This is our truth, tell us yours
The word heartbreaking is often tossed around, so perhaps we need a different word for the death of Daniel Pelka, the details of which are so horrible it takes someone far stronger than I to read them without tears. Starved, beaten, tortured and finally left to die, a unnamed but thankfully rescued sibling, performing a death watch which will no doubt haunt them for the rest of their life.
The perpetrators have been sentenced and the normal calls for enquiries have been made, just as they were after the death of Victoria Climbe and Baby Patrick and hundreds of other victims of adults who take out their own failures and inadequacies on those they should be dedicated to nurturing and protecting.
The cry for heads to roll ignores the reality of Daniel’s life and death. His neighbours report hearing shouts and screams but did not get involved, his teachers found him stealing from bins, but suspended their critical facilities and seemingly ignored every child protection training they had received. Doctors examined him, social workers reported on him, and yet he starved to death on a piss covered shit stained mattress.
I am a socialist and a Christian, in both the word Brother (and Sister) is used. They are not terms that should be consigned to the dustbin of history as outmoded concepts. Both groups see community as being at the heart of what they are. The first Christians shared all their goods, living in a group where it was the job of all to watch out for the poor, the widowed, the sick. When the Christians of Jerusalem suffered from famine, the Macedonians raised money for them. Community did not mean those just like them, it did not mean closing their ears to the cries of those starving because they did not want to get involved.
Trade unionism and socialism have also reached beyond their own four walls, from the International Brigades in Spain to the campaigns today to cancel third world debt and push for better working conditions. Your brother is not the person next to you on the shop floor or at a union meeting but unnamed unseen millions across the world.
Daniel died because of two people for whom the word evil seems appropriate. His death could have been prevented though if hundreds of others had that sense of community. If they had seen his pain and suffering as something that affected them instead of something they turned up the TV to avoid. These deaths will continue to occur until we all accept that we cannot pass the buck to others, blame the social workers and teachers and ignore our own complicity. Every time we look away we say you are not my brother, your death does not diminish me. Every time we blame the authorities we ignore that their priorities, and it must be said funding, are set by people with an eye on how we will react.
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