Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sex and power

   The observation that sex and power are closely and intimately related is not intended as a bad pun. The relationship is as real as your daily news. If you had never heard the name of Dominique Strauss-Kahn before, you have now. You have seen his unshaven face on TV and on the front page of your newspaper. The head of the International Monetary Fund, who was occupying a $3,000-a-night suite in a New York City hotel, hustled out of an Air France plane only minutes before departure, charged with attempted rape, dragged into a New York courtroom, where he was denied bail, and is now staying in an 11x13 ft cell on Riker's Island awaiting further developments.
   How the mighty have fallen! These charges will no doubt end Strauss-Kahn's career at the IMF and they effectively dash his chance to become the next president of France. Polls had showed him to be the leading candidate in the upcoming election, even topping President Nicolas Sarkozy. In France, newspapers now call him "Le Perv," a title that needs no translation.
   What is strange is how quickly DSK, as he is known in France, has destroyed himself. Did he really think that he could run naked into the hallway and allegedly rape the maid, who apparently did not know who he was. Was it power that gave him the supposed right to assault a woman? If so, he was hardly the first powerful man who has made that claim. The names of some former US presidents can be found on such a list. One can also add figures from sports and business, and--sad to say--even the ecclesiastical world.
  Power seems to do that to otherwise sane people. They imagine that the norms that govern proper human behavior no longer apply to them. And then any woman is fair game, even as in this alleged case, an immigrant from Guinea with a 15-year old daughter. In the US, a former president had sex with an intern in the White House, but then compounded the problem by denying that it was "sex."
    Other presidents, as we now know, had sex with women other than their wives during their stay in the White House, but that was in another era when presidential "affairs" were not discussed publicly. The French too have a long history of looking the other way when it comes to the private lives of political leaders. Thus it was not revealed until after the death of former President Francois Mitterand that he had had a daughter with another woman. The French, however, do draw the line at sexual violence. That seems to be the case with DSK. There are apparently new revelations about alleged criminal charges against him by a woman writer who hid the matter for many years.
   Now we have Arnold Schwarzenegger's confession about the love child he had with his former housekeeper. The boy is already ten years old. But Schwarzenegger did not reveal they boy's existence to his wife until after the end of his second term as governor. This revelation has ended his marriage. He and DSK have shot themselves in the foot and effectively destroyed their careers. Tiger Woods and others show how difficult it is to recover.
    It is said that women hunt for men who have power, while men are looking for sex. Women, however, can display the same flagrant disregard for rules that men do. Think only of Catherine the Great of Russia, who historians agree arranged the murder of her husband so that she could ascend the throne. Later, in order to keep her bed warm, she had a long list of lovers.
   All these people, whether men or women, seem to have lost their moral compass. Their faith was put on the back burner and they were dominated by their subconscious. At the conscious level they may have been aware of what they were doing, but they ignored their conscience and did whatever they wanted to and, what is worse, felt entitled to. The results are devastating not only for themselves but also for those around them. DSK, according to latest reports, has been put on suicide watch. But the repercussions for the IMF world and the country of France cannot yet be measured.
   Lest we feel too smug, let us not forget that all of us have committed sins that stem from similar moral failures. While it is difficult for us to enter into the mind of people like DSK, we must avoid any quick judgments. We must realize that we too can commit such sins. But for the grace of God ...

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