newms - why should I vote for one man and not the party and it's policies??

Newmania said...

Well Phillipa as far as policies go they are more like adverts and pretty inaccurate ones nowadays so I`d say gut feeling is a better guide

Auntie Flo' said...

"a call from the Royal Palace to the Conservative Party kinda helps"(Philipa)

1. That call was denied and never verified, was it? No one knows who made it. The palace insider who was supposed to have made it claimed it wasn't him.

2. Cameron may not have known anything about the call until after it was made, and if he had known, in my view, would have attempted to prevent the caller ringing.

3. Cameron was a glowing candidate for a job with the Conservatives. He was obsessed with politics, he was one of the first Etonians to study it at Brasenose in 30 years. He got a good first. He was so politics mad that, by his mid teens, he was known among some of his peer group as 'the Prime Minister'. When his classical tutor group discussed who, among Eton's then pupils was likely to continue Eton's tradition by becoming Prime Minister, the concensus of opinion was that - even though by then former Etonians had a distinct disadvantage as candidates for the premiership - Cameron would become Prime Minister. He is descended from two of Britain's top political families, had former Prime Ministers and Kings among his ancestors; it's in his genes.

4. Among the reasons his group believed he would would become PM: he was so clever, had the prerequisite personal characteristics and was so hard working.

5. The caller said the palace wanted Cameron to work for them, so would the Tories please not offer him a job. Given that Cameron is a distant cousin of the Queen, an old Etonian like others at the palace, related to a top bloke at the palace, that his respected Oxford tutor said he was among the top 5% of pupils he had ever taught - and very hard working - and given that Cameron became renowned for his diplomacy skills in his early twenties, I would have thought it entirely possible that the palace wanted to offer him a job, wouldn't you?

Thank goodness they didn't get him and we did.

Auntie Flo' said...

There is really no basis for the claim that Cameron is not hard working or that anything fell into his lap. The book I'm reading suggests that he works bloody hard; that he did so at Eton, at Oxford, at Carlton, for the Conservatives, in his constituency and for some years against the backgound of demands on his personal life that would have daunted many people. He is said to have managed his time at Oxford with ruthless efficiency in order to achieve his ambition of a first, yet, though an outstanding student, he was always supportive of others.

Huh, you'll say: Bullingdon. Well I don't know how true it is, but this book suggests that Cameron ensured that he wasn't in attendance when Bullingdon's bad stuff happened, he'd make some excuse to avoid those outings. When anything was trashed, waitresses insulted or whatever: McCavity wasn't there; unlike Boz who sometimes was there but ran away afterwards to avoid being busted.

Sir Philip Green, who seems the type of employer who demands blood, gave a glowing account of Cameron. I can't imagine Green praising DC if he hadn't been a grafter.

Prior to being accepted for Witney, Cameron was turned down as a candidate of a seat where he had first class connections - through family and the Whetstones. My guess is he was just too young and lacked experience. So no strings were pulled for him there.

At the Witney selection, candidates were told to use a lectern, but Cameron used the technique he used in the leadership selection and ignored it. He walked in front of the lectern, stood directly in front of the selection committee and spoke fluently, without notes. He'd had the sense to take his wife's advice about why he'd failed prior selections in other constituencies: to be himself, to be natural and to answer every question in line with 'Sam's formula': referencing the personal, the local and the national in that order. Cameron impressed the Witney committee with his easy, articulate manner and because " he engaged with us." he was selected simply because he was by far the best candidate. Once selected, he worked bloody hard to win the seat. Despite working full time at Carlton and all the trauma in his personal life looking after Ivan, he spent every weekend working in the constituency. Prior to the election he cycled to every village in the Witney area.

I'm amazed by the book's revelations of just how hard Cameron worked - floor by floor up the Conservative party, unlike Blair re: zanulab - when he was part of the Conservative Research Department. He worked on policy and writing scripts for and briefing Major before PMQs and each morning's press briefing, plus briefing ministers before interviews. He had huge responsibility and would often have to work into the night combing newspapers for bullets for Major to fire at Kinnock during PMQ s then come in at the crack of dawn to work some more. Cameron and Whetstone lived a hairy, frenetic existence, working late, getting a few hours sleep then back into Central Office for 4.30 AM. Guy Black had quickly recognised his talent and hard work and had him moved into his political section. Cameron became a director of it when Black left. He is credited with having improved Major's performance and was of the essence of the 'Summer heat on Labour' campaign. He also wrote a massive book on policy as the campaign guide for a snap 1992 election, setting out every policy and the attack lines against Labour's alternatives. It was his hard work as well as his natural talents which established DC's reputation and got him the chance to make a leadership bid.

The impression that the young Cameron effortlessly burst to the front of the leadership race is nonsense: his apparent sudden political emergence was 20 years of grindingly hard work in the making.

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