The Telegraph reports this horrifying news tonight.
The headline says it all:
State won’t cope with volume of sex abuse allegations, MP warns
And the subheading suggests we have a logistical problem, first and foremost:
State institutions including the police and social services will be unable to cope with the volume of child abuse victims coming forward
I’d like to move the debate to a different place, however. These cases of historical child abuse (why do they insist on calling it historic?), presumably thought by perpetrators and victims both to be long since brushed under the kind of carpets the establishment loves to roll out for its special occasions, are clearly not going away. Nor should they.
But if there will indeed be tens of thousands of such cases of VIP child abuse to be uncovered, what does this say about the fabric of our society – about those who currently find themselves at differing levels of power over the rest of us?
I mean in business and other public spheres of influence, as well as in politics.
Those who may not only have perpetrated such awful acts – the easiest to condemn and signpost now that the floodgates of recognition are beginning to open – but those who may have, instead (or as well – it’s difficult to know at this stage), suffered in silence the pain, self-hate and personal ignominy that childhood abuse engenders.
Tens of thousands of long ago abused children equals tens of thousands of adults with memories of abuse. If those people as children have lived lives of horror, what lives as adults have they managed to make of those who have lived and worked around them?
Does a person who is bullied inevitably bully those who later in life come under his or her guardianship?
Does a person who is abused inevitably abuse those he or she can? (When, that is to say, the opportunity finally presents itself …)
Or do these kind of experiences allow people to draw quite separate conclusions? Not to break free of the experience – that’s never possible. But apply a different response to the games of power that were exerted over them.
May, in some blessed way, as they attempt – often desperately – to right potential wrongs in any which way they can, some of those tens of thousands of adults who’ve been abused as children have had a positive effect on their grown-up surroundings? Even as the lessons of their infancy clearly can’t have been anything but destructive to their younger selves.
What I’m asking is the following question: how has British society been bent out of shape by a hidden nightmare of tens of thousands of child abuse cases, committed by those who were once/are now to be found at the highest levels?
How have the decisions an establishment so clearly tarnished for so long affected our progress as a civilisation?
How many key decisions were/have been taken by abusive people?
How many key decisions were/have been taken by people who found/have found it necessary – for reasons of work, acquaintanceship or a wider hierarchy – to swallow such abuse?
And how might we quantify and define, some dreadful day down the line, the reparations which the perpetrators will have to make? Not only to the perpetrated upon. Also, to the society within which they nested the lie.
So it won’t only be a logistical problem. Maybe not even first and foremost.
It’ll be more a going through of decades of political shammery: of seeing bluster for what it really was; of the sudden contextualising of what always seemed curious powerplays; of events that happened and at the time were hardly questioned … essentially, of a veil falling from our very Western eyes. Or maybe, more prosaically, that’s the wool that was pulled over the thinking side of our brains.
We’ve blinked for so long.
The state’s institutions may indeed balk at the literal challenge of processing so many cases in such a context. The trust we still hold for politics as a profession is, however, going to be suffocated in the expanding vacuum that parties like UKIP are looking to occupy.
That would, in fact, be a nightmare scenario: right-wing ex-Tories, fresh from an establishment recently winged by paedophilia accusations; a free hand from a protest vote that neither tested nor professionalised a body politic in radical need of both …
Don’t underestimate this story. It’s not going away. Nor are its implications.