Rosemary McLeod: No sadness at passing

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I won't be a phoney and say I'm sorry Bert Potter is dead. Of all the unfortunate images of the 70s, his is among the more sinister; a warning to whoever seeks a personal sage - and avoidance of reality - that you'll most likely end up knee-deep in something disgusting.

I've never been a seeker after men possessed of deep wisdom, but Centrepoint attracted seemingly sane people to give up all their worldly goods and live in a dormitory, told who to shag by Potter, and doing so in full sight of men, women and children.

Who does this? How far have we sunk when we cast aside all the common sense of our upbringing, the received wisdom of centuries, to throw in our lot with a charismatic nobody? Yet follow they did, to the detriment of the children who were molested and the self-worth of others who thought it would be easier to have someone else do their thinking for them.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

As we know, Potter finally went to jail for giving drugs to kids, and for having sex with under-age girls. He encouraged others to do the same and, sad to say, they found they had what it takes. Naturally, he died without repenting his nasty ways. At least he wasn't a hypocrite.

Even as I note his passing, I recall the women who presented their children to him for sexual purposes and wonder how they live with themselves. I don't mince words about this because I know people who were abused as children and how it affected their lives. All that pain is caused for the momentary gratification of evil men. At least the world is now rid of one of them.

Curiously, in the same week as Potter met his end, the Beast of Blenheim was in the news, due to be released from jail.

Time passes and people forget, but he stands out as a monster who offended over 25 years against 16 women and girls - that we know about; police have suggested there could have been more. He has been in jail for 18 years and shown no interest in changing his ways. It's water off a duck's back to him. He and Potter have denial in common.

I watched some of his trial all those years ago, staggered that this scrawny creep had managed to dominate and abuse so many vulnerable women.

He looked mild enough as he sat in court, but woman after woman testified to what he was capable of. A common theme was that he'd obliged them all to have all their teeth extracted, the better to entertain him.

There's not much difference between the Beast - as Stewart Murray Wilson was called by media - and Potter. Both had some kind of magnetism, we have to suppose, and Potter was enabled by the mad psychobabble of the time, though he had no training in psychology.

I remember people going on about primal screaming back then, and a friend submitted to the rebirthing movement. From memory, people kind of pinned you to the floor wrapped in eiderdowns and you wriggled your way out - a droll take on childbirth that - unbelievably - was considered to be like the real thing. I'd have demanded a bit of blood splashed about at the very least - and what about Caesarian sections?

I also remember that at this time sick people took themselves to the Philippines where the locals had great fun at their expense by performing what was called psychic surgery. It involved sleight of hand and chooks' guts, but people declared they felt much better.

The same applied to Dr Milan Brych, who claimed to cure cancer. He had fervent believers here. Who died.

We are strange creatures, human beings, and know little about what really makes us tick. We have the ability to believe sheer nonsense against all the evidence of what it is and a need to find meaning in our transitory existence that leads us down some strange paths. But surely there are alternatives to conning the gullible and groping little kids.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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