Bell Curve

I saw a recent online article entitled something like this:

Why did Jimmy Savile do charity work? We asked top psychologist to explain why notorious DJ blah blah blah…

…and it really made me groan.

Why are we still so wilfully blind to the vast spectrum of grey that is human behaviour? We’re supposedly becoming more and more tolerant, liberal and open-minded each year, with the taboos of yesterday congealing and being scraped into the bin like so much old gravy. Yet when it comes to “bad men” we can only think in black and white.

To today’s society, we are almost all inside the limits of normality on the bell curve, and we do our best to fight against the monsters without. Serial killers, war criminals and paedos mostly. Poor old Hitler finally has someone judged to be nearly as demonically evil as him to share his lonely circle of hell, perhaps along with Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot (at least they can play Boppit now, but wait – this is hell – the batteries are missing).

In his book “Unapologetic” – not all of which I agree with, by the way – Francis Spufford points out that whether you draw your wisdom from Freud or St Paul (“What I would not, that I do. What I would, that I do not”), the important conclusion is that we do not in fact each lie somewhere on the bell curve but that there is an entire bell curve, highs and lows, normal and deviant, inside each of us. It’s only when we acknowledge this that concepts such as grace and then true rehabilitation can begin to work.

So why did Jimmy Savile do charity work? Well, could it be as a smokescreen, and to give him more opportunities to meet potential conquests? Almost certainly, at times. But are we permitted to consider that some of it, at least some of the time, might be because he was a human being with the capacity for all sorts of self-deceit, cognitive dissonance, double-standards and unresolved tensions and that perhaps, occasionally, he cared?

 

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