Children as a Poverty Risk
Is the Middle Ages Returning?
By Christoph Butterwegge
[This short article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.schularzt.de/aktuell/babyklappe.htm. Christoph Butterwegge is a professor of political science at the University of Koln. An English translation of his article "Migrants and the Mass Media" is available on http://www.mbtranslations.com.]
Child poverty exists among us in Germany, not only in Bangladesh and Burkina. Many more families, children and youths grow up in material poverty today than a few years ago. Over a million children live in income-support households. Every seventh child is not spared relative (income-) poverty that can lead to psycho-social strains. Young persons are excluded from important social and cultural connections. Permanent damage occurs to equal opportunities in society. Particularly for single parents and families with small incomes, children represent a high poverty risk prompting some young mothers to part with their babies.
The increasing drama of poverty involves an intensified world market dynamic under the slogan "globalization". What is called "modernization" is in part only the withdrawal of democratic and social reforms or regulatory measures. In the past, nation states controlled massive capital.
The social-political post-modern has certain medieval characteristics, for example regarding the return of a class of poorly paid domestic servants on the social stage. Historical parallels to privatization of highway construction and introduction of tuition fees at universities occurred with the road tolls collected by feudal lords from travelers and money paid to the sovereigns at universities.
The modernization term was economistically abridged and substantively perverted under the pressure of a liberal capitalism spreading over the whole world since 1989/90. What is completely antiquated, for example social insecurity, is regarded paradoxically as "modern" or ideologically garnished as the highest expression of "personal independence" or individual freedom. The (western) European welfare state appears to many critics as outdated by economic-technical development, an obstacle to competitiveness and an investment barrier, in short as a dinosaur that belongs in the museum of antiquity alongside the spinning loom and the bronze axe.
We are presently witnessing the revaluation of all values. Being anti-social is regarded as modern and social. Equal opportunities or equality is realized in real inequality. Whatever corresponds to the forces of the market is just. The deep crisis of meaning of the social consists - across established parties and nearly all social camps - primarily as encumbrance of the economy. This crisis is seen as a potential endangerment of competitiveness on the world markets, not as an independent factor that decides over the humanity and quality of life of a society.