It has taken me a week or so of occasional deep thought to get to a point where I have got the great Lauder Fancy Dress fuss and palaver into some sense of proportion.
That said, I am still wondering what all the protest was about.
In Britain, along with many other countries, we have a long tradition of sending up just about anything, and thanks to the great blessing of free speech, we need not shrink from tackling sensitive issues in our own way.
There are plenty of laws knocking about to cope with people who go over the score, but their use is infrequent.
No sane person can consider the late and specifically unlamented Sir James Wilson Savile OBE KCSG other than an extremely unpleasant person who, for several decades, semi-overtly led a life of odious sexual misconduct, cloaked by his self-made image of shining goodness. In this he was cautiously assisted by a showbiz world partly in awe of him and to a degree intimidated by his somewhat overbearing personal style.
We would still be largely unaware of the true extent of Savile’s evil deeds were it not for Richard Ingrams, formerly editor of Private Eye, now running a rather grumpy magazine called The Oldie, aimed for old codgers like me.
Ingrams outed the late Jim’s nasty adventures in The Oldie in a style the so-called bold tabloid press had long wanted to try, but held back for fear of litigation. The rest, as they say, is history, although Sir Jimmy had the last laugh by joining the choir invisible before he could be held to account.
By sending up the Savile affair in a fancy dress float at Lauder Common Riding, the participants took a risk, which paid off in spades. Fancy dress parades have long attracted flamboyant folk who have something to say and wish to express it by lampooning issues in the manner of fancy dress. In the name of having a good time and drawing attention to themselves and their subject, it stands to reason the nearer the knuckle you go, the better it will look on parade night.
Now, this, of course, is simply meat and two veg to the politically-correct mob who went off the scale after the big night when the float made its uncertain way along Lauder High Street, and, I suspect, to considerable public approval.
The backlash was not long in coming and maybe the Savile float crew got a little more public feedback than they had expected.
Not to worry, it’s all part of the game and nothing new, as there was a similar hiatus in Peebles a few years ago when some starchy old biddy from Embra took exception to the parade’s traditional display of golliwogs. Quite what was offensive about golliwogs, namely the bad guys from the Noddy books era, but also famed for boosting sales of the excellent products of Messrs Robertson’s Jams, is beyond me, although there are many more equally-absurd examples.
Of course, an apology was wrung from the Lauder float laddies, but that in itself smacks of bullying and to use the words of another critic, “distasteful” to most people, although what they will come up with for 2014 is anyone’s guess.
Any misconduct relating to the exploitation, sexual or otherwise, of young people is something every man jack of us must be committed to banish from society, and any person or organisation who fears to tackle it, as clearly demonstrated in the Savile affair, should be considered in the light of the old saying that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
But there is another side to the story.
The fact that more and more sex abuse crimes are being discovered is largely due to a change in public perception in that these issues are less likely to be hidden for fear of being tainted again by the original crime. People, that is those with knowledge, and victims are coming forward as never before, so offenders now know that age and the passing of time will not help them dodge judicial comeuppance.
The reason for this recent tendency to look under the stones of social conduct is that the people who knew all this stuff are no longer afraid to speak out. By losing their fear of the private hell suffered in their younger days, victims now realise it is payback time, and quite rightly so.
In part, this recently-acquired courage has been nurtured by an element of humour, irony and satire, turning the abuser into a figure of harmless ridicule, not to be feared, but given the contempt he or she deserves. In the first and second world wars, the British press took the mick out of the Kaiser and latterly Hitler and his crew, in a sustained and merciless fashion. I treasure a book of wartime drawings by the great Lowe, his biting cartoons would have had Der Fuhrer chewing the rug with rage had he seen them.
In the Suez crisis, the fact that Mr Gamel Abdel Nasser had a rather large conk did not miss the cartoonists of the day, and we have all seen the stuff about Saddam Hussein, haven’t we?
If you really want to witness a good precedent for show business having the courage to deal with sensitive public issues, try watching Tommy, A Rock Opera, a stage show by The Who, later a movie directed by Ken Russell, which brilliantly dealt with many of society’s evils with some inspired casting, acting and music, supporting a clever script that left the audience in no doubt as to what was being shown to them.
At the time, it was a natural target for all the usual soundbite screechers, godmongers and publicity-seeking politicians, many of whom later got their collars felt for of their own unpleasant activities. So what’s new about having a pop at a few local lads who have something to say about the sick side of our world when it is probably only a matter of time before we get Jimmy Savile, The Musical?
This has been a difficult piece to write and I plead for tolerance if any reader is offended by it, but unless people like Ken Russell, Richard Ingrams and the Lauder float lads do their bit to cast off the social taboos that concealed evil for so long, we will never really get to grips with the problem.
And as for me, if I am associated with the above-mentioned guys only a tiny amount, it will all be worthwhile.