"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Infidelity Does Not Matter - The Sexual And Political Potency Of World Leaders

Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in The Atlantic (12.3.12) that fidelity in marriage does matter because honesty and faithfulness cannot be parceled out into public and private pieces.  You either are honest and faithful or you are not whether such fidelity concerns your wife our your country.
Still, I cannot help feeling that an important dimension is missing from the public debate about leadership, service, character, and values. As a mother, I find myself using the word "responsibility" more than almost any other. I try to teach my children to take responsibility for their actions: to tell the truth, own up to what they did and the consequences of what they did, acknowledge their obligation to repair their mistakes when possible, and to do better next time. They also have a responsibility to others, through the bonds of family, friendship, community, profession, and shared humanity. Looking through this lens, human responsibilities occur along a spectrum, one that can be divided in terms of personal and professional, or private and public.
This is a very na├»ve look at human nature and the nature of politics. Men and women have always been unfaithful – infidelity is merely the byproduct of the restrictive, confining character of marriage – and politicians surrounded by advisers, counselors, and interns all succumbing to the powerful aphrodisiac of power, will always be straying more than most.

However, who said that such straying behavior in the bedroom will always translate into lying, deceit, and treachery in politics.  If that were the case, then we would have to condemn every President since George Washington (maybe with the exception of Richard Nixon), most Senators and Congressmen, national heroes like Martin Luther King, and many, many more. 

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In fact these ambitious, driven, willful politicians have both adrenaline and testosterone pulsing through their veins.  Their blood is a rich hormonal mix where drive and desire are one and the same thing, applicable to all.  Cavemen bludgeoned their rivals for the hottest woman, the best kill, and the best patch.  They were potent, predatory, and territorial. There was no parsing of ‘responsibility’ or ‘faithfulness’.  One simply went about fucking the best and whacking the weakest. Politicians are no different.

Machiavelli, Marlowe, and Shakespeare – and their heir, Nietzsche – wrote about the exercise of will; the expression of power, the heights of dominance and individual reward.  Their heroes weren’t fussed about proprietary sexuality, doing the right thing, or leading the tame life of ‘the herd’.  Men of power are no different today.  Yes, they don’t have as easy access to the chopping block as Henry VIII; or have to do most of their palace murders by insinuation and insult rather than poison and dagger; but still, they go about the terrible business of power and acquisition and women are always part of the mix.
In a world in which men have traditionally taken on public responsibilities and have been able to count on their wives to cover for them in the private sphere, perhaps these debates have been one-sided. Personal or private responsibilities get far less attention or weight, unless they are mediated through the filter of religion, in which case an emphasis on family can be admired and upheld as an example of devotion to a larger spiritual cause.
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Of course women have taken the side of their powerful men who are their meal ticket.  They have chosen these dominant males not because they want an equal (for that they could become law partners with men) but because they want the heady ride they can provide.  Not all women can be Cleopatra, but they can enjoy the bowing, scraping, and prostration of the legions of (temporary) devotees offering adulation and (temporary) love.

The rest of the paragraph is too muddled to make much sense – something about the protective and restorative power of religion? The fact remains that politicians will assume that their wives will keep publicly back them because they do.  The women behind the throne are often as powerful as the men on it.

The point of all this is that men and women in power are complicit in their political business.  America demands married Presidents; and many ambitious women, like Michelle Obama and Hilary are willing to take off their business suits and look caring and motherly for the electorate.  It’s part of the deal. Men will cheat, their women will stand by them; and if the press catches them, they will wheedle, prevaricate, and shadings of the truth.

There is no relationship between marital fidelity in leaders and their performance in the field.  In fact, infidelity is so common that lying, duplicity, mendacity, and bare-faced lying might be prerequisites for the job. 

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Their political potency cannot be divorced from their sexual potency.  Their shaky moral reasoning is par for the course in one sphere, so why not another.  The world is not so black and white as moralists like Slaughter suggest.  Nor is it so short, nasty, and brutish as some philosophers have hinted.  It is just a wonderful stew of imperfect but tasty bits.

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