Friday, December 03, 2004

Merry Christmas?

It is not just nativity plays that are suspect these days: now Father Christmas himself is in trouble too.

The Guardian reports:

Father Christmas has been given a new companion in his grotto at a Welsh shopping centre: as well as his elves, an unobtrusive webcam will monitor the jollifications of the next four weeks.

And children queuing for presents in Llanelli will be discouraged from the traditional, brief perch on Santa's lap while they whisper to him what it is they want in their stockings.

The report by Martin Wainwright goes on say that the grotto at St Elli's shopping centre has been "modernised on Neighbourhood Watch lines to give visitors a clear view of the inside". It also says that "Children will find Santa on a double bench with a space beside him which he will tap to steer them away from his lap."

Will all this make parents feel less concerned about their children? Of course it won't: it will just confirm their darkest fears. If you pander to concerns that are not well founded you do not dispel them, you reinforce them.

I am sorry to plug Frank Furedi again, but his discussion of the breakdown of what he calls "adult solidarity" in Paranoid Parenting is the best explanation, or at least characterisation, of what is going on here. Other adults used to be seen as allies in raising our children: today they are seen as a threat.

Which explains events like those in Yeovil yesterday where, The Times reports (you may need to register):

Police have been accused of heavy handedness after arresting two young boys who were playing with toy guns. One of the boys was held in a cell for five hours.

Liam Spencer, 11, and his friend, Luke Johnson, 13, were singing the James Bond theme tune as they rolled around on the floor at a youth club “shooting” at each other in a mock fight.

Liam, who is 4ft 8in, was dressed as Santa Claus and Luke was wearing a Frankenstein’s Monster mask.

But as the pair walked home, a motorist who saw them carrying their silver-coloured plastic guns called the police.

Personally, I would be pleased to see boys that age doing something as old-fashioned as playing with toy guns, but the police is full of sententious comment from the police about taking such matters seriously. Surely the problem here lies with the motorist, who is apparently unable to distinguish between children playing and desperate criminals? This police response to her complaint is not going to encourage her to form more sensible views.

This just in: The Poundland store in Yeovil has banned the sale of toy guns. The manager Kevin Withers said he would now "err on the side of caution".

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