“Won’t somebody pleeeease think of the children!”
So wailed Mrs Lovejoy, wife of the stoic Rev Lovejoy in a classic Simpsons episode in which reason was overtaken by emotion.
Let’s face it, late modern culture reaches conclusions by emotions not by reasoning. We’re seeing that being played out in real time every day now.
That is as much true of the major ethical decisions we face in our increasingly hard secular frame, as it is in the day to day lives we eke out. Yet it’s in the niggly little decisions that affect us daily that it is most evident.
This struck me recently in the local council elections here in my home state of Western Australia. Local elections, as they imply, are all about local issues. And they give local people a chance to have a say.
More importantly they give local mini-overlords the chance to lord it over at a local and mini level, all in the hope that one day they may become regional overlords by using local politics to get into state politics, maybe even federal politics.
But I digress. The local election gave me a wonderful example of just how it is that emotions rule our conclusions rather than reasoning. And this photo sums it up perfectly:
For the length of the bloody campaign that was for the local seats in our area of Midland, this oval was the scene of the battle. It would have made the Battle of Bosworth between the Yorks and the Lancastrians seem, er, civil.
Several agitators wanting on to the council took it upon themselves that the Midland Oval was a piece of history that needed retaining. That it somehow had emotional ties to Midland and its working class roots that meant it should not be developed. It should stay as an oval.
“Where will the children play?” wailed the plaintive signs posted all around Midland. Actually, posted all around the slightly more gentrified suburbs around Midland that all contain lovely parks replete with slides, flying foxes, trees for shade, next to no heroin needles, no barbed wire fences, zero shopping trolleys, and, most importantly plenty of children!
Indeed the owner of aforementioned signs lives in one of those suburbs next to the best park in the area.
I have lived in the area for 17 years. This park is almost always empty. Except at night of course, when it’s a little less empty. Midland occupies space on the fringe of Perth where, in summer, it is a regular 36 C/100F. Where do the children play then? On their Nintendos, in the pool, at the mall, anywhere but the park, that’s where. Besides, no parents worth their salt let their children play in this park by themselves. Take it from me.
Hence the council was in the throes of a decision to redevelop the park to bring people back, by turning it into a precinct with shops, eateries, trees, grass, tables and chairs. You know, the kinda stuff that might be a place where children could actually, like, play!
However, the ensuing campaign was all about this patch of grass being preserved for the children. The children who stubbornly refuse to play there. The emotion didn’t run deep at the start, but by the time the campaign was over, the votes were in and we were lumped with a monorail, er, I mean we were lumped with a council that will ensure the oval remains there and that the children will, stubbornly, remain elsewhere.
Unless of course the good people who got on to council and who live in those aforementioned leafy suburbs around Midland turn up there and force their kids out onto the grass.
I don’t want somebody to think of the children. I just want somebody to think!