Christina Patterson: 'Broken societies' and political nightmares

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The Independent Online

In a few years' time, we'll be having sex with robots. When I say "we", I mean, of course, us centaurs, or croco-men or chihua-women, or whatever magnificent melange of mitochondrial DNA our parents picked from the smorgasbord-of-life options on offer at the local branch of Lidl.

And when I say "parents", of course, I mean the sentient beings who'd ditched their dog (see below) and tired of their Tamagotchi and slung out their Second Life and decided they wanted something a little more, well, interesting. The legs of a gazelle, perhaps, the bottom of a baboon, the torso of a Tasmanian tiger and the neck of a 20th-century species, now extinct, called an Audrey Hepburn.

The sex will be easy. You just tap your anatomical mix into the "adult pleasure" section of Amazon (they have to sell something, now there are no books) and they assemble all the bits and deliver it to your door. If you want to get out of the house, you can go to a theme park called Ikea, but this, I must warn you, is a bit risky. Sometimes they get the parts mixed up and the results are truly horrible.

Otherwise, it's all pretty straightforward. Online lessons in happiness, Britishness, social responsibility. Hours in the virtual spa. Real food for the super-class, calorie-counted powders for the rest. History lessons in something called the family. A mother, a father, cooked meals around a table, bedtime stories, ending with wet lips pressed against a child's cheek. Creepy stuff. Gross, actually. No wonder society started to collapse.

In the short term, however, we have what even a politician might have to call a problem. Real, traditional human beings (some of them fat! some of them ugly! some of them binge-drinking smokers!) with heaven knows what hidden weapons of genetic mass self-destruction, are being allowed to breed like rabbits. Well, the poor ones are breeding like rabbits, and so are the ethnic ones, those determined to turn Britain into a Sharia super-state or an outpost of Pope-worshipping Poland.

The rich ones are so busy with their Botox and the corporate ladder and the 12-hour days that enable them to pay the mortgage on a nice little shoebox that they don't breed at all. Until suddenly, one day, the body clock morphs from background tick-tock to suicide bomb about to detonate and it's hello clinics, hello test-tubes. Please Dr Frankenstein, help me create my little Chloe. No need for any messy exchange of body fluids, or any contact with that hairy, primal, Asperger-prone species, the human male.

Which is fine for a Tamagotchi, or a dog, or a robot, or maybe even a torto-toddler, but the irritating evidence, culled from innumerable studies, is that children need fathers. Ideally, they need nice, kind, loving fathers who live with them and play with them and tell them off when they're cruel and reward them when they're kind. Ideally, they need nice, kind, loving mothers, too.

For any government trying to pick up the pieces of what the (wealthy, sleek, lovingly parented) Tories have decided to label the "broken society", this is a political nightmare. The Government, says Harriet Harman in a new book, should not tell people how to bring up their families, but "respect" the choices they make. Which sounds great, until you remember that 48 per cent of all single-parent households live below the poverty line. Some of whom are doing an excellent job on minimal resources, and some of whom aren't.

Respect, surely, is something you earn. Something you earn, perhaps, by thinking a bit more about your children's rights and a bit less about your own.

Rare shaft of royal wisdom

In-breeding rarely leads to great genetic results, a scientific phenomenon all too evident in surviving relics of the prehistoric species known as the Royal Family. Evidence that this is an international occurrence was confirmed this week with the news that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands expressed the not-at-all-patronising desire that on her abdication in 1980 prisoners should each be given a slice of cake.

More encouragingly, however, Peter Phillips made the proud declaration, in a pre-wedding interview, that his fiancée – now wife – Autumn Kelly was "much more intelligent" than him. At last, a man who's happy to live in the intellectual shadow of a woman. Perhaps there's hope for us all.

* It's the time of year when, overwhelmed by grim news at home (disastrous government about to lose by-election to even more disastrous government in waiting) and abroad (Mother Nature throwing PMT-fuelled tantrums in China and Burma), middle-class Brits start dreaming of the rolling hills and ricotta ravioli of bella Italia.

Birthplace of Botticelli, land of Leonardo, muse of Michelangelo, and cradle of European civilisation. This, after all, was the land in which coiffed, buffed and bejewelled Roman ladies sipped wine in centrally-heated sitting rooms while we scoffed hairy joints round campfires in skins and woad.

A bit of a shame, then, that this is also the country that is currently burning down the homes of the immigrant population that shares the name of Italy's ancient capital. Fuelled by economic pressures, and the anti-immigration stance of Silvio Berlusconi's shiny, new government, young Italians are throwing Molotov cocktails into Gypsy camps, and boasting of acts of "ethnic cleansing". We, meanwhile, are chucking out our pets. Mass incineration must surely follow.