Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The continuing mystery of the absent men

I bet I’m not the only one who heard Radio New Zealand’s news item about a homeless Napier woman with seven children and wondered why no man was mentioned.

I notice this time and time again in depressing news stories about solo mothers in desperate plights. Why is nothing ever said about the men who fathered the children?

Are they lurking somewhere in the background, too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward, or have they done a runner? My guess is that it’s the latter.

In the Napier case, the woman’s seven children are aged from 11 down to seven weeks. She spent her last money buying two flimsy tents which she erected in a park before a woman saw what was happening and took her in. She’s now in temporary accommodation, having apparently been given the run-around by the agencies that are supposed to help such people.  (Which is another story in itself. Perhaps Kainga Ora could free up space by evicting some of its gang tenants who terrorise their neighbours. But of course that would be racist.)

The age of the baby indicates there was a man somewhere in the picture until relatively recently. Where is he? Why is he apparently not contributing to the welfare of the helpless infant whose conception he was party to? And what about the other six kids? Did they all have the same father, or were they sired by other men?

Reporters never ask these questions – or if they do, they don’t tell us the answers. There are three possible explanations for this.

The first is that it’s considered rude to inquire into intimate personal matters. The second is that it’s considered judgemental, and contemporary morality insists we must never make judgements about other people’s behaviour (although we do it all the time, and rightly so). The third is that it’s none of our business.

But it is our business, because one way or another these families depend on public support. Where individual responsibility fails, society has to step in, and often that societal support becomes long-term.

That makes it our business. Moreover, if our sympathy is being invited – as in this case – then we are entitled to be told the full story. We deserve to know what circumstances led to a woman and seven kids having to pitch cheap Warehouse tents in a park.

It’s possible she had fled an abusive relationship. If so, we should be told, because it’s information that helps us make a judgment about the situation. (Oh, I forgot – we’re not allowed to be judgmental.)

As in all such cases, our primary concern should be for the kids. Adults have some control over their lives; children have none. They are at the mercy of the people who bring them into the world, and they deserve better than to suffer because of feckless ratbags who root, shoot and leave.   

In such instances, it seems to me there’s a good case for naming and shaming absentee fathers. There should be a penalty for their selfishness and indifference to the consequences of their actions.

But – and this is the hard part – the mothers cannot entirely escape responsibility. Yes, many do their best, in terrible circumstances, to give their kids a loving home. But we are entitled to wonder why, when contraception is subsidised and even free, some women continue to have unprotected sex with the wrong men.

Footnote: I’m not saying these factors apply in the Napier case, because we don’t know. That’s the point – journalists don’t give us the relevant background information.




DB said...

Precisely said Karl. I often wonder why the authorities don’t pursue the absentee fathers with vigour, and never have. Now made all the more difficult because the father doesn’t have to be named on the birth certificate - another great govt initiative. In a situation like this it makes me wonder what the (likely significant) child benefit is being this woman will be receiving is being spent on.

Max Ritchie said...

I don’t believe for a moment that this case is simple or that we have even a part of the story. If this woman was obliged to pitch a Warehouse tent or live out in the open then our welfare system is a failure. Well, we know that it doesn’t work - perpetuating this cycle of welfare dependency is surely a sign that the welfare system is hopeless. Is there an answer? Getting children to attend school and forcing men to accept their responsibilities would be part of it. Allowing the whole thing to drift, which is the Labour approach, is totally the wrong thing to do.

Andy Espersen said...

All joking aside, it should never happen that a woman with 7 children can ever find herself in such situation. Little old me here in Nelson can solve this problem overnight :

Government needs only to buy x number of large quality tents, take over suitable camping grounds, close to schools, with plenty of cooking facilities and children’s playgrounds, furnish the tents with suitable beds, sheets, duvets, chairs and tables – and ensure camp access only to people invited by the campers. Mothers and children would all love it and thrive. Much more pleasant than motels.

But our hypocritical government could never agree to it, of course : Firstly, it would not “look good” in the eyes of their woke, ideological comrades both here and in other countries – and secondly, it would be illegal according to their recent rental accommodation legislation!

rivoniaboy said...

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves from time to time:

"From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

David Smith said...

well put Karl its usually the first thing i shout at the TV

Bryan Flanagan said...

It was a condition of receiving a full benefit that the mother identified the father so that the department of social welfare could go after them for maintenance, this until early 2018 if I recall correctly. Why was this requirement abolished? In October 2017 there was an election, and the incoming government determined that it was an unfair imposition on the mothers to have to name the fathers.

Hilary Taylor said...

...the dads and also the families of the dads, and the mothers...no-one is an island. Incredibly annoying, these bits of stories designed to elicit sympathy. THey elicit mostly anger from me. The woman has chosen to produce a wean every other year for reasons never explained. Doing her bit for the birth rate at our expense....is the most charitable take, and there's plenty of uncharitable ones we could offer. Depressing.