Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Flapping zippers and missed chances

It was, I suppose inevitably, a French friend who told me the story of the English and French naval captains of the Napoleonic war meeting for dinner on the Frenchman’s ship (fortunately: the food at least was passable).

‘Tell me,’ said the Englishman, ‘why do the French always fight for money while the English fight for honour?’

‘I suppose,’ replied the Frenchman, ‘that everyone fights for what he does not have.’

We all seek what we don’t have.

What France doesn’t have at the moment is a President worthy of the office. Sarkozy-the-little is for ever standing on tiptoes to get himself noticed, always looking for the limelight, and achieving next to nothing.

Meanwhile, as the financial crisis bites, particularly in countries such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland, we need an International Monetary Fund that is enlightened, liberal, capable of playing the long game and not focusing all its attention on the short term.

In Dominique Strauss-Kahn we had the answer to both problems. Under his guidance, the IMF has shown that it can understand the problems of the countries that turn to it for help without abandoning any of its financial rigour. It can demand action to address underlying failings, but without insisting on policies that would crucify the population.

DSK: might-have-been man
And ‘DSK’ was the runaway favourite to win next year’s presidential election in France. With all the qualities to be an outstanding President.

Or perhaps all the qualities bar one.

Obviously, we may discover that the charges against him are completely baseless. It does strike me as odd that a chambermaid was in his room while he was having a shower – in my experience, if hotel staff step into your room while you’re there, they beat a hasty retreat and come back later. So maybe he’s as innocent as a babe in arms, and I’d be delighted if that’s established by the trial, even though it will be too late for France or the IMF.

But if he’s found guilty, or acquitted on a technicality (it's notoriously difficult to get a conviction on a rape charge), I shall merely drop a tear over a lost opportunity. ‘With so many gifts,’ I shall sigh, ‘and so much to contribute to others, why did you never learn the self-control to keep your zipper shut?’

Another case of flapping zipper syndrome in a powerful man.

Another case of always wanting what you don’t have, however much you already do.
The whole story reminds me of the comment an American friend made to me, back in the late nineties. ‘He could have been great,’ she said. She wasn’t talking about DSK, of course. At the time, Bill Clinton was finding it so difficult to hang on to the presidency that he couldn’t do any of the things the office in theory made possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Imagine Port-Louis harbour just after the war (WW2). There are no quays, ships cast anchor at the mouth of the harbour and passengers and goods are unloaded in "chalands" (=barges) in order to be taken to terra firma. Imagine the bustle.
A French (sea) captain and his English counterpart are seated at the edge of a "chaland", and the sea is choppy with all the traffic; whilst moving beneath a large liner at anchor, the Englishman notices that someone from the deck above has let loose a large gob which is rapidly making its way towards them.
"Watch out," the Brit warns his French colleague, who asks, Ouère?, sticking his head out, inevitably receiving the mess smack in the face.