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Harvey Weinstein - to hate or to help?

There are a lot of stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein. True, his actions do sound terrible. But how should we respond to such actions and such people? Wienstein is still a human, and still has feelings and emotions like anyone else. Should he be hated by his victims and despised by the rest of society? Because that does seem to be the response to the recent allegations against him, Spiked magazine for example states:

Woe betide any Weinstein associate or contact who doesn’t now point a finger and say, ‘I CONDEMN’. The Guardian went so far as to publish a list of 28 Hollywood names who had failed to respond to its insistence that they slam Weinstein. It’s like a new blacklist. All these people were subsequently ridiculed online. Denounced as rape apologists, enablers of evil, corrupted by their own silence. There’s a pre-modern feel to it. ‘Denounce the devil or we will presume you are in concert with the devil.’
(see The Guardian article here).

I am not suggesting that nothing should be done, on the contrary I think very much should be done - to help Weinstein, as well as the victims. There are two principles behind this. Firstly, that if people are 'off-track' and in need of help - whether physical, spiritual or psychological, then what sort of society seeks simply to isolate and punish those in need? What sort of society condemns all sorts of people for all sorts of sins, ranging from unemployment, to criminal actions? Do we think that such people are beyond hope? Do we buy into the Libertarian/neo-liberal idea that everyone is responsible only for themselves? That if the 'successful' - on their march from success to success - walk over the broken bodies and souls of the weaker, the 'failures' on the way, so be it. The second principle is that we live in a society soaked in sex. It is not only just readily available on the internet and magazines, it is veritably forced into people's faces through seductive advertisements, raunchy acts on most TV shows most of the day and in many other ways. Are we then to simply condemn those who are not strong enough to resist the same urges that are so readily exploited by everyone from pop stars to corporate marketers?

I reject condemnation of the 'fallen' - as Weinstein is experiencing - as being harmful for all involved: the perpetrators, the victims and society more generally. I agree we should be outraged, but outraged that such a person is simply demonised and not offered any help or assistance. Have we no hearts? No empathy?

You may now ask - what about the righteous indignation of the victims? What about how this will affect their future lives and relationships? I answer - that ruining the lives of the perpetrators does nothing to help improve the lives of the victims - nay, I say more: that out of evil acts good can still come - if the victims can forgive and try and help the perpetrator (rather than harm them out of revenge).

There are many cases of people suffering harm as bad or worse than sexual assault who have found that the most positive thing they can do is forgive their victims. Here are some examples:

  • "Forgiveness is free - it is what our world desperately needs': Holocaust survivor who was taken to death camp aged 10 describes why she hugged her captor the bookkeeper of Auschwitz. (see here)
  • It's been more than 20 years since Queensland boy Jandamarra O'Shane was doused in petrol and set alight, suffering burns to 70 per cent of his body. Jandamarra said previously in 2011 he would like to meet his attacker and “just let him know” he forgives him. (see here)
  • It's one of the most iconic photos of all time and one of the most haunting. The image of a Vietnamese girl running naked in the street after a napalm bomb exploded on her neighborhood. Her burns were so bad, the doctors gave her zero chance of survival and took her body to the morgue where it remained for three days!
    Kim Phuc said: "And I started to pray for my enemies, and the more I prayed for my enemies the softer my heart became". (read more here)

And I am sure there are many more examples! In fact the scientific evidence for forgiveness is growing as evidenced by the work of surgeons etc with burns victims:

"Like [Dr. Robert] Enright, [Dr. Frederic] Luskin has developed ways to teach forgiveness in various places and with various groups, including war-ravaged populations in countries such as Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone, and he asserts that anyone—from jilted spouses to widows who have lost husbands to terrorism—can heal."