The State `honors’ mothers while abusing their children

Yesterday, Sunday, May 8, 2011, was Mother’s Day in many parts of the world. Mothers were celebrated and honored. How does the State `honor’ mothers?

According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, inequality among OECD countries is rapidly growing. Starting in the 1980s, the United States and the United Kingdom led the way in growth-through-inequality. Then the movement spread. Today, it rules the vast majority of OECD countries. Those are countries identified as wealthy and developed. Growing structural inequality has come to mean developed.

How are women honored in this development model? “Since the mid-1980s, women’s employment has grown much more rapidly than that of men. But many women work part-time and earn less which explains part of widening earnings gaps among the workforce. On average across the OECD, the share of part-time employment in total employment increased from 11% in the mid-1990s to about 16% by the late 2000s”.

Women have entered or been forced, or some combination thereof, into the jobs market. Many countries have followed the United States model in which public assistance, or welfare, has been cut and limited. There’s less money and the restrictions, especially the time restrictions, are severe. This toxic storm strikes single mothers particularly hard. Remove all supports and then create a labor market in which those with low or limited educational qualifications must work part-time for practically nothing. Eliminate public services, such as childcare and extended school programs. Even out-of-school suspension policies assault all working mothers, and particularly low- and no-wage mothers, and particularly single mothers.

If the women complain or try to unionize, they are reminded that there’s no assistance out there, that all the jobs available for `people like them’ are pretty much the same, and that they are women, mothers especially, who have near catastrophic household, and community, responsibilities. They are not reminded that, in the United States, union women earn 34% more than nonunion women.  That information wouldn’t be prudent.

The same period, early 1980s to the present, has witnessed increased incarceration of children. In Australia, the immigrant and asylum detention centers have been  “factories for producing mental illness”, and have been broadly criticized for caging children of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, sometimes for long periods. What is the State response? Cover-up. Privatize. Outsource.

In the United Kingdom, children in custody die as a result of constraint methods.  One popular method is the tantrum hold, sure to result in injury 9 out of 10 times. In 2004, fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt died of asphyxiation after being `tantrum held.’ Finally, an investigation into the constraint methods was conducted. That report was completed in May 2008 and presented to the government. What was the State response? Silence? Actually, it was worse in that it was more active. The State suppressed and hid the report. This Wednesday, three years later, the report will be made public.

In the United States, eleven states treat 17-year-olds charged with felonies as adults.  Illinois is one of the eleven states. A recent study of convictions in Illinois suggests that only 25% of the youths convicted with gun charges were ever actually identified as having the gun in question. In fact, of the cases studied, only 46% of them had any gun recovered.  Children were sent to adult prisons for gun possession in cases in which no gun was ever found, in cases in which the children in question were never identified as holding the gun in question. How does the State respond? The State legislature is debating a bill, right now, to reduce the age limit from 17 to 15 and 16, if convicted for gun possession. In Illinois, this is considered inclusion.

From Australia to the United Kingdom to the United States and beyond, the State incarceration of children and the State abuse of child prisoners is a direct assault on their adult guardians. Overwhelmingly, that assault targets women. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. All of these women are mothers,  `a woman who undertakes the responsibility of a parent towards a child.”

Nation-States designed, or bought, economic development models that targeted vast numbers of women and children. The same States designed, or bought, justice programs that targeted vast numbers of women and children. Those State economic and justice models have devastated communities of color and low-income communities generally.

And yesterday those States honored women and celebrated mothers and motherhood? Rather call those State festivities `honor celebrations’, and invite them to sit at the same family table as honor killings. Mothers, and their children, can sit at other, better tables.

 

(Photo Credit: mylondondiary.co.uk)

The babies’ give-and-take

Hillary Clinton visits Angola this week. The caregivers of Angola, the United States, and the world haunt her mission as they haunt this age.

Isn’t it curious that those who care for others can be called caretakers or caregivers? A caregiver is “a person, typically either a professional or close relative, who looks after a child, elderly person, invalid, etc.; a carer”. A caretaker is “one who takes care of a thing, place, or person; one put in charge of anything”. This explains why caregivers are mostly women, underpaid or not paid at all, who look after others in need: children, the sick, the elderly, you, me. This explains why there are caretaker governments and why there are no caregiver governments or States.

In Ireland, a caretaker is “a person put in charge of a farm from which the tenant has been evicted”. Angola is evicting thousands of people right now. 3000 family households were just bulldozed on the outskirts of Lusaka, to make way for gated condominium `communities’ and shopping malls: “`They arrived at around 3am,’ explained Rosa, a pregnant mother of five who has lived for three years in the area of two neighbouring informal settlements known as Baghdad and Iraq. “First came the police, and then the machines and they just started to knock down the houses. There was no warning, we had no choice but to leave because of all the police so we just grabbed what we could and then watched as they pulled down our homes,” said the 29-year-old.”

What happens to Rosa and her five children, what happens to that future child of hers, if it survives its birth? What happens to Rosa, now homeless, when she goes into childbirth? The maternal mortality roulette is now firmly stacked against her. And what happens then to the five or six kids?

Maki knows. Maki is a fictional character in “Porcupine”, the title story of Jane Bennett’s collection, Porcupine. Maki is Black, Zimbabwean, lesbian, a writer and student living in South Africa, and she knows: “The statistics have been stable for centuries; the babies of the caretakers died with much more frequency than those in the caretakers’ care. It’s not a riddle.”

Rosa and her children, the women, men, children of Baghdad and Iraq, in the southlands of Lusaka, they must just die. If that’s economic and social progress, if their eviction and death is part of community formation, then Angola is a proper Caretaker State.

And Angola is not alone. We are living in a Caretaker Era, on a globe of evictions in the name of progress, in a world of caretakers’ children dying. The statistics have been stable.

Take the United States, a wealthy country. With all its wealth, the United States health care system is “one of the worst of all the industrialized nations.” In 2000, the World Health Organization stopped ranking national health care systems, because the data, they said, became too complex. In their 2000 assessment, of 191 nation states, the United States ranked 37th, and this despite spending a higher portion of its gross domestic product on health than any other country.

So, what happens to the Rosa’s of the United States? What happens to their children?

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development Health Data 2009 report, “Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades.  In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by 8.2 years between 1960 and 2006, which is less than the increase of almost 15 years in Japan, or 9.4 years in Canada. In 2006, life expectancy in the United States stood at 78.1 years, almost one year below the OECD average of 79.0 years….Infant mortality rates in the United States have fallen greatly over the past few decades, but not as much as in most other OECD countries.  It stood at 6.7 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2006, above the OECD average of 4.9.”

If Rosa is a caregiver in the United States, she’s an underpaid woman of color. She’s Black, Latina, Native American, Asian. What happens to Rosa, to her children, to her next child, if she’s, say, Black?  “Black infants in the United States are more than twice as likely as white infants to die in the first year of life. In New York City, infant mortality rates were 3 times higher for black infants than for white infants in 2001. Neonatal deaths, that is, deaths that occur within 28 days after delivery, account for nearly two thirds of all infant deaths. Similar to the racial disparities in infant mortality rates, black neonates are more than twice as likely to die, compared with white neonates.”

These deaths are called amenable mortality. That means they are considered amenable to health care. That means, they could have been prevented. They could be prevented. They can be prevented. In the United States, the worst industrialized nation in reducing amenable mortality, Rosa’s death will be another `amenable mortality’. That of her children as well.

Prior to the recession, in the United States, women were foregoing health care, which is like saying that caregivers have been foregoing living in gated communities and shopping at upscale malls. Around the world, women are `foregoing’ needed health care. Rosa is, her five children are, her impending sixth child is. They are foregoing housing, health care, education, water, food. Whether Rosa lives in Angola or in the United States is irrelevant. She is meant to die, her children are meant to die. The statistics have been stable for centuries. It’s not a riddle.

(Image Credit: Case Western Reserve University Health Disparities Blog)