Aerial filming of the rally in Suceava (January 16th)
During the past two weeks numerous rallies in support of the Bodnariu family (and against Barnevernet, the Norwegian Child Protection Service) took place in various capitals around the world: Bucharest, Washington, London, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Prague, Brussels, The Hague, Dublin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Ottawa, Chișinău. Public gatherings were also organized in cities such as Barcelona, Torino, Frankfurt and Milan.
In Romania, the crowds of supporters were significantly larger, with 2.000 participants in Arad and at least 5.000 in Suceava. Other meetings were held in Constanța, Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara. As the wave of protests grows, keeping track of all the gatherings is becoming increasingly difficult for someone like me, who cannot follow the case with undivided attention.
When the protests began to gain momentum, I wrote a post listing ten reasons why I support the movement. Estera Decean, a friend of mine, has translated the text into English and now I can post an updated version, with a few changes and revisions.
Please note that I undertake to criticize an organization which, although professing to do good, resembles the proverbial elephant in the china shop and inflicts greater abuses and traumas than those it claims to prevent or remedy. As C. S. Lewis used to say, “there is, in fact, a fatal tendency in all human activities for the means to encroach upon the very ends which they were intended to serve.” Moreover, that Barnevernet is sworn to secrecy (“confidentiality” in legal terms) does not do much to allay the mistrust of protesters.
The reasons I support the protests against Barnevernet can be summarized as follows:
1. Any institution that separates a 4-month infant from his mother proves, ipso facto, that it is rhinocerized and needs to be taken to task. Clerks and bureaucrats who decide to implement such decisions are either Saruman’s orcs or individuals whose common sense has become completely atrophied by lack of use. No amount of ideological logorrhea can persuade me that it is appropriate and beneficent for the infant to be treated in such a heavy-handed manner.
2. Barnevernet’s decision to forcefully remove five children from their family, in the absence of a through social investigation, followed by interruption of communication between parents and children, is abusive, irresponsible, and unacceptable in the eyes of all those who claim that Norway’s Nazi occupation ended on May 8th 1945. At the moment when I first wrote this text, only Ruth Bodnariu was allowed to see the two boys, once a week; the baby, who needs breastfeeding, can be visited twice a week, for 2 hours at a time. All ties with the older girls had been completely severed. (In the meantime, when the protests were in full swing and after much lobby from the Romanian Embassy in Norway, the parents were allowed a phone call and could finally talk with the two of them for 10 minutes, on the speaker, only in Norwegian, in the presence of social workers). It is obvious that a few questions need to be asked. Who takes responsibility for the trauma caused to the five children? Has anyone inside Barnevernet given serious thought to the consequences which can arise, namely the guilt complex which the girls might develop, as they come to the realization that their statements became charges against their parents?
3. If, indeed, within Barnevernet the left does now know that the right does (so to speak, since this institution seems to be leftist through and through), and if all its departments are tightly insulated and function autonomously, as Solveig Horne, the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, claims, there is reasonable ground to infer that she possesses no greater knowledge of the Bodnariu file than me or any of the readers. In this instance, all her protestations concerning the impeccable functioning of the institution sound like classical political nonsense. In may in fact be the case that the lady doth protest too much. Either the minister knows the case well (and we have a breach of confidentiality), or, as most politicians do, she has succumbed to wishful thinking and describes a “reality” from a parallel universe, not the harsh and cruel one experienced by the Bodnariu parents.
4. Any protest that puts pressure upon a behemoth known for its slowness and lack of reaction is to be supported and encouraged. The state and its minions may entertain noble intentions and messianic ambitions, but these can ultimately get bogged down in the miry clay of abstruse rules and regulations. Ultimately, these laws and regulations have the unintended effect of sabotaging the end they were meant to achieve. One need not live under a dictatorship of Nazi, Stalinist or North-Korean type in order to sense the thickness and opaqueness of the ideological ceiling above one’s head. The Scandinavian paradise has its own ideological canopies and for this reason any protest which creates a crack in the artificial roof of the Norwegian Truman Show, allowing politically-incorrect fresh air to come through, cannot hurt.
5. Barnevernet’s non-negotiable claim to be the sole authorized interpreter of the “child’s best interests” needs to be radically called into question. The bulletins published by Barnevernet and addressed to the Romanian public suggest that we, the protesters, are to some extent incapable of understanding how Child Protection works in Norway. I dare say we should be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we do begin to understand some things after all. Rendered in plain language, Barnevernet’s ideological creed goes like this: “There is no other god than the child’s best interest and Barnevernet is its prophet”. This belief perfectly suits the declaration of a Norwegian minister which caused consternation a decade or so ago: “The idea that parents are the most suitable entities for raising their children is misguided”!
Those who defend Barnevernet seem to forget that there is a great distinction between “the child’s best interest” and “the interest of an organization to protect the child’s interest”. If ever the twain could meet, they would not have an easy concourse. The Communist experience made us sharply aware of the difference between “the interests of the working class” and “the Party’s interest in defending the interests of the working class”.
In other words, the clerks who sleep with their head on the most recent psychology textbook cannot know what is in the interest of the Bodnariu children better than the parents or the children who were forcefully separated from their parents.
6. The confidentiality dogma which is a staple of Norwegian diet, also served to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner, needs an overhaul, especially in the (not so rare) cases which reach the international media and catch the attention of hundreds of thousands of people. The audience is naturally interested in what has happened and they are entitled to have a summary of the charges against the parents. The “trust-us-we-know-what-we-are-doing” approach to things inspires no trust at all. Confidentiality and secrecy are the ideal soil for abuse and injustice, especially in matters with so many imponderables. As we all know, good intentions are not enough to ensure good results.
7. Like most organizations, Barnevernet does not posses the will or ability to initiate an internal reform. The ever beneficent institution, all wrapped up in the cloak of its self-importance and strong sense of duty, seems incapable to perceive itself through the eyes of the others. Although it has a disastrous image in numerous countries, there is little evidence that the organization is willing to clean up its act. Consequently, it must be “capacitated” to do some more soul-searching, and the protests serve this very purpose.
8. From a human point of view, allowing that the Bodnariu parents were in the wrong concerning the Norwegian law (for which spanking counts as “violence”), they have already atoned for their mistakes in the Barnevernet purgatory. Does the state expect the parents to have a seraphic approach to educating their children, while the state itself is ruthless and draconian in relation to the parents?
9. In the Bodnariu case, Barnevernet showed no signs of primarily being interested in applying measures meant to ensure the preservation of the family. By applying heavy-handed measures, Barnevernet is no different from the dentist who, upon finding a cavity, ties up the patient and proceeds to pulls his tooth out without anesthesia. The Bodnariu parents may have spanked their children, but classifying their discipline practices as “violence” or “child aggression” does not do justice to the reality. To those who say “You don’t understand; we don’t tolerate spanking in any form”, I say: “You seem to know for sure that dismantling a family has far less serious consequences for a child than spanking the said child. How do you know that? Is you knowledge infallible? Maybe there is a saner approach to the whole situation”.
10. Last but not least, I support the protests against Barnevernet because I am convinced that we need to clearly emphasize a principle, at the social and the media level: the main entity responsible for raising children is and should be the family! Barnevernet is processing complaints at a rate that increases steadily. In 2013, 53.159 children and youngsters “benefited” from Barnevernet social services; 9.035 (17%) of them were taken away from their families and placed in foster families – details HERE. The situation is not much different for 2014 (see HERE). At any rate, nine thousand children is enough to populate a small town. The fact that Barnevernet takes away 9-10.000 children from their families is frightening. Are indeed the Norwegian families so morally weakened that the state needs to take over so many children? If families are weak, it is they who should be strengthened (not some state-financed organizations designed to replace the family!) The solutions to family dysfunction should not compound the problem or lead to even more problems! So, Ms. Solveig Horne, how about renaming your ministry, by adding one more word? Instead of The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, you could rename it The Ministry of Family, Children, Equality and Social Inclusion!