A Generation Abandoned?
On August 15, 2012, 12:50 PM by Savannah Cox
As EU leaders forge ahead with austerity programs, “abandoning” the euro zone takes on a new meaning.
An Italian woman finds herself in such a position that she is incapable of caring for her baby any longer. After a series of mental and emotional battles incomprehensible to anyone else, she decides to take her child to the exterior of a church. The mother then places her baby into an upright cylinder and watches quietly as a part of her disappears behind a wall to be cared for by another. The year is 1198. But as certain charitable organizations in Europe have begun to reintroduce similar apparatuses for the same purposes today, the idea is still very much alive.
A common occurrence in medieval times, foundling wheels—revolving cribs into which women would leave their babies and discretely turn so that their infants would safely enter the walls of a charitable convent—have found their contemporary counterpart in the baby hatch, which is essentially a heated human cargo depository into which parents may anonymously place their children should they consider themselves unfit to care for them anymore. And while those medieval maidens who abandoned their children typically did so for personal, infidelity-related reasons, some charities have begun to speculate that the recent rise in the baby hatch’s presence and use is the result of the destitute financial situations in which more and more European families find themselves.
The legality of the baby hatch is certainly contentious, as many members of the European Union believe that it violates the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights and have thus made them illegal. Nevertheless, European charity SOS Villages has reported that nearly 2,000 children have been abandoned in penury-ridden countries like Greece and Italy in the past year alone, and that as austerity measures continue to strip social services that have helped many families stay afloat, the number of abandonments will only increase.
While this phenomenon is currently confined to the lower class, many within SOS believe that, should governments make more drastic cuts in social welfare services, the event will begin to claw away at the shrinking middle class. As Luca Taborelli, director of the program in Greece, said, “Unless a solution is reached, children and families [will] continue to suffer for their new poverty…this is especially important with small children, because parents [are] no longer able to feed them.”
This is problematic for a couple reasons. The first of which being that the cuts—largely propagated and internationally accepted thanks to the flawed logic that the poor need to be more fiscally responsible with their pocket change and less “lazy” and should therefore assume a large chunk of current economic ills induced by monolithic, reckless financial institutions—bleed an already anemic socioeconomic class. As a result, their subsequent acts of desperation will only perpetuate the same misguided stereotypes of the poor while simultaneously strengthening certain EU leaders’ misbegotten arguments for austerity; or in simpler terms, maintaining the prosperity of the financial elite at the undue expense of the poor. The second reason being that something like this has already happened in Europe: Romania in 1981.
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