All reason is suspended when dealing with child abduction and paedophilia. I have commented before about society's much greater concern for abducted blonde girls than others, for example. I did not want to set the hares of racism and sexism running, but it is evident that the media gets better viewing figures by exploiting the parents of such girls than by exploiting the parents of other abductees.
These are dreadful crimes and perpetrators deserve no sympathy. If you cannot satisfy your sexual desires with a consenting adult or inanimate object, I am afraid you are condemned to chaste frustration. Sexual urges are very powerful; they often find expression in bizarre ways. Yet no civilised society can accept them as an excuse.
The perpetrators of many other crimes, however, as their actions are not the subject of such a powerful taboo, are able to win sympathy by passing themselves off as victims of "society" or their upbringing rather than of their own selfish urges. Theodore Dalrymple's excellent book Life at the Bottom; the Worldview that makes the Underclass says more than I ever can about the Guardianisation of criminals and their skillful use of psychobabble to put social workers and judges on their side. I merely observe, from limited personal experience as a defence lawyer in my youth, that criminals invariably describe their actions in the passive voice as something unfortunate that happened to them. I have been suspicious of anyone using the passive voice ever since.
I remember one whingeing rogue saying to me "Oh, Mr Paine I was doing so well; keeping out of trouble - and then this happened." The "this" in question was being apprehended on the roof of an electrical goods store with his socks on his hands. [British criminals know that carrying gloves can, in our mild climate, be considered going equipped for burglary, so - before DNA evidence - they used their socks to avoid leaving fingerprints]. My sorry task was to plead mitigation for this waste of space. I did it to the best of my youthful ability, but confess that I was delighted by the scorn in the magistrates eyes as I did so. I guess I was not cut out for the noble and important profession of criminal advocacy, which is perhaps as well as I could not really afford to live on what it pays.
Those who undermine personal responsibility, which is the foundation of civilisation, should (oh feeble, hopeless word, "should") answer one day for the damage they do. A rational society would treat all perpetrators of serious violence with the same unremitting hatred and contempt it feels for paedophiles. Even those who commit property crimes, forcing honest folk to work longer and harder to pay for security devices, higher insurance premiums and replacements for their goods, should be despised not pitied. A rational society would hold everyone accountable for their own actions, unless legally insane (a much tougher definition than the clinical one).
Those who speak of "causes of crime;" those Guardianistas who see criminals as victims and find excuses for them should at least be intellectually consistent. Either they must also see paedophiles as helpless victims of their natural urges, more to be pitied than condemned, or they must condemn all others whom they now tend to excuse, exonerate or even celebrate. My view may seem hard, but it troubles my conscience much less than it would to hold theirs. My harsh view is also mitigated by a classical liberal preparedness to allow paedophiles (and all others whose sexual urges cannot be expressed in real life) to have access to CGI pornography or other outlets that do not involve the abuse of children, however repulsive I might personally find it. My expressing that view gave rise to one of the most intelligent debates in comments that I have ever stimulated (at the risk of associating this blog unfairly with the issue).
This particular story is refreshing, because the girls in question, despite all advice and guidance from busybodies and other grief-leeches, showed traditional English common sense and practicality. They have refused to have their lives defined by one horrible experience and I admire them for it. Yes, a terrible thing happened to them at the hands of a criminal, yet a moment's rational thought reveals that - against all "expert" advice - they have made the sensible choice.
Our sentimental, afternoon-tv, society finds that choice strange. A commenter at The Times site says she cannot conceive how the girls can think they derived benefits from their terrible experience. Of course they did. Many have learned about themselves and others, discovered new strengths, found true friends from terrible experiences. The happiest man I ever knew was left for dead at 16 on a First World War battlefield. He spent the rest of his war burying every young friend of his generation at a military cemetery in France. He could have succumbed to self-pity and lived a miserable life. He could have suffered from "survivor guilt." He chose instead to learn that life is a gift that can be lost at any moment and resolved to live every moment as if it were his last. He was a superb human being, largely because of that choice. When I feel sorry for myself, I remember him to try to put my problems in context.
There is nothing weird about the fact that these girls found the therapy imposed on them after their ordeal as bad as the assaults themselves. Therapy can help some people, sometimes. For those strong enough, with the support of family and friends, to put bad experiences behind them and move on it can be a pointless reliving of horror. With that in mind, I wonder why they consented to be the subject of a documentary that can only revive their victim status?
I won't be able, from Russia, to watch The Girls Who Were Found Alive (Channel 4, Thursday, February 28, 9pm) and I am not sure that I would want to. I can only admire the spirit of those who refuse to let criminals set the agenda by making their victim status permanent.