“It’s hard to know which way to vote,” my mother said today. We’re having a constitutional referendum on whether children should have the right to be recognised as individuals rather than as the property of their (biological) parents – which, simplifying violently, is the situation as it stands.
Don’t worry, my mother’s not ideologically opposed to freedom for kids. Like many others she was just confused by all the argument. The law requires the state – and state media – to give an equal hearing to both sides of a constitutional referendum. So if we ever decided say to put a clause against genocide in the Constitution, the government would have to publish booklets that were 50% in favour of massacring whole ethnic groups. Which would be interesting.
And this referendum has found so little mainstream opposition that it’s already spotlight time for the loons. Sinn Féin are in favour, for God’s sake. Even the Catholic Church isn’t opposing it openly. So people with some really quite odd opinions have been dug out to appear on TV. “Who is this John Waters?” she asked. “A wanker,” I explained.
There are some opposing arguments that are not irrational, but the overwhelming majority of people who have to deal with issues around child protection seem to be for this change, so it’s them I think I’ll go with. But whichever way you feel, I hope you do vote – if only to take advantage of the chance to protest against the horrific economic punishments being forced on this country. I don’t mean spoil your vote – referendums are too important for that. Someone made a brilliant alternative suggestion:
You have to fold your ballot before you put it in the box. But there are no rules about how you fold it.
Fold it into a paper aeroplane, to symbolise the ultimate fate of the children for whom government professes to care. Imagine the impact it would have when they opened the boxes on national TV if we all did it.
So a lifetime of thinking there was something wrong about Jimmy Savile finally proved justified. Not that I’m claiming to possess what I have little choice but to call paedo-dar. Would that there were such a thing. I just didn’t like the guy. I’m not sure why – though that cigar didn’t help. There was something about his relentless funny voice and catchphrases. It seemed… I think it seemed a little lonely. Not quite connecting up with other people.
What makes a man want to have sex with adolescents – a fixation on what attracted him at puberty? The envious desire of age to possess youth? I think in large part the answer is simply, because he can. He feels a sexual urge, and an adolescent will allow him to satisfy it because obeying adults is the norm. Paedophilia is less a perversion of sexuality than a failure of conscience, the prioritisation of your pleasure over another’s trust.
Readers in various bits of the world may not have heard much of this story. Savile was a DJ from the UK who became enormously famous in the 70s for a programme called Jim’ll Fix It. Children wrote in with their requests, and the BBC would make them happen. A lot like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, except you didn’t have to be dying to get your reward.
It turns out that you did occasionally have to be molested by Jimmy Savile though.
This all came to a head after he died a year ago. As it happened, an investigative branch of the BBC had been making a programme about rumours of his paedophilia. But the Corporation pulled that – and went ahead with a glowing tribute to the wonderful work he did for many, many children’s charities.
There isn’t too much wrong on the face of that. It’s not a huge lapse in journalistic integrity to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who’s just died. But the BBC had another year after his death to investigate the rumours. And the forty years before. In the end it was rival broadcaster ITV that broke the story, leaving us with the impression that the BBC were unwilling to entertain doubts about one of their own.
You can understand that unwillingness when you think about it. Savile was hardly charismatic, more odd- than good-looking, not really talented in any noticeable way. What made him a star was the big budgets that the BBC spent on programme ideas that gave him a never-ending supply of unsupervised contact with children. It must be hard for the Corporation to get its institutional head around the idea that it spent decades unwittingly but quite literally pandering for a child abuser.