Sunday, March 23, 2008

What we can learn from Eliot Spitzer

How could he do that? everyone asks and we have been regaled with a wide range of speculations:

some men get a sexual charge out of doing something dangerous,

some men are addicted to sex, they just can't get enough,

some powerful people think that they can do anything they want, that they are too important not to do things even if they are illegal,

some men, especially powerful ones, like paying for sex because it makes them the more powerful one in the relationship,

men--all men--think only with what they have between their legs; you won't find many women resorting to purveyors of paid sex.

And on and on. There is probably a good deal of truth in some of these explanations, but most of them cannot be verified unless you know Eliot Spitzer a lot better than the people who only saw him on television.

But one important aspect of this whole affair has not, as far as I know, been mentioned. Eliot Spitzer is not alone. Various reporters mentioned a long list of politicians whose political careers came to an end when they were caught having illegal and, what is more, extra-marital sex.

But the same is true of a lot of athletes. I have no doubt but that it is also true of a lot of hot-shot business men although they still have more privacy.

What do all these men have in common? They are intensely ambitious, ruthless competitors and the only thing that counts for them is winning. They care about winning more than about anything else in the world. Without that you don't get to be governor of New York, or a world-famous athlete, or the CEO of a large and successful company.

What do you and I care about: the family, our kids, doing a good job, keeping up our house and our car, being a good friend, being respected by the people who know you, being an all round good person. Maybe you care about being squared away with God and the Church, maybe that does not matter to you. But being a decent person does. What you and I care about are other people and our soul.

But then you and I are not intensely ambitious and competitive. We care about other things not only about us--me and you--winning, being the best, the most powerful, the most famous, or the richest. But for the fierce competitors their own victory, their own power, their own fame, and money is what comes first. In order to compete you need to care more about yourself than about others. Being governor, or a star athlete is more important than wife and kids. If you miss a campaign rally because your kid is sick, or your wife has breast cancer, you are not a good competitor. Winning has to come first.

But if that is who you are, your sexual satisfaction is more important than your family's feeling. What you want is not closeness with a loved and trusted and familiar person, but hot sex with a stranger because all people are, deep down, strangers to you.

The indomitable competitors have to be profoundly selfish, self-involved. That's how you win. A lot of winners are not nice persons. You would not want your daughter or son to be such winners because you want them to be good persons.

Americans are not only big into sports, but they admire winners. And then when the winners turn out to be like Eliot Spitzer, or to be guilty of cruelty to animals, or of taking growth enhancing drugs and then lying about it, or being fiercely against homosexuals and then get caught soliciting sex in a men's room--everyone is all surprised.

But it should not be a surprise if you only think about it. To be a big time winner you need to be a ruthless and relentless competitor. Nothing must deflect you from your goal of winning--not love, not family, certainly not morals.

Winning is not everything. And the next time your get bent out of shape because your six-year old's team lost a game in the Little League, remember Eliot Spitzer.