Good Intentions I

By M.K. Styllinski

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence  if they lack understanding.”

– Albert Camus


The genesis of evil has so often sprouted from the best of intentions where the highest of ideals are inverted towards goals which can only lead to a negative outcome. Empathy and altruism are the jewels in humanity’s crown. Relieving the suffering of others is a natural desire and an evolution of a psychological mechanism that seeks to reinforce group cohesion. For psychopaths however, they are amusing qualities ready to be used against us should we not be armed with the knowledge of how that subversion can take place within individuals, groups or governments.

The ability to empathise – to place ourselves in the emotional and intellectual position of another and thereby understand what s/he is feeling or thinking – is one of the highest expressions of the human condition yet it is also one of the most precarious. Altruism is naturally opposed to selfish, egoistic needs and concerned with promoting the welfare of another without thinking of the benefits one would receive from such behaviour. In the presence of a rising narcissism in Western society, true altruism seems to be somewhat rare.

How important is it that people know how big your heart is?

How far does our unconscious need to feel wanted, loved and appreciated determine the roots behind some of our altruistic actions?

Pathological altruism is an implied motivation to promote the welfare of another but in fact, leads to negative consequences to the instigator and / or the recipient. Free-will and choice are often ignored in favour of the desire “to help” and replaced with subtle manipulations amounting to force in order to achieve those goals.  At root is the irrational feeling that the instigator “knows what’s best for you” while also feeding his or her own desire to be the saviour (or martyr) according to the dynamics involved. In the end, pathological altruism helps no one and increases chaos.

Martin Luther-King, Gandhi, J.F. Kennedy and other individuals, despite their very human flaws may be outside this pathology as their ultimate objective was truth, inspiring many to reach for the same standard. The effects from their actions were entirely beneficial and remain a common ideal counter to the prevailing psychopathy. It may also be why  such people seldom last. In a world carved out by social dominators they activate the existing and natural traits in the human family to cooperate and create and are therefore een as potent threats to the status quo.

If a government knows what’s best for you and insists on pushing through reforms without a referendum; if a person insists on sending you their subjective interpretation of what constitutes “love and light” when you expressed your wish not to receive it;  if an individual refuses to see the negative attributes of her partner preferring to focus on his nicer qualities – even to the point that she excludes his violent tendencies; when the hoarding of animals is used to support the hoarder’s own emotional needs while the true needs of the animals are left unmet – these are all examples of pathological altruism which may or may not have the extra influence of psychopathy in the background fuelling the extremes. Either way, pathological altruism maybe a component of a dependent personality disorder, characterised by an adaptive or maladaptive altruism. The evidence shows that the spectrum of psychological disorders must be widened significantly to include this condition.

Fundamental to pathological altruism is the idea of a dependency on an external object that can be changed, rescued and somehow altered in order to alleviate the unresolved conflict the instigator is feeling. Projecting our subconscious suffering onto the external world in order to achieve change is endemic in the world. Inevitably, it will be a multitudinous mix of pathologies that will subvert genuine intent, so often framed by bureaucratic processes and political pressures coming to bear on the institutions in question. We will take a look at NGOs and charitable organisations in this context. This is not a veiled attack on children’s charities, merely an exploration of possible issues in direction, most notably in the present climate of fear surrounding accusations of abuse and sexual exploitation.

Fear and Funding

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Children (NSPCC) has a long history and a solid reputation for protecting children and raising awareness of children’s rights. After focusing on adults in the previous round, their £1.5 million, 2004 advertising campaign concentrated on going directly to children themselves, encouraging them to go to organisations rather than work it through within the family. Unfortunately, there were concerns from child advocates and academics that highlighted the dangers of placing undue importance on agencies outside the family.

Campaigns of this kind, marketed and advertised directly to children, were creating a fine line between alleviating a deep-seated problem and actually adding further layers to an already potent fear which has been injected into society. According to one academic: “This creates a poisonous atmosphere, in which both mistrust and suspicion thrive,” he said. “People who are concerned about the effect of advertising on children ought to be concerned about this.” [1]

Children must be protected from the often subtle influence of self-confirming beliefs and assumptions regarding the powerfully sensitive issue of abuse, not least the substantial history of a growing injustice that goes with it. A sensationalist crusade is not what is required, yet this so often seems to be the preferred strategy. Increasing the powers of professionals to speak on children’s behalf is not the same as empowering children to have the confidence to understand and take action in concert with protective guardians. Society needs very little conspiratorial manipulation, if the seeds of subjective beliefs merely attach themselves to the right meme. *

nspcc-bathroom-small-19400

“Bathroom” – Brand name: NSPCC Product: NSPCC Childline | Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Charities like NSPCC use a significant part of their funding base to mount huge advertising campaigns. The climate of suspicion rather than evidence is gaining ground. Though many offer up the tired old polarity between left-right agenda politics behind criticism of traditionally liberal institutions one can see that “political correctness” and the staid conservatism of yesteryear are both part of the problem. There is cause for concern that children and parents are being demonized by activities that, while prevalent, are not taking place in every household. Yet the NSPCC spends over 38 million a year on campaigning, PR, administration and public education with 28 million on actual children’s services. [2]

Does this advertising really work? Reports suggest that “shock and awe” tactics projected into families already struggling with innumerable problems may not be the answer.

Part of NSPCC’s drive to protect children also includes those who have themselves been abused with a monitoring that pushes the boundaries of what can be termed “protection.” We can also seeing another form of pre-emption emerging: “From 2002 onwards we are developing this work to help young people who have not yet abused others, but show signs of doing so in the future.” According to a recent report by The Spectator from September 2002 The Data Protection Register lists: “…details of sex life, political opinions, ethnic origin and religious beliefs on offenders and alleged offenders and their relatives. Possible recipients of this data include employers and voluntary and charitable organisations.” [3]

If it was just a case of inappropriate PR and advertising, propaganda and selective data, it would be alarming enough. However, the track record of child advocacy and social services regarding child abuse cases in many instances is less than exemplary. (America’s CPS is most definitely turning into something very disturbing in this context. For more on their record see Police State Amerika IV: The New Brutality).

The report also mentions the case of the Victoria Climbie [4] who was tortured over a nine-month period in 1999 and finally murdered by members of her family, one of a number of cases which were missed in the last two decades. Serious inaction on the part of social services, police child-protection units and two hospitals were found to be the cause of the death with the NSPCC sharing a central part of the blame. Victoria Climbie had been beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a bin liner inside an empty bath. The eight year old died in February 2000 with 128 separate injuries to her body along with contributory symptoms of hypothermia and malnutrition. Yet she was ignored.

Some of the reasons for the Climbie tragedy lay directly at the door of the charity yet a new multi-million pound campaign to stop child abuse on completion of the Climbie report could be said by some to have distracted criticism away from any more probing into the NSPCC. True to form, junior police officers were also alleging that they were made scapegoats in the case. Though we could say it is unfair to single out a case such as this, where one “slipped through the net”, there have since been several others which follow a similar catalogue of failures along with cases which do not necessarily make headline reports.

The emphasis on advertising campaigns and big corporate donation drives, active lobbying and hi-tec expenditure have placed the NSPCC in the position of receiving the most donations charity in the UK. It shows that there must be something deeply flawed in the system which allows a child to be tortured and abused to death from an error of data management that was “inadequate and incomplete.” The Climbie case was high profile – what of the cases which do not reach the press?

It is a matter of record that:

  • They failed to check on Victoria for a week after she was referred to them in August 1999 because they were busy planning a party.
  • They did not act on the eight-year-old’s multiple injuries for several months despite her being referred to them as an urgent case.
  • Once the referral had been received vital clarification of the information and the expectations of social services were not sought.
  • NSPCC officials had altered documents to show they closed the case. [5]

Apologies were offered with little attempts to reason why the above happened. There were also denials that this was an indication of a cover-up, although that is precisely what it was. Since that time there have been scores of other cases where children have been not not only neglected but left to die at the hands of their abusers. This is not to say that the majority of our charities do not do great work, they obviously do. In the context of Official Culture, is the status and way of life of this charity – indeed any charity – more important than its primary goal?

An article from 2012 from the opinionsite.org entitled: NSPCC maintains abuse hysteria as donations fall goes into some detail as to the problems with NSPCC’s trajectory. Though I don’t agree with all the author’s recommendations he makes some very valid points highlighting:

A report by New Philanthropy Capital which was covered by the Guardian newspaper in 2007 concluded that despite spending £250 million in its ‘Full Stop’ campaign, the NSPCC had been singularly ineffective in making any significant difference to the abuse of any children.  It also noted the NSPCC’s addiction to high-profile PR campaigns, effectively drawing public attention to child abuse through exaggeration and less than accurate research. The report said the campaign was something that “…had very little bearing on whether a substance-abusing parent neglects their child behind closed doors, or whether a sexual offender chooses to abuse a child when they have the opportunity to do so in secret.”

Disturbing allegations that the NSPCC can be viewed as an arm of government propaganda is also levelled:

  • The NSPCC is the only charity with statutory powers of investigation and referral. This means that the charity is 100% an arm of the government of the day and as such, is allowed to continue its dishonest practices with impunity.

  • Its activities and falsely secured respectability mean that the government has a ‘fall guy’ when a policy goes horribly wrong. Ministers just blame the NSPCC advice and its alleged ‘research’ and claim the government was acting in good faith.

  • The royal family and celebrities have strong funding connections with the NSPCC. They give it an air of further respectability and surround it with a protected status that most will not even dare to criticize.

No doubt great lessons were learned in terms of logistical planning, data collection and the like. But questions still remain as to the overall awareness of the deeper implications of abuse in general, where on more than one occasion the charity’s own figures and myths concerning child abuse contradicted its own high profile campaigning messages.

According to NSPCC about 1 percent of UK children are abused by a parent, most usually the mother, not the biological father as so many reports suggest. Other listed abuse is shown to have come from relatives, brothers or stepbrothers at the top end of the scale. Significantly, the researchers estimate that about 13-14 percent of sexual abuse involves non-relatives – which is to say, people outside the family. It has long been known that even in the United States as far back as 1989, that: “ … non-biological fathers were almost four times as likely as natural fathers to sexually abuse children in their care” according to one University study. It went on to state: “Another report found that, although mothers’ boyfriends contributed less than 2 percent of non-parental child care, they committed almost half of all the child abuse by non-parents.” Which follows the pattern of paedophiles who manipulate mothers into a relationship in order to gain access to the child or children. That said, the study also aligned with other research revealing: “… mothers to be more violent toward children than fathers are. Yet the NSPCC study omits the further disturbing factor, brought out in American reports that such physical abuse is most likely to occur among lone mothers. In one such survey, unwed mothers reported a rate of ‘very severe violence’ toward their children that was 71 times higher than the rate among mothers who lived with fathers.” [6]

Expensive media campaigns defined by powerful images targeting the insecurities of parents can produce unnecessary destabilisation.  Over simplification of complex issues seems to be the prerogative of our soundbite culture. The media inevitably distorts and reconfirms the myth of the family in the United Kingdom as an inherently dangerous place. After the many miscarriages of justice fuelled by sensationalist media reports how much does charity PR and media bias actually inform the public and thereby raise awareness? Or can it serve to introduce new tensions of guilt, hyper-sensitivity and political correctness into families already being squeezed by child laws and socioeconomic strictures that increase family fragmentation?

Family abuse does unquestionably take place but dealing with the problem may not lie in hugely expensive advertising campaigns bypassing parents and instilling fear and doubt in the young. It is one thing to tell children the truth in ways that are manageable and that can be healthily assimilated and made sense of, but quite another to garner profit from the creation of fear plucked from essential truths and to then seed it in the child’s mind with no reference point for understanding. This amounts to programming of a very destructive kind.

There is also evidence that charities and NGOs across environmental activism, child exploitation and medical research are being funded by the very sources that are part of the problem, giving ammunition to those who see such moves as the assimilation of civic society by corporatism and politics. NGOs rely on funding from individual donors, foundations, corporations and governments; therefore, a case could be made that these funding sources can affect NGO policy, subtly twisting decision-making in favour of corporate designs. The core legitimacy of many NGOs and charities then becomes debatable.

Since Live Aid, most independent charities have been transformed into businesses channelling millions of pounds and dollars into a multitude of projects. The strategy of maintaining growth and the payment of its employees as the consumption and production becomes ever greater, is of paramount importance. With the income of the UK’s top 500 fundraising charities topping £8.6bn in 2004 one can imagine that financial steerage and conditional donations is becoming a greater issue. [7] Where there is new direction in sources of funding, politics will not be far behind.

The humanitarian NGO Care International and the murder of its director Margaret Hussein, is a case in point. The organization had most of its donations from the US government and therefore never publicly condemned the war in Iraq for fear of losing its income, very likely contributed to the belief that Hussein had sold out to Western colonialism. Or what about Save the Children, describing itself as “the world’s largest independent global organisation for children” relies on huge donations from corporations and governments. The US counterpart of the charity came down hard on its UK branch as it condemned the military in Iraq for breaching the Geneva Convention when US military forces blocked humanitarian aid. Future withdrawal of funding from the US government was implied in several heated exchanges.

Governments and corporations have become the new donors rather than the voluntary sector of the public, where operational independence has been removed. If you look carefully, you can see that the higher principles of service to humankind have been vastly diluted. Or as a recent report from the Association of Charitable Foundations mentioned: “In a world where funding comes from service contracts, there is a danger that the passion is neutralised, in the interests of financial survival. People do what they are paid to do, rather than what they care deeply about doing.” [8]

The painful irony is that there is certainly networks of systematic abuse which are organised and sealed behind the closed doors of the powerful. Occasionally the bleed-through into their resource (the public) does occur and we are able to see examples of a progressively pathologised society. But are the vast sums of money spent on NSPCC’s campaigns justified and do they produce results  – targeting the real purveyors and sources of high level abuse?


* The term “meme” was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, which refers to a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. Or as Dawkins said, ‘Examples of memes are tunes, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches’.

Notes

[1] “Campaign by NSPCC “poisons families’ ” The Sunday Times Monday, January 19, 2004
[2] “A UK children’s charity has come under fire for spending more on advertising and administration than directly on children’s services.” – BBC News, 13 December, 2000.
[3] http://www.nspcc.org.uk/
[4] The Victoria Climbie Inquiry http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
[5] Officers in Climbie case ‘scapegoats’ BBC News, Monday, 18 February, 2002.
[6] ‘Myths Aside, Traditional Families Protect Kids Best British Report Stirs Up Debate about Sexual Abuse’ The Times, December 22, 2000.
[7] ‘Top charities’ income rises 42 per cent’ Society Guardian, June 30, 2004.
[8] http://www.acf.org.uk/ Association of Charitable Foundations UK Offices.

 


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