You know where it comes from ie the doctor hits just below your knee with a surgical tool and the reflex jerks the leg out below in a kind of kick. (Please don’t try this at home with a sledge hammer.)   It has come to mean when something plays into what I might call the top of the mind and we respond too fast and often, ill advisedly.   The actor Matt DamonMatt-Damon

was quoted as saying he stays away from twitter because he is the sort of person who would respond one way and communicate that, then reflect and regret it – by which time (twitch time?) whatever it is has gone half way round the world.

One day this week I went up the road in the windy dark and as I rounded the corner, I felt I had stepped into a terrifying silent film. images night as threat(9)I could hardly see the soundless figure, black on black, there were distended eyes in a wrecked face. There was shock – the man didn’t expect me anymore than I expected him – and my feet kept on walking, good old feet. Later that day, residents were leafletted with information about a Proposed Public Space Protection Order in reference to street drinking which is becoming a problem to people living and working in the area. The order gives police the right to confiscate alcohol in the street within the designated area, under the heading of our old friend antisocial behaviour.

I went to respond to the email address to endorse the idea.   And then as I walked back to the kitchen, I thought “ – And then what ? What do the police do with the offenders when they have arrested them ?”   Alcohol services in London and everywhere else are staggering, public money is cut, police services are strained and recalcitrant drinkers will find a way.   But the email address on the printed form was one of two errors and my email was returned.  oil-prices-845x321  Arrested kneejerk.   Chastening.

And then I thought further, struck by Mary Dejevsky writing in the Inde about how she had heard Justin Forsyth, head of Save the Children arguing for the UK to admit a further 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. The plea was cogent and generous, she said but far from persuading her, it made her unsure that anybody could resist.refugee_106545_save_the_children_blog_1 And that was what bothered her.

She went on to spell out how such good intentions could be abused, that parents might abandon their children to save them, and then reappear to claim them later – a legal nightmare and painful for everybody concerned. That the children we imagine would be young , vulnerable and as such, appealing – might not be so amenable. They might already have ideas very far from what we attribute to them. They will be displaced and there will be language problems, the root of more troubles that I can list. She pointed out that when the US made the admittance of unaccompanied minors mandatory, the numbers of those abused, exploited and killed on the way went up too.

And then there is the care these children will need – extra help, extra time, extra support, all of which will cost extra money – from a system staggering under current domestic demand. We don’t do well by many children in need in our own population. And, no matter whose children we are talking about – yours, mine, theirs, refugees – they need homes, care, sometimes special care, education and places to live, time and hope, all on a continuum. And policing in the best sense because the movement of a number of vulnerable children will bring the paedophiles and the abusers, sniffing about and employing all their considerable malign skills to accomplish what they want – a child without attachment, a child who can’t be heard.

It isn’t as simple as yes or no.   It’s a question how can we do it with the least negative impact – the very opposite of a kneejerk.Balance

4 responses to ““Kneejerk”

  1. As a beer drinker myself I’m glad that here in Tennessee it is illegal to serve alcohol to someone under the age of 21. As a scientist it troubles me that society ignores the fact that a person’s brain is not fully developed until 24 to 25. Logic alone would pose the argument that up to age 25 all people should be prevented from buying alcohol. And as far as taking in migrant children, compassion and political correctness are submerging common sense.

  2. Dear Anna, I tried to comment on your site, but was not able to – perhaps another technological glitch? I had a similar encounter with the unknown yesterday. I am up in Edinburgh and it is bitterly cold. I was walking along the road, it was fairly dark, and I saw what seemed to be a down-and-out who had managed to encase himself (I assumed it was a he) in an old duvet, leaving his collecting tin perched on top. Feeling for his plight in the Arctic conditions, and admiring his ingenuity, I put some money in the tin. This morning, I passed the spot to find that the duvet was in fact wrapped round a cardboard box, with the tin on top. I didn’t feel duped – I was only glad that whoever it was had gone off for some shelter. This weather freezes out any vestiges of being judgemental. Very best wishes, Lesley

  3. I could not agree with you more. Our country is on its knees trying to cope with its own residents problems and whilst as a fellow human none of us wants to see adults/ children displaced like this we are struggling with the migration of the other EU countries that have arrived prior to this. Our island reminds me of a sinking ship tilting precariously before it goes down.

  4. I agree. It’s difficult and we have homeless people in this country. Some are afraid to say this in case they’re accused of racism rather than being sensible. This country is a little island. I feel sorry for refugees but splitting up families is no good. When children were evacuated during the war some were used for work and abused and nobody to protect them from it. We need to learn but we don’t. Sometimes help isn’t help, it just enables or shifts the problem elsewhere. Stay warm.

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