The growing problem of moral schizophrenia
Recently, almost every other day seems to throw up fresh revelations of high profile figures involved in sex abuse. The most recent allegations relate to Sir Cyril Smith, formerly highly respected Liberal MP for Rochdale, with claims going back to the 1960s. ‘Twas ever thus,’ people say, and maybe with justification, but at the same time it really does feel as if abuse is on the increase. Certainly, as well as tarnished celebs, in recent months there have been a spate of arrests relating to organised paedophile and sex grooming rings – which we are told don’t even represent the tip of the grubby iceberg now being revealed.
Why? Has there always been this level of abuse in society, and is it simply that, with better investigative procedures, victims are now more emboldened to come forward? There may well be an element of truth in this, but, sadly, I suspect it’s not the whole story. On the contrary, I would hazard that these crimes really are on the increase, and are being fuelled by the growing climate of permissiveness that sees people self-defining almost exclusively in terms of sex and personal desire.
There is a mantra current in society today: ‘I am the centre of my own universe. What I want is paramount. I have the ‘right’ to total and complete fulfilment.’ Which would be fine, except of course that this attitude not infrequently collides with the similar claims of others. In which case, in our dog eat dog world, the stronger would appear to prevail by intimidation and bullying.
I would suggest that recent events are exposing a logical flaw to this approach.
However much some people may dislike the idea, there are moral absolutes that exist not because some self-appointed killjoys have decided they disapprove of certain types of behaviour that get up their collective noses; but because the indulgence of such behaviours reduces us to the level of animals and, left unchecked, will lead to the destruction of society.
We need some joined up thinking here. We cannot on the one hand condemn sexual abuse and ‘harmful’ pornography (as if some types of pornography are okay), and on the other say that anything and everything goes! No, we have to make a distinction between what is beneficial to the general good and to be encouraged, and what is harmful. And where there are perceived outcomes leading to damage – at both the individual and collective levels – then we have consciously to delimit any and all such behaviours increasing the likelihood of harm. This is what being human is all about. Making choices. We have to realise that our behaviours impact others, and that we can’t therefore have everything we want. Immediate gratification is not a ‘human right’. And sometimes, it’s plain wrong.
If we really are as horrified as appears at the unsavoury sexual practices now coming to light, then we must take responsibility for the conditions that have encouraged such abuse. We must face up to the fact that sometimes we all need to exercise restraint, and we need to start safeguarding our children by teaching them that the best ‘safe sex’ before marriage is actually just saying … no.