Three references I’d ask you to read before I proceed with this post. First, I posted a piece on confusing sex and power earlier today. It’s led me to further thoughts – none of which are happy ones.
Second, I just tweeted thus:
I honestly do not know why British institutions are turning out so rotten. As a kid, I was led to believe in them. Why? And to what purpose?
Finally, this piece, which Dave Semple just sent my way, on the history behind the BBC‘s culture of child abuse – a culture which formed and perpetuated itself way before Mr Jimmy Savile came on the scene.
It’s a terrifying article, this last one, describing as it does the casual attitude at the time, in that post-war period, of what bordered on a kind of disposable hatred to young persons of both sexes. It will sadden you greatly, if you manage to find the time to read it. This is not a case of a raft of a country’s institutions deteriorating suddenly and explosively: this is, rather, a continuity of malignant spirit which burrowed its way – like the jokey letters down a stick of rock – into the very psyche and shared behaviours of a whole nation.
Two things that come to mind. The first is whether what has happened in the post-war period isn’t indicative of a wider sequence of abuse. Abusers are known to occupy two existences: their all-too-often public and shameful one of criminal and their all-too-private and shameful one of victim. Yes. The abusers have been abused.
The English were, after all, famous for saying: “Children should be seen and not heard.” How easily this describes a voyeur’s controlling perspective: the right to fuck around with someone’s head and not be reported.
Just imagine if we expand the remit of this phrase to a broader series of sexual practices.
So this abuse which the abusers – of which I am sure many more will appear – have so clearly suffered … to what, then, can we attribute its existence? Well. I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t going to be the result of a much greater and national trauma than that silly, giggly and unfathomably traditional English inability to quite know what to do about sex.
I’m beginning to wonder if what is clearly becoming a sick and widespread aggression against defenceless individuals in secretive care homes, public institutions and perhaps even many private households too, hidden for decades from the full view of the public’s shared consciousness, isn’t in part some kind of reaction by that generation which fought in the Second World War and suffered its privations. If sexual abuse – abuse of power, abuse of position, abuse of reputation, abuse of recognition – is going to be as widespread as it now looks will shortly be the case, can there be any other explanation than this? A whole nation – abused by violent injustice, random death and cruel loss – fighting, turning in on and finally devouring its own.
A tremendous source of pain which was never fully understood, appreciated, talked about or dealt with by a society with an infinitely stiff upper lip and capacity to drink tea and talk about the weather, even as its deepest fears scythed through its emotional and mental wellbeing.
I don’t know. I’m no sociologist. Though the above probably demonstrates I’m quite good at psycho-babble theorising.
All I can say is that the implications for a wider society, for a wider body politic, for our wider institutions … well, they really couldn’t be more profound: if government ministers, political aides and people at the very top of public and private institutions knew about these kinds of things, if they stood by as they happened or even participated, if they sullied the deep realities of institutional probity and if they were capable – at the same time – of sustaining a hollow visage of honesty, frankness and sincerity to the outside world, what else – in all truth – were they capable of hiding from the rest of us?
For that is the biggest question still to be unravelled. He who possesses a secret of another can demand an absolute loyalty – and he who can demand an absolute loyalty can build a terrifying power. Just imagine the situation if this was not only unidirectional but bidirectional. Our society, riddled by guilty makers and shakers – each knowing something the other on an allegedly opposing side would not wish the public to comprehend.
Our two-party system, thus riddled and perverted, effectively becomes a one-party state.
And that, maybe, is what’s really happening here: just as the Berlin Wall and the wider Soviet structures came tumbling down overnight through their own savage incoherences – examples of puff-pastry politics if there ever was such a thing – so now what we are witnessing in British society is a reflection, an absolutely accurate mirror image, of the lies the Communists lived. The consequences: rapid deterioration and awful collapse as long-empty structures fall irrevocably in on themselves.
We all grew up in the shadow of oppression. For so many years we fought it. And as we have already noted tonight, the oppressed may learn all too well how to oppress.
The abusers need to be tracked down.
But we mustn’t forget the abuse that made them so.
It’s time we understood that the secrets which bind the powerful to each other – of which the sexual variety is just one pitiful class – need to be blown apart for the good of our body politic, democracy and social intercourse.
It’s only then that we can even begin to recover a sense that our institutions can be believed in; only then that we can even begin to understand what has actually happened to this corrupting Britain.
It’s not just the poor and utterly bewildered young men, women and children who’ve been totally betrayed by their abusing forefathers. It’s possibly the whole nation which now needs the truth.
After all, such a bitter pill can be no more difficult to swallow than the indignity of always being seen and never heard.