Cal Weaver grieves in Crazy Stupid Love (2011)- “You know a word that is not used very often anymore? Cuckold. I’m cuckolded. David Lindhagen cuckolded me. He made a cuckold out of me. He slept with my wife and I didn’t know about it! And that is the definition of cuckoldom. David Lindhagen took my wife and slept with her. Uuch! Thought I did everything right. Got married, had kids, the house. What do I get for it? I get cuckolded? David Lindhagen cuckolded me, he made a cuckold out of me.”
In France, however, improprieties of this sort are mourned not. When news emerged that French President François Hollande had been cheating on Valérie Trierweiler (whom he had had a seven year relationship with, they got together while Valérie was still with her second husband) with the young actress Julie Gayet (who of course herself already has two teenage sons by another man- are you keeping up?) the response generally from the French media and public about the frolicking was, as expected- So what?
Afew days into the scandal a piece ran in The Times (where else, of course) with a dozen French mistresses’ accounts of their lives (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article3977533.ece). It was the biggest case of self-deception imaginable with the ladies constantly attempting to convince themselves in their prose that they were doing nothing wrong and nobody could be effected badly by their actions whatsoever. The more they pleaded their innocence the more they revealed themselves as self-absorbed and willfully short-sighted. These circumstances are most shocking when young children are caught up in the middle of all these adults self-indulgent bed hopping. The focus is never to raise the young in stable and loving homes but rather to satisfy the sexual desire of the impatient modern adults because, “if I’m happy then so will my kids be” as one of the serial adulterers assured herself. The children are shamefully described more as obstacles to the adults ‘free love’ fornication than young precious human lives who deserve the attention and care that is being reserved primarily instead for lewd hotel room genital tugging.
With regard to Hollande, French politicians and journalists lined up to almost congratulate him on his unfaithfulness. We were told, “oh you British don’t understand” and were then given a build up to the man’s “big decision” as to who, (if either) he would continue to bed as though this were some exciting reality TV show for God himself. Many on the Left will hate me for making this point, but I feel obliged to point out that this strange political schizophrenia being displayed by French people is to be expected as part and parcel of a secular Republic. Those of us with Constitutional Monarchies and a robust adversarial Parliament can be more ruthless as a public with our derision of politicians, (particularly the PM) with our humble respect reserved for the Crown.
In France, Hollande as the ultimate Head of State effectively commands an odd automatic worthiness. Even though those on the Left should be challenging his behaviour both politically, morally and personally, (as if you can separate the three totally, does this all not say something of the mans loyalty, commitment, if not focus on his work?) they have been tellingly reluctant to question the President’s wanton actions. If Cameron were found in the locker room with a young actress he would be remorselessly hounded by all across the political spectrum, and rightly so. Hollande however, is given a free pass as elected King of the realm. Apparently he can do no wrong.
I was quite proud that we British have managed to salvage some of our moral sense of conscience and are on the whole more shocked by betrayals of loyalty than our European counterparts. Despite the negative fallout of the middle-class sexual revolution and the Thatcherite/Blairite/Cameroon weakening of Marriage we still maintain a visceral disapproval of those who carelessly transgress moral boundaries in these areas. Indeed, the more that French journalists interviewed rolled their eyes and branded us fusty prudes, the more principled I felt our criticisms were. Here were French commentators, (and ones on the Left at that) defending this slimey creep and his status quo of having a firmer grip on the wheel of a shitty moped than he does of the economy, and suggesting that our reaction of this all as simply just not cricket was somehow ludicrous. I rather think we got it right. The man *is* a disgrace for both his political ineptitude *and* his devoting his time to personal lascivious liaisons.
The fact that Hollande and Trierweiler were not actually married, (in these days who would expect them to be unfortunately) is also seen as a defense of the situation. I cringe to see that adolescent word ‘partnership’ in the media, and by liberals in general deployed to depict their relationship, (notice how language is distorted to suit and justify the cheap business like transactions of modern relationships- partnership indeed). But nowadays a lax attitude to personal moral responsibility (and apparently even nationally) is seen not only as ‘cool’ by young people but as modern liberalism foolishly equates selfish license with actual liberty, who can argue with these state of affairs without being laughed out of the debate as ‘old-fashioned’ or accused of stirring up ‘moral panic’? (What on earth is supposedly wrong with bringing morality to the forefront of debate will forever escape me, then again I am not the one trying to abolish it).
Many readers will recall with much amusement the sleaze of the Tory years, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s. John Major’s ‘back to basics’ policy direction promoting a traditionalist approach to valuing life-long marriage and defending the family was much mocked while he and other high profile Tories were simultaneously found wrapped up in a whole variety of sex scandals. The contradiction between his political vision and personal situation was wrongly used to discredit the ideas behind the policies.
Just because somebody does not take their own advice and violates from how they should be behaving does *not* devalue the original intent in promoting those theories. Do remember that. We can and should deride our politicians when they are found rubbered up, (in more ways than one) but this is a weak reason for example to claim protecting and promoting marriage is a bad idea. Extraordinarily pathetic and revealing a lack of arguments on the part of nu-liberals. Nothing new there then. But this is the *only* division of personal/political that is important to make-> Ethical rules proposed vs individual transgression of them is *not* grounds to dismiss the views and refuse to engage with the arguments. That, my friends, is mere cowardice.
Conversely, this all does not mean ignoring those who are elected to serve the people’s general and personal conduct. It is not being interfering or trivial to point out when you feel misbehaviour by *your* representatives is out of control. You have a right to be ‘sincerely shocked of Tunbridge Wells.’ And you should be.
So, much to muse on here. I leave you with a fine French satire on Cuckoldry (19th century) in which men and women are seen to be wearing ‘the horns of a cuckold.’ Some things never change.