I was brought up not to mock strange people — not to point at them in the street or to gang up tease them at school. The only two fights I ever got in I was defending the weird kid against the popular bully — even though I wasn’t really friends with the former (no one was) and on the whole got on fine with the latter. (I was also rubbish at fighting, so these interventions weren’t exactly of consequence…)
But in this instance I think this completely fritzed with my antennae. First, I assumed — and I suspect this was quite widespread — that even though *I* wasn’t a fan, lots of people surely were: that Sir James Savile was widely loved and considered loveable, just not by me. Maybe I was just being parochial, or a class snob? And second, a kind of defensiveness would kick in on his behalf, when you heard the rumours, as you did, now and then. Obviously he’s an odd man — visibly solitary in the buzz of crowds — but odd isn’t a crime, and, look, don’t smear the weird kid! Anyway, this — tidied up after conscious reflection — is somewhat how I thought, if that’s the right word.
And I’m now tempted to generalise, and at least to wonder if something like this isn’t what allowed him to play so many people who should have known better. A friend noted last night the absence, when Savile died, of any kind of outpouring. No one much coming forward to say how lovely he was to work with, for example. How “beloved” actually was he? Everyone knew? My intuition as a child was apparently right — my unease has just been horribly confirmed — but of course I didn’t “know”. True, I didn’t enjoy watching his shows — so I outsourced my judgment in all regards to all those (imaginary?) fans who apparently DID like him, and basically forgot about it. All around, this unpleasant week, I’ve been sensing that EVERYONE was doing something similar — including people genuinely nearby, with a power to step in and stop him, but also plenty sitting in audiences not really enjoying watching him but assuming someone present must be. It isn’t exactly that I feel self-disgust at complicity — I wasn’t often even in those audiences, so I’m only complicit in the not very useful sense that “we all are”. It’s that the reasons that caused me to entirely tamp down and set aside my initial youthful abreactions, to suspend my alert judgment, are aspects of myself I’m usually fairly proud of. Yuk.