Sunday, 13 January 2013

Better If He'd Never Been Born?

This is going to be controversial, and I write this as a thought experiment built upon something I've been thinking about for a while. Simply put, did Jimmy Savile make a net positive contribution to society? Here's my take; it is estimated that during the course of his life he raised in excess of £40 million for charity. His beneficiary's will be mostly people he never comes into contact with, rendering them safe from his diseased and predatory sexuality. Think about how much medical equipment his efforts raised, how many wards refurbished, projects funded? It is without question an impressive figure, and his work has improved the lives of countless thousands down the years. This of course assumes you never had the misfortune of being a minor, or vulnerable, and alone in his company. Now please note that I am not condoning his behaviour, nor seeking to accept it as some kind of twisted trade off to balance the moral books. I'm trying to get you to think about wellbeing in a way that is counter intuitive, disquieting, yet undeniably self evident. Jimmy Savile ruined lives, robbed vulnerable children of their childhood, and established a pattern of predatory behaviour that should have been exposed years before. But, and here's where the rubber hits the road, the fact remains that his charitable efforts improved the lives of many more people than his personal vices destroyed. So lets replay the tape of history. Based on everything we now know, would we let things play out the same again? Well no, he would be banged up quicker than you could say Jack Flash. But in so doing, know that you may have decreased the overall level of wellbeing for countless thousands. Perhaps those life saving machines would never have been delivered, or those wards not refurbished, or those rehabilitation centres never green lit? We will never know. But before you brand me heartless, or indifferent to the intimate suffering of his countless victims, just try to see wellbeing in the widest possible context. In this world many, if not most people employ regular double standards when it comes to our moral behaviour. This is part of the spectrum of human experience. With Saville, the swing was extreme; his remarkable charitable work being one aspect of his psyche, whilst the predatory sexual animal lurked in the shadows. Yin and Yang? Darkness and light? In an ideal world we would be charitable, moral, and devoid of such double standards, but unfortunately that world is one we are yet to reach.

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