Sunday, 15 October 2017


Okay, I'll say straight away that was a deliberately controversial and antagonistic headline.

To many, the idea that someone... anyone could, or would, attempt to defend the Hollywood producer's now notorious (alleged) actions will be so abhorrent, so unthinkable, I'm hoping a good few will click out of curiosity, perhaps purposely seeking something to get angry about. That seems to be the fashion nowadays.

Here's the thing. I'm not defending Harvey Weinstein's conduct. If the reports are true - as would now seem inevitable, judging from the sheer quantity of affected women speaking out against him, as well as taped recordings of his predatory mannerism - he is an utterly deplorable and depraved human being. One who certainly deserves to be stripped of every accolade ever awarded to him. It's appalling that any individual was able to thrive for so long, virtually unimpeachable for his bullying and sexually aggressive behaviour.

But again, here's the thing: evil IS what it is.

Evil exists, and it's all around us. To pretend otherwise is sheer folly. And in a sense, you can hardly blame an evil human being - particularly one that's been enabled by everyone around them for years - for being 'evil'. Any more than you can blame a hungry grizzly bear for eating your neighbour.

One particular sentiment on Twitter caught my eye, for good reason:

One of the most farcical aspects of this whole scandal is that we're apparently all so 'shocked' this sort of thing goes on in Hollywood. Or in politics. Or in the music business. Or in big business. Or the in media in general. When in fact, anybody even remotely connected to these industries know full well that sort of behaviour is just 'a given'. Something Emma Thompson voiced rather well on Newsnight recently.

Pyramid Scheme

Certainly in my experience, those at the top of any pyramid generally think they can do what they like. And often, the bigger and more powerful the company or institution, the more shameless and irresponsible their conduct. Again speaking of my own experience, my own seeming inability to 'keep quiet' in the face of such ethics has been my undoing on many occasions: many more than I'd care to admit.

One of the earliest examples I can think of, and not an altogether unrelated subject: the head of my course at university used to throw highly questionable parties for his students, encouraging them to do and perform lurid things on camera for his entertainment, often for financial incentive. And most of them seemed OK with it. I wasn't. And my fairly obvious disgust at his behaviour eventually resulted in a degree classification in no way befitting the work I'd done, or my level of competence.

I attempted to fight his 'assessment' afterwards, but it was too late. It was all 'hearsay'. And by taking him on, all I achieved really was to alienate myself from the countless students and friends who'd been only too happy to befriend him, turning a blind eye and/or engaging with activities at his parties. Because believe me... everybody knew.

And that's the point. Those who do speak up, are demonised. By even daring to have a voice that challenges the people in charge, or those committing the offences, you make yourself a target. Instantly, you're the 'moaner', the one who won't 'get with the programme'. You risk being sidelined by friends and colleagues who want an easy life, and on the whole, opt to take the easier path of silence.

Where did I go wrong? I only spoke up forcefully when it affected me personally: when MY degree result was adversely affected. If I'd planted my foot in the sand immediately and challenged the lecturer's behaviour, if I hadn't been motivated by self-preservation alone, I might have been able to enact change before it affected me and my future. Maybe not, but I'll never know.

In almost every walk of life - certainly those I can think of - the most awful malpractices, crimes, and even violations against other human beings occur, and continue to occur, exactly because those committing them are buoyed by the huge swathes of people who 'just accept it'. It's a 'perk' of being in charge: the 'status quo'. The perpetrators specifically rely their victims don't (and won't) speak up. Onlookers' conception of power, and its threat to adversely affect their entire life and career is just too great a cost for most, whatever industry they're in. It's understandable. Life's hard enough as it is.

The Uncomfortable Truth

Yes, self-preservation is understandable.

But the uncomfortable flip-side to that, is those vast swathes of people who keep their mouths shut are symbiotically as responsible for those vices as those who commit them. They are quite literally enabling the crimes.

What's really at stake, is whether one's sense of self-preservation is more or less effectual than inherent desire to see decency and fairness win out.

I'd argue such people - those who have that inner desire for things to be fair and right - are in the minority, and declining. No matter how much Western culture has (at least until recently) propagated the idea we're the 'guardians of decency', who always like to see the good guys emerge victorious. It's being bred out of us. And the reason that fantasy no longer flies, simply put, is that genuine ethics of fairness fundamentally contradict the guiding ethos of capitalism.

In light of that, it's almost like our societies have now given up pretending: or are at least headed that way. No one with a sense of perspective could possibly dispute the odious hypocrisy, or the huge problems faced by a western world where two highly successful, powerful and effectual household names of America are both accused of similar crimes, but one of them is currently disgraced: the other is President of the United States.

When horrible, nasty and downright immoral things occur routinely without challenge; when nobody seems to raise an eyebrow or dare stand up to them, you can hardly blame the perpetrators for being lulled into a sense their conduct is somehow 'acceptable'. That's the brutal truth.

Again, that goes for all walks of life, from the most humble to the most extreme. World War II didn't happen because of Adolf Hitler, because of one man: it happened because of all the people who followed him, who'd have argued they were simply being patriotic, and/or 'doing their job'.

Lessons from Drama School

Back at drama school, one of the kindest, most ethical and inspiring teachers I ever had - a gentleman named Amir Korangy taught me what I would like to believe an invaluable lesson in acting. Namely that no villain thinks they're a villain. Unless you're appearing in an Austin Powers movie or a pantomime, bad guys don't generally make a categorical decision to become evil, or to adopt manic cackling laughs to forecast their inherent malice.

No, however warped and twisted the villain has become, even the most vicious and malicious individuals and groups believe they are justified in their attitudes: that they are the good guys. It's an important switch of mindset if you're looking to play an 'evil' character with realism, rather than hammy stereotypes.

It also goes a long way to explaining how, and why, we're now seeing the resurgence of attitudes and politics that quite frankly, I never thought I'd see resurgent in my lifetime. Not in my country any way. Nor the 'Land of the Free'. And I try to bear it in mind when conversing with people of opposing opinions (with varying levels of success, admittedly).

In Defence of Harvey Weinstein

Weinstein's abuses are obviously seeped in the pertinent issues of institutionalised sexism and misogyny, which in some ways, are separate issues to what I'm discussing here. Plus as a male, I am perhaps not best qualified to speak or testify on account of them.

But in defence of Harvey Weinstein, the seemingly callous rapist and sexual predator, I will mention the aspect few others would dare to. Namely that Weinstein is like an entitled child that's been allowed to kick/punch and abuse his/her classmates without redress. He probably genuinely thought there was nothing wrong with it; that it was permitted for a man in his position. An unwritten rule. Therefore, a portion of the responsibility does lie with those who allowed him to form that opinion, and for so long. That sadly includes every single person who, for whatever reason, lacked the courage or conviction to speak up: to put decency ahead of careerism.

That's not to say Weinstein shouldn't be held squarely to account. Only that you rarely cure a disease by treating the symptoms alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment