Wednesday, 29 November 2017

How ‘journeys’ are the first defence for sex pests and sinners

 Robert Shrimsley in The FT

Image result for redemption

I want to tell you that I’ve been on a journey — a journey away from personal responsibility. I cannot as yet tell you very much about my journey because I’m not yet clear what it is that I need to have been journeying away from. But I wanted to put it out there, just in case anyone discovers anything bad about me. Because if they do, it is important that you know that was me then, not me now, because I have been on a journey. 

Being on a journey is quite the thing these days. In recent weeks, a fair few people have discovered that they too have been on one. It has become the go-to excuse for anyone caught in bad behaviour that happened some time in the past. If you don’t know the way, you head straight for the door marked contrition, turn left at redemption and keep going till you reach self-righteousness. 

High-profile journeymen and women include people who have posted really unpleasant comments online. Among those on a journey was a would-be Labour councillor who was on a trek away from wondering why people kept thinking that Hitler was the bad guy. And let’s be fair — who among us hasn’t been on a journey from wondering why Hitler is portrayed as the bad guy? Another journey was embarked on by a Labour MP who had been caught engaging in horrible homophobic remarks, as well as referring to women as bitches and slags. But don’t worry; he’s been on a journey and we can rest assured that he’ll never do it again. 

The important thing about being on a journey is that it allows us to separate the hideous git who once made those mistakes from the really rather super human being we see today. For this, fundamentally, is a journey away from culpability, because all that bad stuff — that was old you; the you before you embarked on the journey; the you before you were caught. 

But listen, you don’t need to be in the Labour party to go on a journey. Anyone with a suddenly revealed embarrassing past can join in. This is especially important for those unwise enough to have made their mistakes in the era of social media. The beauty of the journey defence is that it plays to our inner sense of fairness. Everyone makes mistakes, so we warm to those who admit to them and seem sincere in their contrition. Sadly, the successful rehabilitation of early voyagers has encouraged any miscreant to view it as the fallback du jour. 

But the journey defence will get you only so far. For a start, it requires a reasonable time to have elapsed since the last offence. It is also of limited use in more serious misdemeanours. The journey defence is very good for racist comments, casual homophobia or digital misogyny. It is of little use with serious sexual harassment. For that, you are going to want to have an illness. 

You may, for example, need to discover that you are a sex addict. Addiction obviously means that you bear no responsibility for your actions, which, however repellent, are entirely beyond your control. Sex addict also sounds kind of cool, certainly much better than, say, hideous predatory creep. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have both — rather recently — discovered they suffer from this terrible affliction. I realise that forcing yourself on young women (or men) might technically be different from sex, but “groping addict” doesn’t sound quite as stylish. 

After consultation with your doctors (spin-doctors, that is), you realise that you require extensive treatment at, say, the Carmel Valley Ranch golf course and spa, where you are currently undergoing an intensive course of therapy, massage and gourmet cuisine as you battle your inner demons. If you are American, you might, at this point, ask people to pray for you. 

In a way, I suppose, this is also a journey but one that comes with back rubs and fine wine. Alas, the excuses and faux admissions are looking a bit too easy. The sex addicts are somewhat devalued; the journeys are too well trodden. Those seeking to evade personal responsibility are going to need to find a new path to redemption.

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