IS there anyone outside the ruling elite in France who feels a scintilla of sympathy for Dominique Strauss-Kahn? As much of Europe stares glumly into the void, this creature embodies one of the basic divisions in mankind: he is a who, not -- that is, until last week in New York -- a whom. He doeth; others are done unto by such as him. That's it, the story of the human race: Politicians versus The Rest.
"Fling away ambition," croaked a dying Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare's 'Henry VIII'. "By that sin, the angels fell."
Quite so. Peasants used to believe that moths were the souls of fallen angels, though in reality it is politicians who are the seraphim whose souls were destroyed by ambition.
But they have their Lepidopteran aspects too. For the pheromones of raw ambition infest their lives, like the molecular musk of distant she-moths in heat upon a summer's night, causing our Fallen Angels to seek out and court princes, parliaments and power.
Look at them. Bush, Blair Brown, Ahern, Sarkozy, Roosevelt, Churchill, Obama. From their early 20s, most of them have never done anything but lust after power. They've never started or run a business or had a separate career. They know nothing of the real world.
They might be called "lawyers", or, like DSK, "un conseil" (surely one of the most sinister words in the entire French language). However, it is not law they practise, but ambition.
Law is merely the means, equipping them with the vocabulary and contacts. And the ambitious who lack the charisma or patience for conventional politics seek power by other, more covert means, hence the likes of Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Cheney and, of course, Strauss-Kahn. They attend their political masters with apparent loyalty: however, they serve not men, but power and their own helpless craving for it.
Political ambition is genetically coded and as compulsive as alcoholism. For a dangerous few, such as Franklin D Roosevelt or Winston Churchill, it is also combined with an addiction to utter recklessness: a truly lethal combination for those under their command.
And when megalomania is combined with no conscience at all, you have a Mao, a Stalin or a Hitler.
The differences between the conduct of the democratically and the despotically ambitious can often blur: the firebombing of German and Japanese cities could only have been authorised by those for whom power was a ruthless repressor of scruple.
There are differences between Auschwitz and Dresden, to be sure: yet not so great as to make the rest of us comfortable. But the only sleep that Churchill ever lost over the tens of thousands of hapless German civilians burnt alive was the damage that such immolations might do to his reputation.
Fallen Angels, whatever their political dispensation, constitute a separate caste in society. A Stalin, a Blair, a Strauss-Kahn and all those communist politicians in the Eastern European bloc who overnight became democratic politicians -- they are merely on different extremes of a single spectrum. They all want power, whereas the rest of us would flee screaming from its responsibilities, like a gay vegan from a piece of raw liver with a vagina.
This is perhaps why it is so unusual for a fine soldier then to succeed as a politician. Wellington and Eisenhower are the exceptions: Churchill, conversely, departed the field of battle for the safety of the Commons at the very first opportunity in 1916.
I am relating the following news story from Georgia, US, because I want to. Headlined "Assailant suffers injuries from fall", it runs: "Orville Smith, a store manager, observed a male customer, later identified as Tyrone Jackson. . . putting a laptop under his jacket. When confronted, the man became irate, knocked down an employee, drew a knife and ran for the door.
"Outside. . . were four Marines, collecting for the Toys for Tots programme. They stopped the man, who stabbed one of the Marines, Cpl Philip Duggan, in the back. Cpl Duggan was transported for treatment.
"The subject was also transported to the local hospital for treatment; with two broken arms, a broken ankle, a broken leg, several missing teeth, possible broken ribs, multiple contusions, assorted lacerations, a broken nose and a broken jaw. . . injuries he sustained when he slipped and fell off the curb . . . according to a police report."
Politicians seldom, if ever, freely serve their country like the men and women of the United States Marine Corps. And when they're compelled to do so, as Senator John Kerry was, they usually find a safe billet, and even then are able to secure a grotesquely disproportionate number of decorations, as Kerry duly did. But that is life.
We are governed by our Fallen Angels, who always reward themselves excessively: hence DSK, with four different homes around the world. So, naturally, he was in first-class in his airliner at JFK when he was arrested. How much sweeter would it have been if he had simply fallen off the curb, US Marine-style, upon leaving his hotel in New York.