Democracy and Perp-Walk Sadism: Beware the Retribution of Egalitarians
America has successfully discovered how to behead its king every four (or eight) years without killing him. Instead of a guillotine, it uses a ballot box. Instead of watching a decapitated head falling into a bloodied basket, Americans watch a decapitated president pass his official head to a newly elected president while simultaneously regenerting a new civilian head to replace to severed presidential one.
Americans enjoy this sport.
Sometimes they let the president keep his head for eight years instead of four before they sever it from the presidential neck. Unlike kings, all American presidents actually sign-up for this voluntary guillotining, whether it comes sooner (4 years) or later (8 years) .
At the moment we have one president (Obama) with an actual presidential head, and three surviving decapitaed presidents with civilian heads.: Bush, Clinton and Bush.
The Oedipal pleasure we sons (and daughters) of liberty take in beheading our fathers has emerged in a rather bloodthirsty manner these last few days in the journalistic debate over the "perp-walk " required of another king, the president of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stands accused of raping a hotel maid in a $3000 a day Manhattan hotel suite on Sunday.
A "perp-walk" is the indicted perpetrator's public disgrace as he walks into court in handcuffs.
Aristotle might say that the pleasure we seem to be tasking in Mr. Strauss-Kahn's sudden fall from power (he was named in one survey as among the forty most powerful people in the world) is actually "pity and fear" which will result in a cathartic cleansing of our psyche as we exclaim an enormous "Whew, that will never happen to US!".
The data (Governors Spitzer and Sanford; Senator Craig; President Clinton; Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, Sen. Gary Hart, Sen. John Edwards, etc. ) suggest that prominent males being accused of sexual impropriety is becomng more frequent than it has in the past: but it is doubtful it will ever become epidemic, and thereby a threat to that hypothetical "US".
What seems to be happening with Mr. Strauss-Kahn is not the vicarious democratic pleasure of watching a man lose his official head as he simultaneously regenerates a civilian-replacement. No, what seems to be happening with our glee at his "perp-walk" is our regression to pre-democratic appetites, appetites which demand the sadistic pleasure of watching the alleged perpetrator's head actually roll, a regression to the anti-aristocratic impulses which fueled our own Revolution and the French Revolution , two centuries ago.
It is not the fact that Strauss-Kahn is French which agitates our blood-lust, it is that he behaves as an aristocrat, as one who believes himself above common man (and woman) .
His fate is sealed , sadistic perp-walk or not.
No head can regenerate once cut off an aristocrat.
Regeneration is the gift of democracy, or at least it has been for the last 235 years.
Degeneration has been the fate of aristocracy for the same span of time:
There are but two monarchies left in the world out of forty-nine which existed a century ago.
The King is dead: Hail to the [ IMF ] Chief.
Off with his head!
And they LAUGH at Freud?!