Fallen Angels – when charity and wrong go hand in hand
For most people over 50 the name Oxfam has become the catch-all for charity giving. ‘Give it to Oxfam’ is the usual term just as ‘get out the hoover’ is the catch-all for cleaning and ‘pass the kleenex’ for tissues. To most of us Oxfam is the symbol of good, giving, generosity of spirit and that warm feeling of having done something for the less fortunate.
So it is little wonder that we are dismayed to hear of senior Oxfam officials exploiting prostitutes, threatening victims to prevent them talking, evading the rightful retribution of the authorities. Likewise, when we hear of Brendan Cox being labelled and admitting to being a sex pest in his leadership of various charities the scales fall from our eyes and suddenly we realise that some angels are seriously flawed.
Mary Beard has been attacked for stating that war zones often reduce civilised behaviour. As a general statement that is true – but these people were well fed, protected and quite safe. The reality is that they took advantage of money, power, the gift of aid and the fact that they were dealing with desperate people. The truth is that the Oxfam personnel fell way short of a basic moral code and Brendan Cox, many years before his wife died, was a lecherous arse to women in his organisation.
But while we despair at the flaws of man (and yes – they are all men) should we not despair even more at the moral weakness of the institutions which have paid them, hidden them, allowed them to wriggle out of justice and continue a life of being hailed as our moral betters? The actions of Oxfam in the aftermath of these men being ‘called out’ is reprehensible:
- Offenders allowed to resign before facing investigation
- The local authorities for justice being ignored
- Redacted reports which hid the names of the guilty
- Sacking rather than being handed in to the police
Last October I wrote about Weinstein and how he was able to continue his abuse as an ‘open secret’ while the great and the good of Hollywood turned away and then claimed they did not know. It was a lie – they did know and it was only the morally courageous such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who did anything. So now, in our treasured beacon of charity, it is the same moral weakness in leadership which has made them turn a blind eye – or more to the point, blind the eyes of others to what is happening. Worse, their leaders – notably Mark Goldring – stated that the reaction was ‘out of proportion' in his interview with the Guardian (which is sullenly quiet on the subject). The only person to fall on their sword and take full responsibility is a woman – Penny Lawrence. We are fobbed off with promises of awareness training. I am sorry – but do you need training to know that demanding a young woman sells her body for food is wrong? It is just another platitude to con us into thinking all that can be done is being done.
There is only one reaction we want – moral courage. If that simple principle had been applied, then the aid workers of Haiti would have been arrested before now and Weinstein would be languishing in an American penitentiary. But no. They walk the streets beside us preying on the weak and protected by weakness of people who refuse to shout ‘not in our name’ and then hand abusers over to justice.