Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"

A couple of months ago I was discussing the future presidential election in France with a friend. For the past two days I've been thinking back about that conversation.

- "There does not seem to be a natural candidate for the Socialist party", I said.
- "Dominique Strauss-Kahn looks like a good possibility.
- Wasn't he involved in some financial scandal some time back?
- No, that was not a problem. He was cleared of that charge. But he has more of a problem with women.
- A problem with women? I don't care about that. It does not matter.
- Well, he is said to be quite "heavy" ("lourd").
- [raising my voice slightly] I don't want to hear about it. I don't care about his extramarital affairs, however numerous. All I care about is whether he could be a good president, and, for that, financial scandals are relevant but not his private life."
Faced with my peremptory tone, my friend (who had met DSK once or twice, and might, perhaps, have had more to say) fell silent and I felt smug in my gossip-quenching moral superiority.

Now I wonder how many sexual aggressions go unreported because of all the people who share my attitude.


  1. I think that your interlocutor might have been pointing to the fact that the behavior of DSK toward women would be a problem regarding his ability to be president in the sense that such a position is usually considered also as a role model. Whether people should look "up" to their president as a role model is another problem, but the thing is that many do :/

    At another level, the same holds for the ability or willingness to obey the law: one might wish that only law-abiding citizens would get in such a position to influence the implementation of the law. In such a regard, France's score is already dramatically low...

    As for sexual aggressions (or at least harassment) getting unreported for fear of being accused of attacking privacy, this is a common accusation against institutions...

  2. Well, we expect of a president that he or she would not cause embarassment. This not only means that he or she would steer clear off illegal activities, but also of activities that, though legal, are widely considered offensive.

    For instance, consider a person who, in private, gets frequently drunks and tells off-colour jokes. That's private life, but it is likely that one day, this person will be drunk on an public occasion or when dealing with an emergency, and will react inappropriately.

    Just *imagine* the scandal if DSK had been heavy-handed with a maid *after* being elected, and the even bigger scandal if it had been sexual assault or rape.


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