Drunk on power!

Toula Foscolos
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Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger currently make the media rounds to peddle his self-serving book, made my stomach turn. But the real cringeworthy moment - for me, at least - came when I came across a snippet from his interview on 60 Minutes. When asked by the interviewer if he had cheated on his wife with other women, Arnie smirked and admitted to having done so. He smirked. No remorse, no shame. Just the smugness of a man who feels he can do anything.
I suddenly felt the urge to run an old column of mine, which appeared in print last year.

Toula Foscolos

At first it was former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, John Edwards, and the allegations of infidelity that surfaced as his wife was dying from cancer. Currently being investigated, Edwards may be charged with using campaign funds to hide his affair. Then, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the president of the ever-powerful International Monetary Fund and a serious contender for the French presidency, was charged and arrested for trying to rape a housekeeper. Just as we were mulling that one over, Arnold Schwarzenegger was found to not only have cheated on his wife of 25 years, Maria Shriver, but to have done so with his housekeeper, even fathering a child with her. He then callously kept the secret (and his housekeeper in plain view) for the next 13 years.

I’m not going to pretend to be outraged at the media’s interest in this scandalous affair, because, like most of you, I’ve already skimmed through the sordid details of this debacle that reads like a bad Spanish soap opera. Fathering a child with the housekeeper? How much of a cliché could The Terminator be?

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Everyone loves a good train wreck; it’s just human nature. There’s a little Schadenfreude at work here. The common folk enjoy sitting down to a cup of coffee and a daily reminder that beautiful and buff celebrities are also capable of making bad decisions that haunt them down the road. They secretly gloat at the fact that looks, fame and fortune will not protect them from heartbreak, divorce or a bad hair day. It gives us mere mortals a chance to snicker. As Gore Vidal noted: “It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

The media frenzy surrounding Schwarzenegger and his questionable taste in mistresses (Tiger Woods anyone?) is pure entertainment, but if we really want to take a look at how absolute power can corrupt absolutely, let’s take a minute to focus on another man at the top of his game who came crashing down because of hubris. Being a two-timing husband is one thing; being accused of rape is entirely another. Strauss-Kahn is currently out on $1 million cash bail, and is due back in court on June 6. He’s probably sitting around, wondering what the big deal is all about; unable to understand why the housekeeper didn’t just accept the cash his relatives allegedly tried to buy her off with.

It’s hard not to walk away with one conclusion: some men in power are egotistical, spoiled brats who have an elevated sense of entitlement with no concern for those around them.

It’s hard not to walk away with one conclusion: some men in power are egotistical, spoiled brats who have an elevated sense of entitlement with no concern for those around them.

The real question I’ve been mulling over, though, is this: do these men feel entitled because of all this excess power, or did this sense of over-inflated entitlement allow them to have the kind of ruthless personality and drive that enabled them to climb the ladder of success, whether it’s politics, show business or finance?

When you live your life being told you’re special, you’re above average, you’re a star, you quickly learn to believe it. You gain the kind of confidence that makes you think that there are no long-term consequences for any kind of behaviour you subject those around you to. You develop your own set of ethical standards, and you come to believe that the rules don’t apply to you.

“Why do so many men in power cheat?” I asked a friend of mine. “Because they can,” he replied. Simplistic, but true.

"Narcissism is an occupational hazard for political leaders. You have to have an outsized ambition and an outsized ego to run for office," writes Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist in New York.

Combine those personality traits with temptation and an environment that encourages an “anything goes” attitude and you’ve got the Perfect Storm brewing, just waiting to explode all over our front page news for all to see!


Organizations: International Monetary Fund, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 60 Minutes

Geographic location: U.S., New York

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