Sunday, 28 September 2008

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Nanny's job For an uneducated practitioner I read a lot of academic stuff, and for a while now I've been brewing some thoughts about academic commentary on various knotty social policy themes. I can think of one or two papers on anti-social behaviour policies for instance which come across as ethically high-minded, without recognising the sheer bloody awkwardness of life on difficult estates and the need for some kind of policy framework to give people a chance of a decent life. Scholarly objectivity implies detachment, but sometimes at the cost of insight and pertinence. Those thoughts may yet emerge elsewhere, but meanwhile I'm very glad I didn't miss this... In this week's Society Guardian, the ever-reliable Stewart Dakers offers a poised reflection on the relation between the protecting state and the status quo, 'which has historically exempted the strong from any but voluntary changes to their behaviour on behalf of the weak'. 'Nanny does make a difference, and it is on the mean streets of the real estate that you can see it happening. This is where humane civilisation is truly evolving, where the realities of cultural diversity, of social cohesion, of human tolerance are lived out. This is where the excluded get in, where immigrants find shelter, strangers establish themselves, the socially incompetent look for sanctuary, the economically disabled begin recovery, the cognitively and psychologically challenged get their breath back. But it would not happen without nanny.' 'Nanny's job is to ensure that the different are accommodated, the vulnerable protected, the incompetent supported... We need nanny and her rules to moderate the appetites of the powerful, to make sure that the front runners do not lose touch with the back markers. It's known as social justice.'

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