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I suggest there have been two large clusters of reactions to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.
The first reaction – when it seemed to be a story about the self-induced downfall of an arrogant, powerful French bastard – was gloating and finger-wagging from an unholy alliance of anti-elitist Francophobes (such as, oh, myself) and shrill feminists. What these groups had in common in their reaction was a desire to bring down the powerful, or at least some subset of them. And DSK happens to reside in an interesting intersection of those subsets (the ones hated both by American conservatives – e.g., privileged socialist Euro types – and shrill feminists – e.g., men).
The reaction I expect now that DSK’s accuser has been exposed as a liar and a fraud will come primarily from a different quarter. This contingent will focus on how bad and horrible it was that such a powerful man could be so easily brought down. They will fret over whether DSK can get back into whatever political race he was aiming towards, and focus on how ‘unfair’ it will be if he can’t. They will take DSK’s future political fate as a barometer of how enlightened we, or at least the French, are; they will elevate an ability to ‘separate’ the personal qualities of DSK from his political dimension to a form of high morality. Finally, should DSK rise back to the top of French politics, i.e. attain the French Presidency, their reaction will be one of cheers and high-fives. Basically, they will now shift into full-on rooting for DSK from here on out.
What group of people do I expect will react this way? People who identify with powerful people. That is, people who see powerful people as proxies for themselves. Which is to say, people who see themselves as potentially powerful people.
To such people, it’s very important to understand and circumscribe (and limit) how powerful people can be dethroned. The rules of navigating, climbing to, and keeping power are very high on such peoples’ lists of interests. For the powerful to be easily-dethroned offends them; because then after all, it could happen to them, too. Since they see themselves as DSK standins.
Granted, this is just a reaction I expect to observe based on past experience, not one I’ve seen a huge amount of – yet. Consider this a pre-emptive response.
Because, since I’m not in this group, my reaction will not be one of rooting for DSK. However terrible I think it was that a fraudulent accusation was allowed to proceed this far (in my view the accuser should probably be in jail), I am unable to cross that extra bridge of starting to feel sympathy for an arrogant, spoiled, privileged, ‘socialist’ French prick who lives high on the hog and (as has come out) fucks whatever stupid power-worshipping broads he wants while cloaking himself in the purple drapery of The People. Sorry.
He has my total support for his freedom and presumed innocence. I am unable to summon up actual sympathy for him however. I do not sympathize or empathize with him, in the sense that I do not see myself as being like him nor can I imagine myself in his shoes (which for starters would involve me being several orders of magnitude wealthier). I do not see him as being just like me. I do not come away thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. And I do not feel the follow-on compulsion to drop everything to bend over backwards to change society’s rules to make it easier for the DSKs of the world to stay in their powerful, wealthy, privileged positions unmolested, or see ‘whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn or someone very much like him can become the French President’ as some sort of civil rights issue.
I just don’t. Sorry. What can I say. All of the folks out there who do identify with DSK, and think the take-away lesson here is how can we as a society now change all of our laws and structures to ensure that a wealthy French socialist-poser prick is never again inconvenienced, because you think that you yourself could be (and aspire to be?) in that cushy position some day, feel free to speak up in comments however. I’m listening. I’m just not that moved.
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