In the UK, the historical child sexual abuse inquiry has set off a long overdue discussion and debate. Despite the public inquiry, there have been attempts, one hopes, with good intentions to warn against a witch-hunt or to warn that predatory males protected by power and privilege are not the real danger. These arguments are needed as society and the regime confront a dark history. Without a tempered debate and inquiry there is a danger one injustice will cause another. However, we must keep in mind that these are issues are different from the historical issue as neither stranger danger nor abuse within the family are what is of concern. They distract us from the central issue.
Stranger danger will always be a concern. It will never be eliminated as long as there are dangerous people. The effort to remove dangerous people would distort political life to make life inhuman. Society can only mitigate the risks. A variety of steps can be taken through education, supervision, surveillance, and increased police presence. Greater penalties or sanctions can help but these are not crimes that are easily deterred.
Oedipus Complex: family abuse haunts civilisation.
The issue is not familial abuse. The legend of Oedipus shows that the family is an intrinsically fragile and ambiguous idea. The family is both a place of safety and extreme danger. The danger, like that of stranger danger, cannot be eliminated. We can reduce and mitigate the risk but never remove it. Throughout history, families understood the dangers and took steps to avoid it and to work to educate people against it. In the family, the dangerousness of man is overlaid with the problem of human desire unconstrained by traditional morality. If pleasure is your highest good, then illicit pleasures become justifiable. By releasing some sexual behaviours, sexual morality that may have restrained that approach is weakened. We can see this in the way that technology has changed our understanding of the morality and constraints of human reproduction. However, that moves us to a different topic for a different blog.
Power and privilege are at the heart of historical CSA
The political concern with CSA is that it relates directly to political power. I do not mean the perpetrator’s political party affiliation, which is immaterial. Instead, CSA reflects the brutal raw power of one person over another. The powerful exploit the vulnerable. In this case, the powerful are politically powerful. The perpetrator’s political status within the community is a constant. Even if the perpetrator is not politically connected, they hold a position of power and prestige that gives them access to the children and protects them. At a basic level, either the perpetrators had power over the child or they had power over the institution that was nominally responsible for the child. The children’s homes became a source for the powerful to find their pleasure. When Tom Watson raised the concern in Parliament, it touched upon a deep nerve within UK society. However, the deeper concern is the continuing problem in that those in power have perpetrated the CSA.
Privilege creates a system that protects the power at the expense of the vulnerable.
When the powerful perpetrators were caught, they were able to rely on their political power to avoid sanction or censure. In the case of Lord Morrison, he escaped with a caution. In Cyril Smith’s case, the police were invoked to retrieve allegations given to a newspaper editor. In the case of Jimmy Savile, he used his apparent relationship with the police and powerful people to deflect attention and provide access to vulnerable children and adults. They were protected by power, privilege, and a system that reinforced their status. They were above the law and they bent the law to their will. Beyond the moral cowardice of those, like the police, who knew of these crimes and failed to act appropriately, there is a deeper problem. Their behaviour and the failure to stop suggest that the political covenant between the ruler and the ruled is in question.
The Crown is legitimate only so long as it protects the weak and restrains the predatory
The known perpetrators have acted as if they had the right to rape children because their power and privilege entitled them to it. The people who catered to them and procured the children also acted in that manner. In a regime where title and status are important, the political hierarchy and social hierarchy will shape citizens to respond to it. The UK regime, despite the veneer of liberal democracy, is based on a belief that power and privilege are respected, paid deference, if not submission. Who would challenge them when their victims are weak, vulnerable and without a champion? They focused on care homes and vulnerable children because no one would dare to stop them. They exploited their position, the public trust, as the system encouraged that trust and, by extension, encouraged that exploitation.
Does the CSA reflect the UK regime’s institutional inequality?
What is unasked about the historical child sexual exploitation is whether the whole regime is based on the principle exploitation and the crimes against the children manifested the regime’s institutional inequality. The words of Thomas Jefferson come to mind when we consider the perpetrator’s behaviour and the failure to restrain them. From the perpetrator’s perspective the children in care were born with saddles on their backs so the favour few, who are booted and spurred, could ride them legitimately by the grace of their status given by the Crown. The regime expresses the ethos that the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must.
The poor will not revolt if they are protected.
The CSA reflects the fundamental inequality within society. The powerful and the privileged use the system to protect their predatory behaviour. The same system ignores it because it is based on deference and privilege in which the regime shapes individuals to seek such honours and rewards and defer to the privileged and powerful. The system is acceptable so long as the powerful do not prey on the people. As Aristotle explained 2500 years ago, a regime will remain stable so long as the poor and weak are not exploited. The weak will not revolt or challenge the rulers if they are protected and free of abuse. The regime, though, has to restrain the predatory few within the privileged. In this task, the Crown failed to keep its explicit promise. It tolerated the predatory few and failed to bring them to justice.
Has the Crown lost its legitimacy?
The CSA inquiry raises a question about the Crown’s legitimacy. The basic relationship between a people and their Monarch is based on protection. If the Monarch, the Crown fully understood, cannot protect the citizen, why should they obey? In this case, the Crown understood as Parliament, the Police, the Criminal Justice System and the Monarchy were unable or unwilling to restrain the privileged predators even though they knew about their behaviour.
Is the historical Child Sexual Exploitation the Crown’s legacy?
When history judges this Monarch, the historical CSA will be her legacy. The Crown failed to bring perpetrators to justice and failed to protect the vulnerable in its care. These failures were a direct result of the regime created by the Crown through its patronage and privileges. For those who would protect the Crown and defend its legitimacy, the question is why they focus more on the powerful and less on the victim. The time to reform the Crown has arrived.
 Thomas Jefferson “ The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God” http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/07/03/quot-the-mass-of-mankind-has-not-been-born-with-saddles-on-their-backs-quot/ (accessed 1 May 2015)
 Aristotle Politics 1297b “For the poor are willing to remain tranquil even when they have no share in the prerogatives, provided no one acts arrogantly towards them nor deprives them of any of their property. Yet this is not easy; for it does not always turn out that those sharing in the governing body are the refined sort.”