Finally we can speak about what is really at stake in the DSK case. More information is coming out, one day after the new IMF head if officially named, is this also a coincidence? And while we do not know the outcome, nor were any of us in that hotel room, (and yes maids are confronted with horrific sexual advances and worse all the time by clients of hotels all over the world and that needs to stop) we are not naïve children and what is at stake here is not simply one woman's reputation and well-being, nor the Presidency of France, it is much bigger than that.
The world is changing dramatically. The West is losing its dominance and many forces are at work as a new rebalancing process of power and wealth tilts us in varying directions. The metaphor of an African immigrant coming to America, looking for a better life, is now turning into a nightmare of lost dreams and deceit. The Sofitel maid's veracity is being questioned, her background now seems to include money laundering, boyfriends linked to drugs, lies on her application for admittance to the US of A. So what's new? Look into anyone's background enough and you will come up with something not so nice.
This is about power and a shifting balance of power. It also became a story about the powerful versus the powerless. And it is still, whatever the outcome, a story of women and men and the sad reality of how the former will continue to be depicted by what the latter finds them good for...sex.
If this was a set-up, why did an intelligent man, just about to announce his run for presidency, in one of the most important jobs in the world, not see through it? Or did he feel his position would allow him to do what he wished because he was so powerful? Or even more disturbing, did he even think about it, or was it so the norm in his world that he did not have to worry? This story is about Narcissism, the idea that we in the West, can actually still control things.
We cannot. The dominance is over. We have to live in a world in which power is not only shared, sometimes we are going to lose. We can dig up yet another reason to go bomb the hell out of a country, but the reality is, we need to approach this shifting world with dignity, respect for others and integrity, not with final, desperate grasps at power which will then be taken from us forcibly if we do not pay attention.
Reading an article about the DSK case a few days ago, one thing struck me as glaringly disturbing. The missing cell phone, the one he called the hotel about at least three times, demanded that it be brought to the airport several times, and sent his step daughter to crawl around on the ground with an employee of the restaurant McCormick and Schmick's to look for, was one of several phones DSK had with him. Why would a man who supposedly had violently attacked a woman for sexual favors keep calling the hotel where the alleged crime occurred, asking for his cell phone? Why would he assume that when the people asked for him at the entrance to the Air France plane at JFK, that they were there to return his precious phone (and not arrest him)?
Because it was the phone used for official IMF business.
Sorry, but this time the conspiracy theorists have a lot in their favor. That phone had information in it which was not only highly confidential, surely had exchanges which would foretell the direction the IMF, banks and others would take in the days and weeks to come, heck, it was worth a fortune.
The question we should all be asking is, "Why now?" Why, just prior to major decisions about Greece, the euro, a possible domino effect which could bring down major banks, add to the already crippling financial crisis and ultimately shift in the balance of power and money, does something like this come out?
Who had access to the important information in that phone? The information was worth enormous amounts to banks, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, heads of state, who were all hanging on edge, waiting to see what the next steps would be regarding a possible domino effect if Greece defaulted, if the euro was saved, etc. The numbers called, messages and emails sent and received, including vital information and strategies and perhaps even what was going to happen the following day as DSK joined Merkel to discuss the future of, well, the world's economy, were all in that cell phone.
I have been listening to the French mostly saying that this was a set-up, all while admitting that sex was involved. No one once said to me that DSK did not have sex with the woman. They said he confused her with his "regular woman" or that he stayed in that hotel because they knew to send him women etc. etc. (some of this dinner banter came from a former head of Accor in charge of the hotel where DSK stayed). No the French were never naïve about the sex part, they sort of assumed it as normal. Violence, perhaps not, but the sex part is never questioned.
And while I am actually happy that this case has brought a very important topic to the forefront here in France, sexism and the use of power to basically keep women from important posts, (heck, perhaps the feminists set him up... all to get a woman into one of the most powerful positions in the world), we have to admit that there was a lot of money to be made and lost based on the decisions DSK and the IMF are making. The IMF has a lot of critics, not least in the developing world, where it is often seen as a way to keep the West in control of the developing economies (which are doing much better than the West at the moment thus the unusual situation of countries from the once wealthy West turning to the IMF for help).
I like a lot of things Christine Lagarde has said, even if I politically have a hard time stomaching what the government she belongs to stands for, but as a woman, I like her directness. I like the fact that she and Angela Merkel seem to create a united front. As a woman, it feels good to see women making decisions. But the question we should all be asking now is, not only, "Who gets to buy Mykonos"? But, how will the IMF's actions in the days and weeks ahead either strengthen or undermine the inevitable shift of power and wealth, not only into the hands of what has become the most outrageous concentration of wealth in history, Who benefits from the situation? Private interests? Those billionaires being driven around Greece in vans while at a conference hosted by Steve Forbes while Athens was burning a few weeks ago looking at properties to be potentially privatized?
DSK's Achilles' heel is sex, he said so himself. And it is not by chance that the financial Achilles' heel in Europe is also the cultural birthplace of much of what the West stands for: Greece. As protesters place banners declaring their anger, symbolically on the Parthenon, so too will those in whose hands great wealth have accumulated, accumulate even more, and they will, perhaps, buy the Parthenon. What is missing in all this mess are the great minds, those philosophical giants, asking us to go down to the port of Piraeus and ask ourselves some very poignant questions. They all got lost on the way, or even worse, stopped off for a Starbucks and never made it to the place where they would offer prayers to the goddess.
And when the goddess is forgotten, she becomes really angry.
Imagine if we had cared about Plato and Socrates' sexual activities?
There would be no West to speak of; it would have ended before it began.
But they knew well enough to respect the goddess.
I am hopeful. We are placing more women in positions of power. This will change everything.