IF the Nazis had been rampaging through your town seventy years ago, would you have hidden your Jewish friends in the basement? Would you have been one of the brave ones? Or not. Would you have somehow found a way to justify the basement lying empty, got on with your important life and pretended not to notice what was happening? Maybe even found a way to persuade yourself that the anti Semitism was justified? It’s what every child, when they first learn of the holocaust, cannot fail to ask themselves. It’s the question to which, as history shows us time and again, most of us would probably hate to learn the answer.
People get very angry when you compare anything to the holocaust, because – the argument goes – by doing so, you trivialise its evil. But that’s tantamount to saying the holocaust is separate from other human experiences and that therefore we having nothing to learn from it. And that, to me, is madness. The holocaust couldn’t have happened without the human cowardice that allowed it – and the holocaust may be history but the human capacity for cowardice lives on. In fact, in the current Orwellian climate, where down is up and up is down, and anyone who dares to disagree is accused of hate crime, I would say, albeit so far, in a trivial way, cowardice is enjoying a bumper season. We have seen to what monstrous territory it can lead. We should look sharp, even at the baby steps.
And salute courage to go against the grain in whatever small pocket we find it. Dame Judi Dench has stood up in defence of her friend Kevin Spacey, who is accused of some nasty things. The man has yet to be charged, but his character’s already been killed off in House of Cards and, famously, his entire performance expunged from All the Money in the World. (Which by the way, as evidence of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paeodiphilia is hard to refute, makes me wonder whether we shouldn’t be painting over the Mona Lisa? )
To be clear, Judi Dench isn’t defending the acts Spacey stands accused of, she’s defending his distinguished career as an actor and his kindness as friend. She’s a lone voice, and I imagine now at the receiving end of a tankards-worth of bile. I hope she doesn’t buckle. Either way, the fact that she’s spoken up at all highlights the deafening silence of the rest of the entertainment industry over the past eighteen months as, one after the next , its brightest stars have been outed, damned, ruined and abandoned. Had none of them, before their fall, a single genuine friend to defend them?
Since it’s in our nature to hate – and nature hates a void – maybe it’s time our abhorration was directed, not at the individuals who stand accused – let the courts decide on their fate – but at the extraordinary cowardice and disloyalty of their fair-weather ‘friends? What a bunch of tossers. Honestly. And thank you, Judi Dench. We need more people like you. Especially, so it appears, in Hollywood.