pathological altruism

Good Intentions II: Feed The World

“… every seasoned aid worker knew then, and knows now, that there is no necessary connection between raising money for a good cause and that money being well spent, just as there is no necessary connection between caring about the suffering of others and understanding the nature or cause of that suffering.”

– Foreign Aid expert


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Live 8 Promotional poster

Author and Professor of Engineering at Oakland University Barbara Oakley PhD names the entrenched idea of changing the world before changing oneself as a kind of “hyper-altruism” that has had a recent resurgence among the minds of mega-philanthropists such as Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Belinda and Bill Gates. They have donated billions to the needy in Africa and the sub-continent and have encouraged their fellow filthy rich friends to do the same. She quotes The Economist’s Matthew Bishop and Michael Green who termed this new phenomenon as “philanthrocapitalism” which continues to pump huge amounts of money into the foreign aid industry.

So, why are the same problems showing little signs of being affected by such massive financial contributions and in fact are largely getting worse?

According to Oakley:

“Financial altruism detached from strategic and objective thinking has been shown time and again to have detrimental consequences at exorbitant costs. […] Not all aid is bad but debate has continued regarding the efficacy of foreign aid and whether massive investments are of any use.” She makes the further and vital point: “Staring at pictures of starving children can in some sense, hijack analytical portions of the brain. Perhaps it is this that results in some of the ineffectual and pathologically altruistic behaviour that characterizes many foreign aid policies and programs.” [1]

Oakley then discusses the advances in neuroscience that strongly suggest:

“… developing dispassion – the ability to displace ourselves emotionally from a situation that arouses our primal, emote control responses – is vital in being able to help others. In a related vein, developing our ability to use our rational brain to feel compassion for others – without mirroring their emotions – is important for preventing compassion fatigue or burn out often seen in those who care for the suffering.” [2]

We know we need to cultivate objectivity as well as our more intuitive feelings modes so that they work in unison. However, there is something more here than the dynamics of how our rational brains are so easily bypassed by images which elicit the required response. Pathological altruism is exacerbated and encouraged by psychopathy at institutional levels and which requires a total subversion of nobler thoughts that lead to altruistic action. This merely results in the creation of further multi-layered problems rather than the needed long-term amelioration.

It is the reflex of empathy and its altruistic actions which can and do cause harm based as they are on a) guilt that we do not do enough for our fellow-man and b) a lack of knowledge as to how this selfless giving may actually manifest in the world. Rather than facilitate the easing of suffering it can compound the problems, adding insult to injury as this passage from Oakley quoting the Time’s Nancy Gibbs illustrates:

After the 2004 tsunami, aid poured in from all over the world. But included tons of out-dated or unneeded medicines that Indonesian officials had to throw out. People sent Viagra or Santa suits, high-heeled shoes and evening gowns. A year later after an earthquake in Pakistani, so much unusable clothing arrived that people burned it to stay warm. It may make us feel good to put together children’s care packages with cards and teddy bears – but whose needs are we trying to meet? It may not feel glorious but often the greatest need is accomplished quietly, invisibly. Either way, the same principle holds in helping as in healing: First, do no harm.  [3]

And if such a simple, genuine outpouring of good intentions can be so easily go astray, what does this say about the more complex dynamics of our global institutions and foreign aid organisations enmeshed in a world that is by nature operating on a model that is exploitative?

The role of celebrities as entertainers, image makers and icons is ready to be made use of should opportunities arise. When necessary, the good-will and compassion of the people with disposable income and an awakening conscience can move mountains. This show of “people power” is, however, consistently diverted by a financial system that is grossly and purposefully unjust. The role of the media and the celebrity-fest surrounding the Live Aid world-wide concert in 1984 and the Live 8 concert which followed in 2005 is a case in point. Coinciding with the latter concert was the annual G8 Summit hosted by the UK. The G8 is composed of the world’s leading industrialised nations (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States and Russia).

On the Live 8 website we read:

These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison. This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty. The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough. By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.[4]

Despite having no rules governing its own operations, no formal or legal powers and no mechanisms of accountability, the G8 wields huge economic, military and diplomatic power in the institutions of global governance. These institutions include the UN Security Council, World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. They are products of a system that is the antithesis of decentralisation, the driving force being to achieve new market access for their members. As one aid expert stated regarding Geldof’s initial Live Aid: “… every seasoned aid worker knew then, and knows now, that there is no necessary connection between raising money for a good cause and that money being well spent, just as there is no necessary connection between caring about the suffering of others and understanding the nature or cause of that suffering.” [5]

This applies as much to ourselves as it does to the world at large. “Understanding the true nature and cause of that suffering.” The unpalatable truth is that G8 leaders and those above seem to have neither the inclination nor the desire to alter history unless it benefits their own particular requirements.

These concerts illustrated the well-spring of genuine empathy and compassion which was allowed to be cynically used and exploited via the egos – however well-intentioned – of a collection of celebrities. It was a perfect opportunity for politicians to get in on the act and smile for the cameras while the feckless media sung along. The facts are rather different to the sophistry and rhetoric heard so often from the likes of Bono and Geldof. Their own positions of influence are conveniently used to promote an agenda diametrically opposed to their own wishes to cancel debt and end poverty in Africa.

One has to ask why eleven years later, did we need another Live Aid?

Why did all those in the G8 for whom the suffering of millions have never made the slightest impression, suddenly grow a conscience?

They doffed their hats to Sir Bob because it dove-tailed into their agenda.

Bush, Geldof and Bono

The seemingly inspiring and very well-intentioned Live 8 event served as an actual and symbolic rendering of how our subjectivity is used against us all, directly mirroring the issues in exploitation. In this instance, it is a more intangible but cynical twisting of a potential mass altruism and the devaluing of an innate desire to assist, since we are encouraged to be drawn into the sensation of compassion without due attention to cause or effect or where these emotions are taking us. The very same participants within a system who created that tangible suffering in the first place are also those taking full advantage of directionless conscience. It is a circular feedback that benefits only the status quo based as it is, on the ignorance of the mechanism of politics and bureaucracy and our wishful thinking that we can “change the world,” in this context.

Not one month after the famous Live 8 concert, a much touted headline read: “$55bn Africa debt deal ‘a victory for millions’ which was splashed across the front page of the Observer in June 12 2005 with Sir Bob Geldof’s rhetoric reaching epic proportions stating: “Tomorrow 280 million Africans will wake up for the first time in their lives without owing you or me a penny…”

Firstly, the G8 proposals for HIPC debt cancellation were already inadequate based on debt relief that will be granted to poor countries “… only if they are shown to be “adjusting their gross assistance flows by the amount given.” In other words, their aid will be reduced by the same amount as the debt relief, thus gaining nothing. Paragraph two states that “it is essential” that poor countries “boost private sector development” and ensure “the elimination of impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign”.[6]

So, there we see the real reasons for the winks and smiles.

Let us not forget that debt payments rose in 2006 and have doubled in 2015. This alone dilutes the aforementioned “victory”. It is also the height of hypocrisy that while Bono, Geldof and other entertainers were wooing G8 leaders, British arms sales to Africa had reached £1bn a month before the concert and show no signs of slowing.[7]  This underlined the hollow nature of the event and the truth behind African poverty and debt.  (The hypocrisy is also underscored by Bono’s penchant for shifting his assets to offshore tax havens and investing in the very corporate franchises that he is telling us have to be reformed).[8]

The foundation of Africa’s wealth and resources are largely in the hands of trans-national corporations some of whom are directly or indirectly under the direction of G8 membership. The men in suits and soppy grins are the brokers and beneficiaries of this appalling suffering which continues under the euphemism of an “African Union.” This was signed into effect on July 11, 2000, by 54 nations of Africa. Like the European Union, it has only one peacekeeping force, one Central Bank, one Court of Justice, one currency, and so forth. Essentially, it is a blueprint for control that affords very little rights to Africans by promoting civil war and corruption from which the West can profit. They do this by keeping a cap on any independent development that might eclipse western interests.

Immediately after the Gleneagles meeting had wound down and G8 leaders had been chauffeured away to their sumptuous hotels the Belgian government was already hatching plans to give lenders greater control over poor countries and reneging on agreements to write off 100 percent of their debt. Belgian IMF representative Willy Kierkens is quoted in a document leaked to the activist group Jubilee Debt Campaign to an address to the IMF executive board that “rather than giving full, irrevocable and unconditional debt relief… countries would receive grants.” [9]

The then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that the agreed upon total of $48bn a year of aid by 2010 would also include a 100 percent cancellation of multilateral debts of the most indebted countries. Yet Gordon Brown brazenly claimed in a Treasury Committee that this aid increase includes money put aside for debt relief. Blair lied yet again and G8 member countries showed that their signatures symbolised nothing more than a temporary appeasement. [10]

Logo_of_the_African_UnionAfrican Union logo

From Making Poverty History a key working group, one activist argued that there existed the same old spin doctors doing what Alistair Campbell did so ruthlessly when covering up for Blair’s lies in the Downing Street Memos: “‘Our real demands on trade, aid and debt, and our criticisms of UK government policy in developing countries have been consistently swallowed up by white bands, celebrity “luvvies” and praise upon praise for Blair and Brown.” [11] [12]

Yet Make Poverty History is not the only one to be absorbed by the new politics masquerading as New Labour – the new evangelism of the US. It is this New Wave that is shackling African Countries into the false economy of the African Union and the realization that any allotted money can only be accessed if they sign up to World Bank and IMF economic policy conditions.

While Blair, a born opportunist, was busy jumping aboard the Make Poverty History train, he knew all along that the emotional fuel would run out. Why else would he be secretly cutting the government’s Africa desk officers and staff at the same time that the Department for International Development was forcing the privatisation of water supply in Ghana for the benefit of British corporations? [13]

Amelioration of poverty, disease and significant successes do take place. And Geldof is right when he said that there was a global change in attitude. But this has never been the problem. Most normal human beings are immensely keen to help those suffering and in need. But the outpouring of emotion is not enough unless it is supported by effective frameworks (untarnished by political pathologies) through which change can flow. Overall, while temporarily more children were able to go to school and less were hungry the dependency and cycle of that debt remains. The “support” addresses symptoms which, although worthy, amount to sops and buffers around the primary fences of poverty, prolonged and exacerbated by Western exploitation. This includes massive bias towards privatization which comprises one half of the World Bank expenditure on what it considers worthwhile projects. Worthwhile that is, to its own coffers.

More and more conditions have been added to the initial agreements which were already piecemeal and ineffective. There were no real high level negotiations between Bush and Blair other than how best they could capitalize on naivety and gullibility of nations. For this duo it was merely an exercise in extracting the juice of image and hype to buttress their plummeting support on a range of issues. The overriding stipulation surrounding the whole sham of debt relief and the Make Poverty History movement was that it be conditional and tied to the original economic structures that created the problems in the first place.

Throw as much money as you like at these problems it will not alter the cycle of debt and poverty until the structure is re-evaluated and radically reformed.

We can only do that by becoming aware of what we are dealing with and immunizing ourselves against this psychological pathogen in our midst. We do that by learning everything is to know about how such people think and act.  Meantime, compassionate peoples are played by seasoned psychopaths for whom getting fat on power and profit at the expense of others is easy. The fact that 7,000 Africans die every day means nothing. They rely on it to secure their spoils.

There are ample reasons to conclude that Live Aid in 1984 was harmful as well as positive in limited terms. Yet what exactly did all this achieve? A compassion that lends wings to long-term action based on objectively evaluated pragmatic solutions, or a deadly compassion that serves to play into the hands of global leaders? “The fact is that Ethiopia remains one of Africa’s poorest countries, and the whole of sub-Saharan Africa is, if anything, worse off today than it was after Live Aid. Geldof himself has been of two minds. He says that Live Aid “created something permanent and self-sustaining” but has also asked why Africa is getting poorer.” [14]

As well he might.

Yes, just as the Ethiopian famine was a hideous reality, the final results of this great resettlement served the G8 powers admirably. As journalist David Rieff stated, the: “… resettlement policy – of moving 600,000 people from the north while enforcing the “villagisation” of three million others – was at least in part a military campaign, masquerading as a humanitarian effort. And it was assisted by Western aid money…” In effect, UN institutions and donor governments helped a totalitarian project kill thousands of people under the pretext of humanitarian assistance, where “…aid to victims was unwittingly transformed into support to their executioners.” [15]  According to French NGO Medecin Sans Frontieres [16] the death total from deportation and raids came to as many as the lives that were saved. The result was good PR for G8 leaders and more misery for the poverty-stricken.

So, do nothing? Isn’t the “the positivity of the action better than the pessimism of the thought?” As we have seen, it is a little more complex than that. Geldof has to be commended for his seemingly genuine intent and ability to cut through apathy and despair. Yet his passionate comments in a recent report to answer his critics summarises so many whose dynamism and emotional drive are used against them:

‘Behind all of this bitter carping is the corrosively cynical view that none of this works. That because they, as critics, do nothing, nobody else should even try. Well, they’re wrong. You can alter policy. The individual is not powerless in the face of either political indifference or monstrous human tragedy. Let me say it embarrassedly, cornily, almost guiltily. Let me try to say it without sounding like some pious twat. You can change the world. And millions upon millions of you did that this year. This stuff works. Sometimes. [17]

He goes on to discuss the dying baby Birhan Woldu the “little scrap of humanity” now a grown women who was saved by the original Live Aid concert 20 years ago… “all of it was worth it for just her. For that single life.”

It is hard to disagree isn’t it?

In one very real sense he is absolutely right and nothing should prevent such a call to action. But how are we to confront the deeper issues behind this call that is “in the box” of a wider control system that demands the cycles of endless Live Aids? That for one life saved, millions of dead will follow due to a subjective activism that plays into the hands of those several steps ahead. Live Aid camouflages the core issues and thus leads to a perpetuating cycles of the same.

Perhaps what we are facing in the 21st century is not a call to end third world debt or to demonstrate against any one particular political atrocity, of which there are many. It is to raise our awareness to the fact that the very core actions of our world are purposely and intentionally created by a minority of psychologically deviant persons. Until we grasp that fact, which includes an in depth knowledge of the mechanisms of political psychopathy, Geldof’s well meaning, but ultimately naive mission will be co-opted with mathematical precision.

Contrary to what the musician states, this stuff does not work. It never has. As clinical psychologist Andrew Łobaczewski  states: “even normal people, who condemn this kind of [Pathocracy] along with its ideologies, feel hurt and deprived of something constituting part of their own romanticism, their way of perceiving reality, when a widely idealized group is exposed as little more than a gang of criminals.” [18]

And we are still duped by such a gang who know crowd psychology very well indeed.

 


Notes

[1]  (pp.239 -241) Pathological Altruism By Barbra Oakley http://www.amazon.com/Pathological-Altruism-Barbara-Oakley/dp/0199738572
[2] Ibid. (p.242)
[3] Ibid. (p.243)
[5] “Cruel to be kind?” by David Rieff, The Guardian, June 24, 2005 – “Live Aid forced the world to confront the Ethiopian famine and raised more than £50m. But as Bob Geldof prepares his Live 8 reprise, aid expert David Rieff argues that guilt-stricken donations helped fund a brutal resettlement programme that may have killed up to 100,000.”
[6] “John Pilger isn’t celebrating victory -‘The illusion of an anti-establishment crusade led by pop stars” Daily Mirror, June 26, 2005.
[7 ‘UK arms sales to Africa reach £1 billion mark’ The Guardian, Antony Barnett, June 12, 2005.
[8] ‘U2 Under Fire For Tax Move’ Irish Examiner, August 9, 2006.
[9] ‘G8 debt deal under threat at IMF’ By Steve Schifferes BBC News, 15 July, 2005
[10] ‘How the G8 lied to the world on aid’ The truth about Gleneagles puts a cloud over the New York summit by Mark Curtis, The Guardian, August 23, 2005: “Russia’s increase in ‘aid’ will consist entirely of write-offs. A third of France’s aid budget consists of money for debt relief; much of this will be simply a book-keeping exercise worth nothing on the ground since many debts are not being serviced. […] … the deal applies initially to only 18 countries, which will save just $1bn a year in debt-service payments. The 62 countries that need full debt cancellation to reach UN poverty targets are paying 10 times more in debt service. And recently leaked World Bank documents show that the G8 agreed only three years’ worth of debt relief for these 18 countries. They state that “countries will have no benefit from the initiative” unless there is ‘full donor financing’.The deal also involves debts only to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, whereas many countries have debts to other organisations. It is a kick in the teeth for the African Union, whose recent summit called for “full debt cancellation for all African nations”.
[11] http://www.downingstreetmemo.com. “The Downing Street ‘Memo’ is actually meeting minutes transcribed during the British Prime Minister’s meeting on July 23, 2002. Published by The Sunday Times on May 1, 2005 it was the first hard evidence from within the UK or US governments that exposed the truth behind how the Iraq war began.  This site is intended to provide information about the Downing Street Memo and how it fits in with numerous other documents and events that relate to the Bush administration’s march to war.”
[12] ‘Make the G8 history’ By Stuart Hodkinson, Red Pepper, July 2005.
[13] If one visits the newly created Dept. of International Development (DFID) and the G8 websites one would be forgiven for thinking that everything is on track and the world is save in their hands. Toss in some rhetoric, statistics and self-effacing explanations of how hard it is to accomplish significant gains on the Millennium Development goals (yet drive to do all you can for the Department’s “Business Partnership Unit” which reveals the real intentions behind the Department as a whole) and there you have another quango headed by cabinet minister Hilary Benn MP with the inevitable cracks of impartiality will begin to appear if not intentionally created. Set up to filter direct action and further apply bureaucratic obstacles, political manipulation takes the place of clear, unambiguous directives. The case studies, and funding alone, although with merit, indicate a symptomatic and piecemeal approach that once again does not incorporate an overall strategy. that ensures a free-for-all competitive dash where the structure of suffering is allowed to be brushed under the global carpet.
[14] ‘Cruel to be kind?’ by David Rieff, The Guardian, Friday June 24, 2005.
[15] Ibid.
[16]www.doctorswithoutborders.org.
[17] ‘Geldof’s Year’ The Guardian, December 28, 2005.
[18] p.166; Political Ponerology – A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes By Andrew Lobaczewski.

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.