Friday, 9 November 2012

Are all paedophiles conservatives?

'Here we go', you may be thinking. 'Old Voley finds a new and particularly tasteless way to attack the Tory Party, using the latest moral panic to make sectarian political points'.

And you'd be right, if I was drawing a straight line between the stuff floating around on the internet and  pictures like this:

Because it's obviously not true that all Conservatives or conservatives are paedophiles. 

But we can quite legitimately ask whether paedophilia is a conservative act. It all depends on your definition of conservatism. For me, a major element of conservative thought for the past few hundred years has been the preservation of oligarchic or elite rule. Take the former requirement that only property-holders could vote: the thinking was that only those who owned land had a significant stake in society and therefore a legitimate contribution to make to the governance of the country. Conservatism has always been about maintaining control of the levers of power against the evil or mindlessly destructive instincts of the Mob. This is what led Matthew Arnold, for instance, to promote mass education: without it, the Mob could never be tamed and trained. 

None of this is particularly controversial, I should add. Traditional conservatism's core belief is that an enlightened few know better than the masses what's good for them. There is another wing, free-market conservatism which holds that 'markets' make decisions in some abstract and theological way, and that all other social constraints should be abolished. It's obvious to me that the Conservative and Republican parties are essentially in a state of permanent tension with each other. Take the forests, for instance. A traditional Tory believes that forests are part of England's National Birthright or some such thing and need protecting. A Market Conservative believes that's all sentimental nonsense and forests are resources to be exploited. At some point they're going to clash. But what they agree on is that the needs and views of the masses are irrelevant. 

This leads me to my major point. In every major institutional paedophilia scandal, and in similar instances such as the rash of army recruit suicides at Deepcut, Hillsborough, Northern Ireland's state-run death squads, the Miners' Strike cover-up, the Birmingham Six fit-up and many more, the evil things done have been a consequence of the exercise of power. Bryn Estyn, the Welsh children's home used to supply children to untouchable local luminaries echoes the Kincora scandal, in which prominent Northern Irish politicians, the police and the British intelligence services covered up and perhaps participated in a paedophile ring. 

All these events share common DNA. They stem from the Conservative and conservative position that some people count and other people don't. The Deepcut recruits were at the bottom of a hierarchical system. The Hillsborough fans were Northerners, Scousers, plebs and hooligans in the eyes of the government and a police force which - as in Bryn Estyn - saw itself as a colonialist service defending authority against the subversive and primitive natives. Pat Finucane was a solicitor who defended terrorist suspects from all sides but when his activities came too close to exposing state involvement in murder, he was assassinated with the full knowledge of the security forces. Again: an individual's life and rights were subsidiary to the maintenance of a secret state. The same police force which fixed Hillsborough systematically faked evidence during the Miners' Strike because the miners were - in Margaret Thatcher's words - 'the enemy within': communities without rights in the zero-sum view. 

And so we come to Savile, Bryn Estyn and Kincora. Paedophilia is a crime of power. It assumes that some people have rights and others - the marginalised, the unwanted, the inarticulate - don't deserve consideration as individuals or as groups. The suffering of a child, or a miner, or a Northern Irish solicitor is irrelevant to the 'big picture'. Jimmy did a lot of work for charity. Some of Finucane's clients were terrorists. Scousers are lefty whingers. Kids in care are on the scrapheap anyway. The Deepcut teenagers were cannon-fodder. The poor and old Stoke population I saw on last night's heartbreaking episode of The Year The Town Hall Shrank are benefit-dependent shirkers. They don't get to share the 'rights' of ordinary decent folk, whoever they are. 

This is a conservative position. Some people matter, most people don't, especially the weak who lack the backbone to strike out, make something of themselves. If most people don't matter, they're fair game. They can be ignored, fired, written off, slandered, murdered or abused with relative impunity. They're both out of sight and out of mind. Consider the government's current mass removal of poor Londoners to distant Northern cities. It smacks of dehumanisation. To them, the poor don't have families, or social networks which constitute a community. They don't deserve them. They're just mouths to feed. But consider this: an unemployed teenage Londoner dumped in a hostile estate in Rochdale or Stoke is far more likely to get into trouble than one who can pop round to his grandmother's flat round the corner for a square meal and a chat. More importantly, that displaced teenager has a right to a family life just like the unemployed rich kid in Mayfair - but for the Conservatives he's just a pawn on a chessboard. 

This is why paedophilia is a conservative crime. It's activated by the refusal to recognise the victim's right to consideration as a discrete, feeling person. Like hunted foxes, their sensations are considered unconscious and irrelevant. Once a child, a group of people or even a whole class or race is dehumanised, they can be collectively or individually abused without compunction. 

I'll say it again. Not all Conservatives or conservatives are paedophiles. Most would be rightfully horrified at the idea. Some of the most monstrous conservatives have been members of other parties, such as Cyril Smith (another one admired while alive but whose obituaries accused him - probably correctly - as a child abuser). As a liberationist socialist, I would certainly put Stalinism in the same category: a tiny elite assumed that any atrocity could be committed on 'the people' in the name of 'the people' in pursuit of its own grip on power. But an ideology which consistently argues and acts in a way which implies that groups of people are inherently disposable is always going to be conducive to abusers and abuse. There is an unbroken continuum between Jimmy Savile's abuse of his position to destroy the lives of individual children and his friend Margaret Thatcher's abuse of her position to beggar and marginalise entire swathes of the population.  

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