It may take a village to raise a child but actually no one cares about the village once the child is born, as the world around ceases to exist.
Obviously I am describing a particular style of parenting that co-exists alongside clearly deprived and unhappy children. But I have much sympathy with Rory Stewart, the Tory MP for Penrith, a very thoughtful man who has dared to challenge the reign of the child. We often talk of the existence of elderly people – bed-blockers, immobile, mentally ill – as a burden. For we are too busy anyway with our jobs and kids. Stewart pointed to the huge dismay at youth unemployment and complete lack of interest in pensioner poverty. In an essay in Intelligent Life, he went on to say: “Our ancestors have been addicted to honour, craved virtue and wealth, been hooked on conquest, and on God. But ours is the first civilisation to find its deep fulfilment in our descendants. Our opium is our children.”
Children as the opium of the masses is an interesting idea. Small children may certainly be this and many people’s focus on wider issues immediately narrows once they become parents, even on something such as climate change, which will affect future generations. We just hope science works and open another bottle of wine …