New Internationalist

Not in front of the children!

Issue 452

The recent upsurge in direct action happens to have coincided with the birth of my first child, and for the past 18 months she has accompanied me on a number of demonstrations and occupations. Admittedly, we gave the Slut Walk a miss: if I’d turned up with a six-month-old little girl in a boob tube I’d have rightly been arrested on the spot.

She had a great time in the family tent at Occupy St Paul’s, but I’m afraid she may not have quite grasped the communal ethos of the camp – when we got home I discovering a stolen crayon secreted in her pocket.

Rogue crayons aside, she does seem to have innate civil disobedience skills. If ever the police try to arrest her, she can just go completely floppy as she does for me every time I try to negotiate her into the pram. She has started saying ‘no’ a lot, too.

Takvar under a CC Licence
A child attends a protest in Melbourne, Australia. Takvar under a CC Licence

Politicians constantly bang on about instilling family values into our children, but values contrary to the mainstream are often met with that well-worn phrase, ‘you can’t put your principles before the interests of your children,’ as if principles and procreation were mutually exclusive.

But why does this mantra only apply to the melding of anti-capitalist convictions and child-rearing? I mean, everyone loves a good christening, don’t they? Perhaps if demos offered prosecco, finger food and original sin, more people would soften to the idea.

The ruling class has no problem passing their views on to their pampered, inbred offspring, buying them a first-class seat on the gravy train, bundling them off to private schools – the boot camps of the élite – at the earliest possible moment.

Disapproval of campaigners involving their kids in their activities is nothing new.

Back in McCarthy-era America, the Right came up with an insulting name for children like my daughter. They called them Red Diaper Babies. But as anyone who has changed a baby’s nappy knows, there are far worse colours a diaper can be. For some of these ‘Red Diaper’ kids, the persecution continued into adulthood, with lists of their names published at certain university campuses. According to Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro in their book, Red Diapers, Growing Up In The Communist Left, this effort at intimidation backfired, with radical students using the lists as social networks bringing activists together. Sound familiar?

The most compelling tactic friends use to try and convince me to shield my daughter from my own anti-authoritarian tendencies is to remind me that for the next 15 years or so I am the authority. This means that when she sticks it to the man over draconian bedtimes and measly pocket money, that man is me. Like capitalism itself, I’m sowing the seeds of my own destruction. Although in all honesty, mine is something of a puppet regime run by my girlfriend.

Of course I’d like my daughter to grow up sharing my concerns about the world. But sometimes, when I close my eyes, I hear her teenage voice saying, ‘Oh shut up Dad, you’re so boring. Jenny from bible study and Kate from military cadets say you’re a Commie. You’re not a Commie, are you?’

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter @stevejparry

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