My twins turned five at the beginning of February, and by the end of the month their thumbprints had been taken, so I did what any responsible parent would have done:
Presumably the officer who visited their school was a nice enough chap, who had never infiltrated an environmental activist group, incited a riot and perjured himself in court. He didn’t enter the constabulary to force Tesco, or fracking, or some other blight upon unwilling communities; nor to kick people out of their homes for poverty or luxury. He personally would rather prosecute billion pound monetary frauds than benefit scams, surely. He personally was never in a squad conducting a smear campaign against the family of a murdered black teenager.
He is almost certainly innocent of all this, but he’s not as innocent as the five-year olds from whom he is collecting biometric data. They are in the final years of a world of unicorns and handsome princes, where evil wears a black pointy hat. I had hoped to wait a while before broaching more nuanced matters, of the criminal justice system and its officers, of personal privacy and liberty.
Childhood is a time of innocence, but growing up is a process of discovery, and as a parent, my duty is to equip them with tools with which to engage a future that may be nothing like the past. I take my responsibilities seriously, but childhood apocalypses should be gentle, so after some consideration I decided against showing them Youtube videos of coppers beating people who had played with them at Occupy London.
When I was just a little older than they are now, I received a ceramic baby pig in a nappy from Nat West, in return for putting a pound in the bank. I remember looking forward to getting new fat pigs as I saved (though I was never thrifty enough to win the fat pig patriarch dressed like a banker).
Back then, the bank seemed like an entirely benevolent institution, protecting my coins from Butch Cassidy. Money itself was simply a thing to swap for my desires; law protected me from muggers; soldiers defended me. But I clearly remember my confusion at the age of seven, in an airport, when I first encountered an Argentinian.
It was shortly after the Falklands War, and all the Argentinians in my brain were fountains of wrongness – with camouflage and explosions and sea rain about them. And here was a friendly, civilised-looking man, no worse than many adults and better than most, as he was taking time to amuse me, in a boring airport. My innocence confronted his, for I had questions that needed explaining. I said something awkward, I forget what. My pig was still in nappies.
Innocence recedes as the real world advances, and parents can only hope that each disclosure comes in its proper season. I do my best to amuse my children with goofy-looking toys, and I preserve them from Barbies with makeup and slender waists where possible. One happy day in the future my girls will discover that they are sexual creatures, but I’m in no hurry to have this revelation forced upon them. Nor need they discover, at this point in time, what a police officer is capable of if his sergeant demands it, or what hidden agendas lie between the lines of the law.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?
More, much more, on all manner of apocalypses in this lovely new book.