(Sorry, this is one of the occasional blogs that has nothing at all to do with financial services marketing, just in case you’re waiting for me to work my way round to it.)
Back at the beginning of the seventies, when I was in my mid-teens, I was one of a group of a dozen or so friends who spent a lot of time in each other’s company
We were a pretty homogeneous bunch – all much the same age, from much the same middle-class backgrounds and going to much the same schools, although in segregated Guildford that meant the grammar school for the boys and the county school for the girls. But there were a couple of outliers in the group. Pete was older, 23 or so, working class, had left school at 16 and worked on building sites since. He was good-looking, had money in his pocket and a pretty much genuine bad-boy image: needless to say, the boys were jealous of him and the girls all fancied him. Cordelia was the youngest, only 14 – very smart, very gorgeous and very, very fucked up.
Needless to say, Pete pursued Cordelia relentlessly. And needless to say, he succeeded: they became an item. As far as I could see, this meant two main things. First, she acted more or less as a one-girl service industry to Pete, meeting his incessant requests for cups of tea and sorties to the cigarette machine. And second, they spent a great deal of time together having sex, taking drugs and drinking vodka.
At the time, I don’t think any of the rest of us had any very strong reaction to any of this except jealousy. I certainly don’t think we mustered any quantity of disapproval between all of us.
But looking back on it through today’s perspective, of course, it all looks very different. In today’s language, we’d say that Pete groomed Cordelia very deliberately until she came under his control – and then, when she did, he proceeded to abuse her mercilessly, sexually and in a bunch of other ways. What he did was wicked and evil. If he’d been caught he should certainly have been sent to prison. And I guess there’d be a strong aiding-and-abetting charge against the rest of us.
I haven’t really got anywhere further to go with this. Perspectives have changed. At the time, it would never for a moment have occurred to Pete, Cordelia or any of the rest of us that anything remotely criminal was going on. Today, it’s obvious to everyone that it was. There was no question of any of the more appalling practices revealed in recent trials of individuals and groups of individuals for their behaviour in those days and more recently. But sex, drugs and alcohol, and a fourteen-year-old girl – it would still make a good story for the red-tops.
Am I saying that you can’t judge what happened in the past by the standards of the present? No, in general I’m absolutely not saying that. Most if not all of the elderly blokes hauled through the courts in recent years had done terrible things, and it’s good that the law caught up with them.
Perhaps all I’m saying is that quite often, the more closely you look at any event the more ambiguous it looks and the harder it becomes to figure out what it really means. But that, I can’t deny, would be a boring and inconclusively Libran note to finish on.