Poster Children


The date is June 14, 1905 and the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin mutinies against the Tsarist officers.

The Battleship Potemkin is a 1925 silent film that gives us a dramatized account of this – and incudes a scene where a group of the Tsar’s Cossacks massacre a group of rioters and civilians alike. This takes place on the Odessa Staircase.

One of the innocent bystanders hit is a mother pushing her baby carriage. As she falls, she loses control of the pram, which careens down the steps.

This scene was the inspiration behind the scene in The Untouchables, where, during the climactic shoot-out, a mother loses control of her pram, which similarly rolls down the steps… with the baby still inside.

Cinema aficionados would know that it was also reinterpreted in The Godfather; Brazil; and drolly in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.

Accidents – be they mishaps or calamites, are just waiting to happen… and however much Scouts tell us to Be Prepared, and James Patterson tells us to Always Expect The Unexpected, there are some incidents for which you will never be ready.

A quick on-line search for headlines pertinent to the above picks out the following: Toddler drowns in Esporta health club swimming pool; Beaumont baby dies days after falling into pool; Baby dies after left by father in hot vehicle; Two Babies Left Home Alone Die In Fire; and many more.

Only yesterday, indeed, the British press reported that a five-month-old baby taken to hospital after his pram plunged into the River Thames.

All of us make mistakes that could be fatal if a child is involved.

How many parents keep lit votive wax candles in front of a statute?  Or leave pots and pans unattended on the cooker? Or keys in the car ignition when we stop to buy the newspaper? Or brakes off buggies when we are shopping? Or medication where it is easily accessible?

What about detergents and toiletries? They are as poisonous as grandpa’s blood-pressure pills. What about buckets of water left in the yard, in preparation for watering the plants, so we don’t have to wait for them to fill?

What about sharp knives left in a slotted stand on a kitchen counter? Or top-loading washing machines left open so that the programme doesn’t change to spin? What about railing pc wires and fans without a front guard “until we get a new one because they are out of stock”?

There will always, of course, be freak accidents; such as the one that happened when a truck alarm went off and the four-year-old’s aunt tried to deactivate it with a keychain remote… and activated the vehicle’s remote starter instead, causing the truck to lurch forward and crush the boy against a metal fence.

There are many more ways in which a child can injure himself in the three minutes it takes to go to the toilet, to see who’s at the door, or answer the phone in a different room, just to tell a person you will call him back later.

Why are we so judgemental?

I am perturbed and appalled at the way some of the media is covering two recent incidents involving children. However, I am even more troubled and disgusted at the attitudes and opinion of people who think they have a right to judge others because, wouldn’t you know, they are perfect, themselves.

Why are the two incidents being treated so differently? Why are self-styed pundits deliberately focusing on the differences between the familial circumstances of the children, the locations of the accidents, and other minutiae?

It has nothing to do with the fact that one child died whereas the other one has survived. It has everything to do with the supercilious attitude adopted by some people who literally adopt two weights and two measures when they climb onto their soapbox.

The “neglect and / or of a dependent resulting in death” is something most of us dread being attributable to us.  Ah, but when it happens to others, we bay for blood.

Sanctimoniously, we mention dungeons, beatings and beheadings, thrown-away keys and medieval forms of torture… never thinking for a moment that had the grown-up involved in accident been someone in our immediate circle of family or friends, we would have expressed a totally different conviction; i.e. that the person, because of extenuating circumstances, ought not to be held criminally responsible.

I have seen cases where persons who are supposed to be accountable for the well-being of children do the barest minimum of nurturing, just staying this side of the law, such that they cannot  be prosecuted. As usual, “people’s hands are tied” because as long as there are no verifiable mental suffering, neglect, or physical pain, the child is assumed to be ‘all right’.

At an age where in a different life she would be still a student, swotting hard for her exams, she is a mother trying to make sense of her life after her first-born child has died.

Hand-on-heart, I say that the mother of the dead baby-girl has already been punished enough, already.



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