Reflections on the case of Frederick and Rosemary West
The serial killers’ path, writes Dalrymple,
was smoothed by the increasing uncertainty as to the line between acceptable and unacceptable conduct, or even whether such a line exists.
Increasing sexual permissiveness
was taken by the Wests, whose libidos were a great deal stronger than their powers of reason, to entail a complete absence of limits; they told those whom they raped that what they were doing was only ‘natural’ and unobjectionable.
in an atmosphere in which, increasingly, self-discipline was not accepted as a necessary condition of freedom—in which everyone’s merest whim was law.
The case reveals
how easily, in the anonymity of the modern urban environment, and in the midst of crowds, people may disappear.
are made all the easier by a collective refusal—in the name of individual liberty—of parents to take responsibility for their children, of neighbours to notice what is happening around them, of anyone to brave the mockery of libertines in the defence of some standard of decency.
The various public agencies—the police, the schools, the social services, the hospitals—proved no substitute
for the personal concern that families were once supposed to have provided, but that, in a permissive climate in which tolerance all too often shades into indifference, many provide no longer.
The failure of these agencies
was not accidental, but inherent in their nature as bureaucracies: the state is not, and never will be, a substitute for an old-fashioned Mum and Dad.