I personally suspect that David Kelly (weapons of mass destruction) was already contemplating suicide, but used it for maximum impact. I wonder if Carl Sargeant did the same. Just as David Kelly’s death had an impact on the debate on weapons of mass destruction, I hope that Carl Sargeant may have helped to start a more measured response to male behaviour.
Last week I described the Harvey Weinstein exposé as an earthquake releasing a massive, long term build up of pressure. The ‘casting couch’ had long been a matter-of-fact assumption. His antics may have been more egregious than most if not all his predecessors, but he can hardly have been the first.
Those who have hitherto (ab)used their positions of power must accept that tectonic plates have indeed shifted. The House of Commons report suggests that there will have to be aftershocks, but women can no longer be treated as vassals. In an ecologically sound sustainable world, the aggressive dominance of males, once vital if battles were to be won, will be out of place.
But so great was the earthquake, that its tsunami has engulfed a whole host of sexist behaviour. Much of it will also be seen as inappropriate from now on, but one of the examples of harassment recently cited was of a man who asked a much younger woman if she had a boyfriend, and indicated that he would like to see more of her. Pathetic possibly, but harassment?
Clearer examples of unwanted attentions involve physical touching. The contexts vary widely, and the seriousness varies accordingly. I personally take the view that the tectonic shift now taking place is such, that purely physical approaches will from now on be off limits in many social situations, but what about the vast number which still happen, and the culture which still underpins them in many situations?
I have a theory of ‘Primal Programmes’ to explain behaviour. It is pure hypothesis, but it helps me to understand a lot which is otherwise inexplicable. There is a widespread assumption that humans are capable of being rational, moral beings. The vast majority do attempt this, but even before I read ‘The Political Brain’, by Drew Westen I thought of humans as sophisticated animals.
All animals, indeed all living organisms come into existence with a preordained programme of what they should achieve. What I call ‘Primal Programmes’ do not have to make sense, or be consistent with each other. The only criterion is that each one assisted its possessor to produce offspring.
A new word has just entered the English language: polyamourous. I have only heard it twice, both since ‘Weinstein’, but the second time was on radio. Most of us males are polyamorous as a primal programme. We can no more help that than our skin colour. What we should do about it would be straightforward if we were 100% rational, moral beings. But unfortunately we are animals trying to cope with our conflicting primal programmes.
Much human interaction is still non-verbal. This is conjecture, but until now, I suspect that nothing has really happened to eradicate this particular form of non-verbal communication. One fact considered irrelevant to this discussion, but which I think could shed light on it, is that some males have considerably more success in attracting females than most of us. One can think of many high profile examples, but in my experience many are not alpha males. I believe this helps to explain why unwanted physical contact has remained as widespread as it seems to be. Alan Clark was one of the more egregious, but successful womanisers. His comment “How do I know it is unwelcome until I have done it?” will rightly be seen as appalling from now on but it does help me to understand what happens in a male dominated culture.
I lived in an era before the pressure built up for the social change now taking place. When I was in my teens and twenties, if an unwanted physical contact was rejected, that was that. It should always have been regarded as improper, but it only took on a more serious aspect if it persisted, or if the perpetrator had an advantage of some kind.
Like the rest of us, Carl Sargeant was a bundle of primal programmes. It may well be deemed inappropriate for any details of the alleged offences to become public knowledge, but clearly among his primal programmes was the need to be everything a devastated wife and children would expect. However, there are clues that he was also polyamorous.
I think a lot of males will identify with him.