In Memorium

Until yesterday I knew nothing about Carl Sargeant, I’d literally never heard of him. Now all I know about him is that he was accused of some form of sexual impropriety and killed himself.

And I for one can’t blame him because Carl knew how these witch hunts and ‘purges’ play out. Once the accusation is made ‘the mud sticks’ and the gossip-based, ‘no smoke without fire’ logic kicks in and whatever the outcome of an investigation the accused is ‘guilty’ for ever more.

Regardless of his guilt or innocence or the relative triviality or seriousness of the alleged offences, he knew that his political career was over and his personal life shattered. He knew his kids were going to hear that he was some sort of sex offender, some sort of monster morally equivalent to a rapist or a paedophile.

He knew this because at the moment the spurious notion that all male behaviour is on a spectrum of evil and oppression is openly argued on a daily basis on our media and almost always goes unchallenged. It is seriously suggested on a daily basis that a clumsy attempt to flirt with someone younger than you is morally equivalent to child abuse or rape… because all foolish behaviour is equivalent to violent crime because male evil and oppression are on a continuous spectrum that inevitably leads to rape and murder.

Thus all sorts of morally judgemental words and phrases such as ‘victim’ ‘abuse’ ‘bullying’ ‘sexual harassment’ ‘abuse of power’ are now being used to describe behaviour that is clearly none of those things. Underlying this is the old radical feminist trope that “all men are rapists” and should be treated as such regardless of whether they actually do rape anyone or not. Touching someone ‘inappropriately’ on the knee is now apparantly reason enough to have your life, career and reputation shattered… and ‘inappropriate’ can apparantly mean whatever it happens to mean on that particular occasion and is entirely defined by the ‘victim’.

There is no place in this world for misunderstanding, drunkeness or foolishness… let alone mental illness. Oh no, in this world at all times all men must behave entirely ‘appropriately’ or face the consequence of public vilification in the media, ruined careers, shattered reputation and broken private lives.

And for the record I believe attempts to gain sexual favours by abusing ones power is unconditionally wrong and morally abhorrent. Any unwanted sexualised touching or groping is wrong and to be abhorred. Sexual assault, sexual violence and rape are not only abhorrent they are illegal and should be dealt with by the legal system harshly and uncompromisingly.

And of course the failure of the legal system to treat sexual crimes against women seriously is at the heart of this problem. Sexual assault and rape have historically and still are not taken seriously by the legal system and the psychological and reputational price women have to pay to pursue prosecution for sexual crimes against them is often a traumatic extension of the initial crime and this IS an example of unacceptable prejudice and women’s oppression.

But the current witch hunt isn’t going to solve that problem because underlying the witch hunt is a deeply disturbing idea.

Many years ago I had a huge row with a female social worker friend of mine who accused me of being a privileged, ‘powerful’ oppressor because I was a white, middle-aged and a man.

At the time I was under going a stress related nervous break down as I tried to earn a living in a precarious creative industry in which I had literally no autonomy let alone power and on a daily basis was being rapaciously exploited by a psychopathic system that cared nothing for my family life, my responsibilities as a parent or any other aspect of my life. Yet despite this I was, according to my friend, privileged and ‘powerful’.

Apparently because I was middle aged, white and male  I was part of the paternalist ‘power structure’ and guilty of the oppression of women, blacks and the LGBT community… and this was despite my lifetime commitment as an activist and trade unionist to fighting racism, sexism and prejudice in any form and wherever I encountered it.

Despite that according to my friend I was doomed to be regarded by her as an oppressor simply because of my age, skin colour and gender!

I hope I don’t have to spell out the irony upon ironies here.

The assumption that ALL middle aged white men everywhere, even those running meetings or organising campaigns to fight racism and sexism, just like Carl Sargeant, are there because of their white male privilege and de facto guilty of sexual impropriety and oppression of women is frankly an offensive prejudice.

If members of a ‘freedom group’ make huge sacrifices of time, energy and resources to fight prejudice and oppression they are apparently entirely free of ego and ambition and make these sacrifices entirely because of their heroic dedication to the righteous cause.

If middle aged white men do the same it is apparently because they are privileged, power-crazed, megalomaniac, sexual predators who need to be hounded out of office and vilified and shamed for the ‘evilness within’ that is signified by their age, skin colour and gender.

For over three centuries the radical left fought for equality under the law and for the legal institutions that make it possible such as habeas corpus, trial by jury and the concept of innocence until proven guilty. Now we are told that on matters of sexual impropriety in the workplace we must always accept accusations at face value and assume guilt until innocence is proven.

Carl Sargeant knew there was no coming back from this and that his entire reputation and his life’s work had been destroyed not at the moment of conviction after due process but simply at the moment of accusation.

This is not okay and it is not justice. It also does nothing to help all those who are abused, harassed and oppressed by people in power on a daily basis… both men and women, and by both men and women. Power corrupts. Its as simple as that. Some of the most abusive and obnoxious people I have ever met in my life are women in positions of power. You can argue that there aren’t enough of these obnoxious women in positions of power, as indeed I would, but lets not pretend that the world would be any different if obnoxious, power-crazed ,women were in charge, rather than obnoxious, power-crazed, men!

And if you are in fact arguing that the world would be better if ruled by women then you are arguing for the innate moral superiority of women, and by extension for the moral inferiority of men. Thus you are judging half of humanity based entirely on their gender… which I thought was the problem we were trying to overcome?!

About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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2 Responses to In Memorium

  1. 77notout says:

    Excellent piece and thanks for getting this vital message out there.

  2. Steve says:

    Agreed, excellent piece. Your, next to last paragraph, brings to mind many individuals. Both male & female. Politicians, State University system Presidents, Silicon Valley Exec’s, employers, et cetera……. All are examples of, “Power corrupts”.

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