I did not know

Posted: 1 November 2017 in Prisons
We did not know.jpg

They did not know

“I did not know”.  Jay was a drug dealer, now enjoying a long stretch in HMP Slade for supply of significant amounts of Class A drugs.  He had spoken with a parent whose son had died from an accidental drug overdose.  Though the son was not likely to be one of his own end users, Jay still saw the connection.

“Drugs?  It’s all about education. Telling people.” I challenged Jay on this.  He answered “when we were at school we’d go partying.  Drink.  Do a line of coke or two.  It was all – fun.  We did not know the damage it did to people.”  Later in life, he added, “even though I was dealing to dealers, I still gave to charity.”  He was a cheerful chap, pleasant to talk to.  But I was astonished.  I replied “I am a lot older than you, but I too did parties, drink and a little drugs.  But even in those far off days I knew where all this would go.  We all knew.”  Well the other offenders sitting around agreed with Jay.  Tell people.  Education.  Well – I’m telling you now.  But knowledge is not the whole story.

People can be  Told – but they won’t hear
Look – but they won’t see

This is a condition not exclusive to the criminal fraternity.

We now hear the squeals from The Weinstein Company employees, “we knew that our boss could be manipulative” they said. “We did not know that he used his power to systematically assault and silence women.  We did not know he was a violent aggressor and alleged rapist.”

Nobody knew about Jimmy Saville, until the truth came out.  Five senior managers at the BBC knew at least some details of his predatory sexual behaviour, but failed to act.

Albert Speer – Hitler’s Armaments Minister claimed he never knew of The Final Solution.  Unlike the others at the Nuremburg trials, he admitted his crimes, for which we was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Among other things he organised the forced labour to the German factories and farms, including my mother-in-law amongst the millions.  But of extermination camps, he said he did not know.  He conceded “I can say that I sensed that dreadful things were happening with the Jews.”  His interviewer : “if you ‘sensed‘ then you knew.  You cannot sense or suspect in a void. You knew.”

Rev Casalis, Chaplain to the Nazi prisoners after the war noted “a prisoner is always an ambivalent entity; one lives with them in a perpetual state of half-truths or half-reality. And this certainly applied to Speer too. In a way it is the defence of their ‘Id’; they can’t give it up, even to someone they trust; if they did, it would destroy whatever ‘self’ they have retained.  So you see, it isn’t deliberate or even unconscious dishonesty.  It is an instinctive self protective process.”

Prisoner, Government Minister, media mogul, or just a regular Joe.  We all readily embrace self-protection to the point of blindness, and the expense of other’s freedoms.  Even their lives.  They kid themselves.  We kid ourselves too.  And it is a “just kidding” that cuts, is cruel, maims and even kills.

  • The drug dealers in HMP Slade say they did not know
  • The Weinstein Company colleagues say they did not know
  • Albert Speer, Hitler’s Armaments Minister, said he did not know. And
  • We, with our casual unkindnesses, petty cruelties and iron indifferences, say we do not know

Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, said “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

You don’t have to be religious to understand this is absolutely true.  Spot on.

(But it helps.)


  1. Bill says:

    Speer didn’t know. Well – reports of mass murders of Jews reached as far as Jerusalem by November 1942, but not to his doorstep. Recently published (in English) “my Opposition: the Dairy of Fredrich Kellner” shows within 4 months of the assault on USSR, October 1941 soldiers returning on leave were reporting systematic mass shootings. yet Speer did not know. Indeed, we all will not see, if we refuse to look.

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