Last night my wife and I lounged on our sofas and found ourselves watching Panorama's special Jimmy Savile episode. It wasn't comfortable viewing for a whole host of reasons. Not just for the vile stories and the constant failure to put a stop to it, but also for the faint allusion that the lid is about to come right off this thing. I see veteran DJ Paul Gambucini has made particularly stomach churning claims on a live radio show today, that has certainly taken it up a notch from his observations in yesterday's documentary. One really gets the sense that this thing has picked up a momentum that will make it not easy to control and that somehow we might learn some things that a part of our national psyche is going to wish we didn't know about.
As I watched it, I marvelled at how many people seemed to know about this man and his cohorts hiding in plain sight. ITheir knowledge and inaction was dressed up in all manner of weasely words. I think some of the worst of it was this notion of it being a different time. I'm sorry, but that's bollocks. Yes, the 70's in Britain was a different time but different in such a way that the opposite outcome should have been the result. We had a tendency to be more judgemental in the 70's. People we considered "strange" stood out more whether our viewpoint of them was justified or not. People who the local populace felt were taking what they perceived to be an unhealthy interest in youngsters were more readily pounced on. In other words, society was more likely to spot them as opposed to letting them continue their nefarious business as is being claimed about the inexplicable approach to the Savile situation.
I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that if all of this is true, this justification for missing him and his ilk is down to something very different than is being claimed and it isn't isolated. This would add to two other scandals that have come to light this year that I think also contain seeds of the same issue. Those two issues are the Rotherham and Rochdale abuse scandals, the reports of which were released a few months ago.
For me, the perpetrators though they disgust me, are not what I focused on. What has struck me in all three cases are those who saw and who knew, yet did nothing. We will learn more on Savile in the future but I suspect we are going to learn about that what we have learned about Rotherham and Rochdale. There were lots of people who could have done something, but didn't. They can bleat and plead all they like but their hear no evil see no evil approach puts them right at the heart of the scandals and not just as witnesses.
At the heart of all three stories of all three failures to protect the youngsters involved is self interest. The overriding motivation behind non action by those who could have said something but didn't was their concern for themselves. Just like a child in a difficult situation, they effectively held their head in their hands and wished that the problem would go away. The police wished for it along with social services in the Rotherham cases. Such people found themselves in a place and time where there was something they just didn't want to deal because to do so would have led to greater discomfort and they needed to avoid it. Rather than deal with it, they lashed out at the vulnerable. How else do you explain the situation in Rotherham in which the family of one of the victims are arrested by the police for trying to stop it. The pain of dealing with the real issue is greater than the scandal of abusing the innocent. They wished it would go away because to deal with it would have upset the relatively cosy arrangement that was their everyday life.
Horrible isn't it? I just hope that somewhere they get to be honest with themselves, acknowledge their shame (even if only to themselves) and atone for their inaction.