Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The world is upside down

So, Rolf Harris has become the latest in an ever-growing list of important role models from my childhood to be found guilty of child molestation, and, whilst he awaits sentencing, the media is focusing on what Harris is worth and how much of that should be given to his victims in compensation... Cue an absolute rush to the colours of other women claiming their lives have been wrecked by this "evil" man. It strikes me that it's becoming terribly easy to suddenly remember how messed up we were by figures from our childhood, usually the moment a sum of potential money is placed on a table.

I don't know the details of the Harris case. Whatever happened is terribly sad, and if he did have a penchant for younger girls, then I'm glad the culture in this country has changed so that that sort of behaviour is no longer swept under the carpet by institutions.

That said, I worry we're heading somewhere really dark, which will ultimately lead to children making claims against their parents and teachers for everything from being made to do too much homework to being fed too much sugar. It seems we're all looking for someone to blame for our complicated lives, and in my view, not being able to take responsibility for your own actions is one of the greatest crimes known to man...

The upshot of the whole sorry business is that Mr Harris' once glittering career is now dead. What makes me particularly sad is that he is a real talent, who certainly made my childhood a brighter, better place. Despite this, his paintings will plainly now halve in value. His grand children will be ridiculed in the playground. His wife and daughter will be spat at in the street for defending him. Ultimately we got what we wanted; a Jimmy Savile who isn't dead... And finally we can stand on our holier than thou soap boxes and make him suffer accordingly despite his crimes being a mere fraction of those of Savile.

Nadia Swahala on Loose Women today even accused Harris of "conning the nation into thinking he was entertaining us but actually using his position for his own foul means." That's right, Nadia. He presented Animal Hospital so that he could abuse his daughter's childhood friend.

I strongly believe that if Harris had murdered an adult in cold blood that his paintings would have actually appreciated in value and yet, because of the nature of his crimes, people I actually know are in the process of tearing down Rolf Harris limited edition prints from their walls. When I think about the crimes committed by artists and creative people in the past, I shudder, but do we refused to listen to pop music produced by Phil Spector or Joe Meek?

Unlike Meek, or Spectre, or indeed Ben Johnson, or painter Richard Dadd, Harris didn't kill anyone. Furthermore, his family obviously think that he's a fairly decent sort because; despite his crimes, they're standing by him. The bottom line is that he remains a wonderful painter, who brought art, wobble boards, curiously shaved goatee beards and sick animals to a whole generation of kids. And that, I'm afraid, is how I personally will choose to remember him. Anything else, and my childhood is turned on its head, and I shall be forced to sue the BBC for lying to me...

What makes me particularly mad is that we seem to only queue up to condemn and be appalled when it suits us. How many British Muslims, for example, are currently lobbying Hamas not to murder any more Jewish teenagers? And even on the issue of paedophilia, when someone is found innocent, we shrug our shoulders and say that there's no smoke without fire. The case against my friend Roy Harper was thrown out of court, but did the media report his innocence? How many of the people who tweeted bile on the day he was arrested, tweeted their apologies? I don't often find myself quoting the bible, but wasn't it Jesus himself who is meant to have said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone?" So unless you live your lives like Mother Theresa (and even she was meant to have been a tricky fish) perhaps it's time to exert a bit of compassion and instead of condemning, looking around your own worlds to see if there's someone in potential trouble who you can help.

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