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      Volume 10 |Issue 21 | June 03, 2011 |


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Despite Strauss-Kahn,
Love Happens . . .

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Bill Clinton
Gary Hart

It was a spectacular fall from grace for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. You watch all these terrible mistakes made by the more powerful ones among us and you are left quite bewildered. Here was Strauss-Kahn, a formidable chief of the International Monetary Fund and a prospective president of France, with power and pomp trailing him wherever he went; and here was this insatiable thirst in him for something he ought not to have gone for. Should he not have thought of the repercussions of falling all over a woman who had only stepped into his hotel room to do her humble job?

Ah, but then there are all the frailties which assail us day after day. Whatever is forbidden is what some men, even some women, crave day after day. Now, no one is arguing that is wrong. Or right. It all depends on the definitions of morality you are comfortable with. Even so, there are some fine lines, some demarcations, that need to be drawn in the sand. Think of Bill Clinton. He would be a much revered former president today if only he had not succumbed to that ugly urge for an exploration of the young Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. It was behaviour that has forever tarnished his reputation. Such peccadilloes often bring careers to a screeching halt. Remember Gary Hart, he who was once considered a future president of the United States? He was doing fine, until something called inordinate sensuality took hold of his imagination. He had a pretty woman named Donna Rice sit on his lap, unaware that photographers he did not see were clicking away. He never made it to the presidency or even to the nomination.

Dominique Strauss Kahn

It is, of course, quite a natural act to fall for the charms and graces of a woman. But when men who are in the public eye somehow forget that they need to put a leash on their sexual urges, they cause pain all around. John Profumo ruined a perfectly good political career because of his escapades with Christine Keeler. He first denied knowing her, then turned around and confessed. With John F. Kennedy, womanising was an obsession and yet he was fortunate in that the media never exposed his dark doings until he was long dead and gone. But why blame him, or his brothers, for their infractions? There was the family patriarch, Joseph P Kennedy, who once raped a prominent Hollywood actress and got away with it. The latest that we have about the Kennedys is that the daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver has just separated from husband Arnold Schwarzenegger because the actor-politician has been caught with his pants down. Tales of his infidelities have been making the rounds in America. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

The heart is a strange thing. It sometimes begins heaving and puffing for reasons that for some are queer and yet for others quite natural. Watch the French. They do not appear particularly embarrassed by the Strauss-Kahn affair. Even Bernard Henri Levy has come forth with a very masculine defence of the fallen IMF chief. There is this admirable thing about the French. Extra-marital sports are not to be looked down upon. No one condemns the late Francois Mitterrand over his fathering of a child out of wedlock. Nicolas Sarkozy coolly saw his first wife walking out of his life before latching himself to Carla Bruni. With the French, you see, there is something of a refreshing kind of liberality punctuating life at crucial moments. But Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi has been up to all sorts of mischief with nubile girls and yet has nothing of shame coming over him?

John Prqfumo

And now observe Berlusconi's Arab friend, the embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. No, we have no record of any sex-related skeletons in his cupboard. We do know, however, that his bodyguards are all muscular, sexually powerful young women. There is the Amazonian about these women. That is okay, but why a ruler in these times must insist on women protecting his corporeal being is a question you do not have an easy answer to. In the old days, there were all the harems that gratified the baser instincts of powerful men. In some tribal areas of Pakistan, it is yet common for young women to be carried off in the questionable interest of uninhibited masculine lust. Many are the stories of rich, young Arab men, stultified by excruciating cultural asphyxiation at home, plunging into orgies of illegitimate pleasure abroad. But that still does not explain Gaddafi and his women, does it?

Men of power have historically been pursuers of forbidden pleasures. And some of them have done well for themselves. Indonesia's Ahmed Sukarno, before his fall from glory in the mid-1960s, was known for the relentless nature of his Casanova instincts. He was as much drawn to women as he was to power. Pakistan's Yahya Khan suffered from a similar ailment, albeit in an uglier way. He drank horribly and groped terribly. Little wonder, then, that he lost half his country in war.

Egypt's King Farouk loved women somewhat more than he loved his country. At a point, he lost the women and he lost the country. That was poetic justice. But recall, if you will, the poetry which arose out of the love of a British monarch for an American divorcee. Edward VIII cast off the glory of an empire, to spend his remaining years with Wallis Simpson, till death did them part.

By the way, try not to forget the pristine that underpinned Jawaharlal Nehru's abiding love for Edwina Mountbatten. Love happens . . . when the oyster holds the pearl in furious warmth.

The writer is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star.

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