Liberté...non; Egalité…sort of; Fraternité…perhaps a little much

Dominique Strauss-Kahn finds himself on the wrong side of the very essence of being a French privileged high-flyer, and it turns out that guilty or not, the sun has proven way too close for this Icarus.

The so-called “Great Seducer” is hardly cold in his prison cell, yet the world’s financial elite is jockeying and lobbying for placing a successor to run the International Monetary Fund.

Actually Dominique Strauss-Kahn hasn’t even been indicted yet, hasn’t resigned yet (despite US suggestions) and hasn’t been fired, but it seems hardly rocket science to suggest his days at the top of the all powerful financial institution, let alone his possible future success at the French presidency have died a very public death.

There are many jokes about how much Sarkozy would have had to pay for this scenario, or that DSK’s alleged behaviour in the luxury New York hotel would make him the natural pick for governing Italy. It is however an uneasy humour given the gravity of the situation that his alleged victim, his family and, in deference to the innocent-till-proven-guilty maxim, even DSK himself, now find themselves in. To say nothing of course about the extra problems for the embattled euro.

When the powerful fall the impact is indeed thunderous, as has been shown in the wall-to-wall coverage of reaction world-wide.

When the fall happens to be of powerful French on foreign soil, and that soil happens to be American, the insult appears to instantly morph from the personal to the national. It has been embodied in the rapid bubbling to the surface of a thinly disguised French anti-Americanism culture which seems genuinely mortified that DSK is treated like any other bloke facing serious criminal charges and denied bail in case he scarpers.

No liberté just yet, an uncomfortable fraternité no doubt given the nature of male prisons, and in practice égalité in its true sense has proven problematic once again for the French upper-class. 

There’s been a major emphasis on the fact that the star of the French Socialist Party finds himself in the slammer and eating the same food as his (possibly temporary) cellmates, that he was filmed and photographed doing the perp walk in handcuffs, and – shock horror - that his unsuccessful bail hearing was shown live on all the major cable networks.

His humiliation and that of his country were on full display.

So should it all have been so public?

Has he already been sentenced?

Essentially he has, because even if he is not indicted, or if he does go to court and the charges are thrown out, his days of strutting the world stage wooing left right and centre (as those who have followed his career openly acknowledge is his modus operandi), are done.

His alleged sleaze is not the same as Elliot Spitzer’s actual hypocrisy in being on the public payroll for fighting prostitution while hiring one of the profession’s most expensive. His alleged sleaze is not the same as Arnie Schwarzenegger’s actual impregnating one of the household staff (perhaps that’s why Arnie chose the height of the world’s DSK shock to come clean with the public – the ultimate in deflection tactics).

DSK’s alleged sleaze is more than that, and much other gutter-level but not criminal behaviour by the world’s powerful elite, finessed perhaps since the beginning of time. These allegations are very seriously criminal and the alleged behaviour is nothing short of disgusting.

If there is one aspect that is positive to come from this story, it has been the spotlight on the French tradition of looking the other way when it comes to the dalliances of its politicians.

The Armani’d chests of the republic’s powerful literally puff with pride as they add badges declaring themselves to be seducers, lotharios, skirt-chasers, virile, and oh that Latin libido. As the saying goes, power is the great aphrodisiac, and this is all accepted as part of the game.  The French do not hold a mortgage on that game even though they may take pride in excelling at it. So don’t hold your breath for the ‘private’ lives of French politicians to automatically become more ‘public’, tantalizing as that could well be.

It will take more than the fall of one man to change that tradition, even if the man is the self-confessed lover of women, Strauss-Kahn.

There’s actually another ‘positive’ element in this multi-level shock story, and that is the speed at which the New York police responded to the complaint made by the allegedly victimised hotel maid.

It is reassuring to know they took seriously the allegation and managed to track down the alleged offender before he left the country.

That diligence and professionalism has led to other woman – French journalist Tristane Banon -  who also has made serious allegations of a sexual attack by Strauss-Kahn - to now come forward with a secret she says she was pressed in to keeping for years.

So does the world bleed for DSK? Not obviously. Many will be asking what the hell he thought he was up to, or why would he risk so much if he didn't have to, along with other such questions which will dog him and his reputation, guilty or innocent.

The thing about leading a privileged life is when its societal powered gravity is tested and fails, all those gold plated baubles can be quite suffocating.

Privilege is really just freedom from the burdens borne by others – even if you worked as hard as the reputedly intelligent and educated DSK to attain elite status. 

For now Strauss-Kahn’s defense team will be busy building their case to get back that freedom and the luxury to which he is accustomed – unlike many of his fellow remandees who are without high-powered celebrity lawyers and millions to stump up for bail, yet more often find themselves at the centre of police attention than do their social ‘betters’.

All signs indicate there is sufficient ‘evidence’ to suggest DSK would be wise to admit to sexual contact, but of a consensual kind – naturellement. After all, who could resist the Great Seducer?

Well perhaps it is time to start counting, and I do not mean euros.