What to make of the scandal surrounding the late Jimmy Savile? Certainly, it appears that he was a predatory paedophile. It also appears that others knew of this and for varied reasons (benefitting financially, or because they were also abusers), Jimmy was given the impression he was untouchable and not alone in his preferences (Gary Glitter was arrested on Sunday).
In what light do we now cast his accomplishments? The money he raised, the causes he supported – were they all just an excuse to get close to children?
He sponsored medical students at the University of Leeds to perform undergraduate research in the Leeds University Research Enterprise scholarship scheme, donating over £60,000 every year. In 2010, the scheme was extended with a commitment of £500,000 over the following five years. Following Savile’s death in October 2011, it was confirmed a bequest had been made to allow continued support for the LURE programme.
Or, uncomfortably, do we have to acknowledge that despite this despicable unforgivable side (which could have been stopped and should have been stopped), there was also a caring side, one that felt compassion for the underdog, wanted to help his fellow humans?
Jung postulated the self was made up of two distinct sides, residing in an uneasy compromise we call personality.
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.
Freud talked about a similar dark side to our personality he called the id – the child within us, selfish and cruel, uncaring of its effect on others.
For some, childhood does not provide the nurturing environment from which our ‘ego’ the part of our personality that straddles both dark and light sides of our soul, grows strong enough to keep these two forces in check. Because our saintly side, if allowed to run rampant, can be as equally destructive – think of Norman Bates in Psycho. He may be a fictional character but he personifies an individual with weak ego strength. His overly dominant super-ego, an internalisation of his cold and dominating mother’s voice, led him to murder the ‘fallen’ girl his id desired.
A lifelong bachelor, Savile lived with his mother (whom he referred to as “The Duchess”) and kept her bedroom and wardrobe exactly as it was when she died. Every year he had her clothes dry cleaned.
For Jimmy Savile, being ‘nearly’ caught out (others knew what he was doing at the BBC) but not punished, freed his shadow or his id. The taciturn turning a blind eye to what he (and others at the BBC) were doing created the ideal conditions for a sexual fantasy to become a sick reality over and over again, but that does not mean he didn’t also want to do good.
An uncomfortable truth or a warning? No one is all good and no one is all bad. If paedophiles really all looked like Jimmy Savile, they would be easy to spot. Unfortunately they don’t. The recent case of April’s abduction, a tragic case in point. The man who is charged with her murder is related to April’s family. He wasn’t a creepy looking guy, with a comb-over and trousers too high on his waist. He was a father, a boyfriend, a colleague, a friend, an uncle, and a step uncle.
What Jimmy Savile’s terrible crimes remind us is bad people don’t do bad thing 24/7. People aren’t born bad (though they may have genetic predispositions), rather they are warped by deprived childhoods, by institutionalised abuse, by members of their own family, who themselves were damaged by their pasts. These people do not have an integrated personality, rather they deny their shadows and in doing take no responsibility for its actions, when it rears its demonic head. They console themselves with the good things they do as if this balances out the bad. They throw themselves into helping others, join the clergy, raise money for charity.
But it is our shadows that allow these people to carry out their depravity unchecked. Jimmy Savile abused his own niece. Do we really believe no one in his family ever suspected? Or did a shadow, called greed and complacency, step into the light.
It is easy to do nothing. What you do might not be popular, might expose you in a bad light, might ruin your reputation,might halt a cash flow you rely on, or, as is the case with a lot institutional abuse, might not make any difference.
Ah, the shadow of indifference. Are we all not guilty of that?
The BBC’s shadow is now under the spotlight, will they take their part of the blame (and change), or paint Savile to be the ultimate villain, evil to the core. The devil incarnate, who they were unable to stop.
If we don’t acknowledge the shadow in each of us (and embrace it), then nothing will really have changed.
Jimmy Savile was certainly a sinner, but in his lifetime, many would have argued he was also a saint. Can we be both?
What do you think? All views welcomed.