Thursday, October 18, 2012
Jimmy Jimmy - oh...
Is there any space in the modern world I wonder to acknowledge that even people who do bad things have a good side? People may remark jokingly for example that Hitler was kind to his dog. They don’t therefore think that this somehow balances up everything else – though maybe it should help them remember that even the very worst people are human and in many ways quite ordinary. And can we acknowledge that good people have a bad side? Seems Martin Luther King was unfaithful to his wife; does that change the rightness of his civil rights speeches? But there does seem to be a mood about whereby all nuance is lost. So all members of the military are ‘heroes’ whatever they’ve done or not done and whatever the circumstances of their deployment. You can get 10% off a cup of tea in Scarborough for being one of ‘our heroes’ even if you count paperclips in Catterick or wherever. And if you’re in the police you can’t die on duty due to ugly random bad luck or because you happened to be too close to some nutter or because you made a mistake or whatever, No, you have to be a hero. This is partly because of what seems to me a civilized habit of trying to speak well of the dead.
So now I’m going to move on to the poison territory of Jimmy Savile. And I worry because we seem to be getting to a state where any opinion that isn’t a straight down the line conventional wisdom ‘evil paedophile’ type condemnation somehow makes the speaker (or writer) immediately suspect. Anyway…it seems right that victims get to speak if they wish and feel able. But it seems wrong to me that there’s such a frenzy for the salacious details. It seems right that things are investigated properly, though to be honest I’d rather the police were investigating sex offenders who aren’t actually dead. And it seems wrong that an organisation is castigated for being part of the culture of the 70s and 80s back in the er, 70s and 80s.
It seems right that honours be taken away from people who turn out to be dishonourable, but what makes people think they have any business changing the past? If someone was honoured in their lifetime (Sir Oswald Mosley anyone?) they were honoured in their lifetime and that’s that. They shouldn’t have been honoured but they were. Jimmy Savile was an OBE and a Sir. And people seem to want to pretend that he wasn't. And there seems to be a move to expunge anyone who did anything bad from any credit for anything ever. Or even to erase them from history completely. Gravestone ground to dust and dumped into landfill anyone? Ground up so no-one could grab a souvenir maybe? That would have been a brilliant headline for the tabloids though wouldn’t it? ‘Sick pervert grabs part of Savile stone as souvenir’? There’s talk about digging him up now – presumably so the corpse can be dismembered and his rotten head put on a spike on a bridge over the river Aire as a warning to others?
Anyway…this is getting rambly, sorry...Thing is that there’s a care home just round the corner from our house. They used to have summer fairs and whatnot. Jimmy Savile used to turn up and chat to the old people. I saw him there a couple of times. He also used to turn up to events in Roundhay Park and just wander about being pleasant to people. And as everyone knows he raised loads of money for good causes. OK, that doesn’t weigh very heavily in the balance against all the other stuff being detailed at great length in the media. But it did happen and I saw this with my own eyes.
The thing that worries me is the current rigid enforcement of the conventional wisdom. If a member of the police is killed and you say ‘one less pig’ on a t-shirt, or if you believe that if you serve in the armed forces in Afghanistan you are condemned to hell, or that an Olympic athlete has let down his recently deceased father you can be arrested and possibly put in jail. The police currently seem to have a rambling brief to lock up anyone who’s insulted someone famous who’s been in the news recently. Or to arrest anyone who is deemed by the press to have said something in bad taste. Law enforcement seems to be about following the ‘outrage’ kicked up (rather than picked up I suspect) by the media - even when the perpetrator of the crime is dead and you have to be outraged at someone else instead.
Anyway, back to Jimmy Savile…So here I am saying that Jimmy Savile did some good things too. This is clearly true. To say this though risks all kinds of disapproval or worse. There’s a climate of intolerance in the air towards a particular kind of what might be described as ‘inappropriateness’. It’s impolite and not very nice to say bad things about a dead soldier or a police officer killed while on duty - but it shouldn’t be illegal. Nor should it be a crime to say something positive about Jimmy Savile. This is perhaps not the right time to say it. That’s exactly why I’m saying it now. I’m tempted to spout off a load of bad taste jokes and flippant comments – and why the hell not? The fact that I’ve had to think about what I’m saying is the thing that worries me. Self censorship is the first step on the road to the end of free speech. So good luck to Frankie Boyle in his court action too…