Unreported World. Putin’s Family Values. Channel 4, 7pm. Director Jessica Kay, Presented by Marcel Theroux.

putins family values.jpg

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/on-demand/65524-002

Just when you thought you’d seen enough of writer, producer and documentary maker Louis Theroux his brother Marcel pops up in Russia in a programme about Putin’s Family Values. There are two narratives here, one which we in the West will no doubt be familiar with. Tatanya is the Russian matriarch who opens her heart and opens her home. She has adopted 48 children and is currently fostering another 28. Six-year-old Kostya, for example, was abandoned on the streets by his alcoholic parents and brought to Tatanya three days later to care for him. Five-year old Kolya has a bad squint and even worse temper tantrums. He was adopted by a family with his other three siblings, but returned to Tatanya. Kolya really wants to go to Kindergarten with the other children and the camera follows him there with Tatanya. She complains she doesn’t get enough money from the state to feed the kids in her care. From what we see the house is dilapidated, but the kids playing in the basement seem happy (there’s no way of knowing if they are unhappy).

Ivan Osaki is a Patriarch of the Russian Orthordox Church in Cossack County near the River Don, on the borders of the Ukraine. He is the face of Russia Putin wants the West to see. He lives in a palatial home with his 18 children, their ages ranging from seven to thirty-three. He also has 25 grandchildren, and his sons are also Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. His lifestyle is sponsored by the billionaires who cashed in on the breakup of the Soviet Union and ‘liberalised’ its assets. They include Konstantin Maleeov a banker with Kremlin connections, who has also set up Russia’s first Christian TV channel. Alexander Dugen a Putin cheerleader and—for the moment—a supporter of President Trump’s conservative values. Ivan Osaki’s wife, Nadeszhda, jokes that she went on maternity leave twenty-eight years ago and has been pregnant pretty much every year since then. Her services to the Russian state has been rewarded with Order for Parental Glory.

My reading of this is Russia’s population has been shrinking since the size of the economy halved with liberalisation and the gap between the rich and poor was once those in the Kremlin drove a Skoda and had six times the income of their comrades. Now there’s a unhealthy Western-style gap between rich and poor, with the latter choosing to have fewer children. The Order for Parental Glory – for good parents – has similarities with the Cross of Honour the Nazi Party gave to mothers who produced four or more children. The annexation of parts of Ukraine because the so-called majority of their citizens speak Russian has similarities with the Anschluss between Austria and Germany and the annexation of countries bordering the enlarged state. But you’d need to go back to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and read Nicholas Rostov’s sycophantic ravings such as ‘Oh God, what would happen to me if the Emperor spoke to me?’ thought Rostov, ‘I should die of happiness’, to appreciate the mind-sets and public pronouncements of Patriarch’s like Osaki that call Putin their father.

The strong man isn’t a uniquely Russian trait. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse plays the same role. And both strong men seek to turn back the clock and put women firmly in their place. In America Trump seeks to appoint judges that will repeal Roe v Wade and take all federal funding from clinics that sanction abortion. Maleeov’s Christian commentators on television call for the sanctity of private property, no interference from the state in family life and compare abortions to the practices of Nazi doctors in the Death Camps. Money talks and conservatism speaks very loudly, women are not only different from men, they are lesser than men.

Yuval Noah Harari epigram in Sapiens about the crime of married rape, for example, being an oxymoron ‘as illogical as saying that a man stole his own wallet’ sums it up exactly. The proposed bill to decriminalise domestic violence in the Russian Duma supported by Maleeov was passed into Russian law. Men, of course, don’t get off Scot free. It will cost them around 5000 roubles (£70) if they are found guilty of beating their wife and 7000 roubles for beating their children. Harari cites precedents from among other books the Bible, if a man meets a virgin and rapes her he must pay fifty shekels to the father of the virgin and then marry her. Nobody can argue with the laws of the bible or the laws of the market. Both are God given. The world is becoming a much smaller and harsher place for poor women.

 

Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids, BBC 2 9pm

transgender

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05qkzt2/louis-theroux-transgender-kids

Louis Theroux used to write books. He’s moved into the far more lucrative market of documenting those in our society that don’t quite fit in. He writes the scripts for these programmes. Has his own crew. Puts it together like a jigsaw. A novel approach. I get the feeling Louis doesn’t quite fit in either. An alien presence among those we hold at arm’s length and treat as alien.

Let’s look at the squirm factor. By far the worst came near the end of the programme. Dr Crane, the surgeon that carried out trans-surgery in his San Francisco clinic talked about the cost of different procedures like a gung-ho general. He made me squirm. But it was one of his success stories that made me want to look the other way. She had been a he. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t care what people do with their fiddly bits. Not that she had any fiddly bits left, apart from her eyebrows. They kept beetling about whilst she looked on as her partner answered questions from Louis. Up and down they went. Left and right they went. Possessed by free will they would have turned into a wiggy world and I feared for mankind. It might have been the type of questions Louis was asking that set them dancing. He hesitates and then hesitates some more and then jumps right in and talks like a kindergarten teacher addressing a class of five-year olds. Using words such as ‘top bits’ and ‘bottom bits’. He acted like a fanny.

Around fifty-percent of transgender people think about or attempt suicide. There is a cost and it’s not just financial. If adults want to make changes to their bodies that’s fine. But the ethics of medicine is guided by the epigram: above all do no harm. I’d cite the tragic case of David Peter Reimer whose penis was accidentally burnt off in a medical procedure when a baby and, on the advice of psychologist John Money, advocating a particular theory, brought up as a female and used as a test subject.

For any good story you need the beginning the middle and the end. You get those that are sure. Such as those with beetle eyebrows. You get the ones that are not so sure. We see a prepubescent Cole who sometimes dresses as Crystal and talks about growing up and marrying as a man and having a family. His mum Joy supports his/her choice. His dad Eric is more ambivalent. He wants a son. Often it was the parents in this programme I felt most sorry for.

Eduardo and Kacey made the difficult transition in supporting their son Sebastian’s metamorphosis into Camille. Here’s where the squirm factor struck again. Camille is about seven. She shows Louis into her room. It’s girly as you’d expect. Then she asks him to play a game. Louis, being Louis looks like a stick of wood with specs. He politely declines. Camille turns on the music and apes some girly pop star and it’s like kiddy porn. All the stupid half hints as sexual fulfilment and a child flinging her face about like a wobble board. I didn’t like it, but my thoughts were Camille wants to be that women, that particular pop star (I don’t know which one) therefore to attain that goal she needs to be a women. Perhaps she’ll grow out of it. Above all do no harm.

Louis visits a group of medics who take children through body dysmorphia or wrong body transition. He is told that children from the age of two or three can show a consistency that suggests they are wrongly gendered. One test is the he/she test. Which pronoun the boy/girl used is indicative of what exactly I’m not sure. I’m not sure about lots of things.

Let’s go back to good old Alfred Kinsey for answers. We’re all fucked up. And he would counter Larkin’s suggestion that it was your mum and dad’s that fuck you up.  He suggested that 37%  of males had some form of homosexual experience and one in ten of the population are homosexual. There are around nine million Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender in America. A third more than the population of Scotland. To suggest that gender is fixed and identity can be cured by medical treatment and intervention at such an early age seems be repeating the failure of John Money’s experiment – and for many of the same reasons. What’s the hurry? We’ll find out who we are at different points in our life. Do no harm and no harm to wait.