French President, François Hollande, has been taking up some of the prominent pages in English newspapers (and afar) with stories of alleged infidelity. A few days ago he faced the Press (but sadly, not the music) at his biannual press conference on the economy.
He expressed his fervour for the "responsibility pact" and he also made a claim about his own transparency, at which point I would have expected (and it would have been the most natural impulse/response) for the room to burst into hearty laughter! Instead the Elysee Palace remained eerily silent. Beggars belief.
Irrespective of whether Hollande was involved in another relationship or not, for I am not here to cast judgement, the question of integrity is one to raise on the basis of Hollande's choices to hide behind and use as an excuse French cultural ways, rather than stand as a true leader and be completely transparent to a public he professes to work and dedicate his life for by virtue of taking public office - as any true servant of the people would do.
For how can one stand in front of a nation and the world (multinational eyes watching too) and talk of responsibility and transparency but displaying absolutely no willingness to be transparent to his nation, by simply not allowing any questions the media, the French and the world are seeking answers to.
Instead, it has been turned into a case of 'I'll deal with my dirty laundry behind the Palace's closed door". But how can an issue of honesty and integrity not be for the benefit of public?
Hollande has been quicker than a missile to bring in that 'little' word, the one that can shield like a gazillion tog duvet - privacy. In fact the word privacy has been getting so much abuse it has been forced to change its true meaning, like so many other beautiful and meaningful words.
I am all for respecting everyone's privacy - president's, prime minister's, prince's and pauper's but what exactly is Hollande demanding here? If the media was reporting on how often he had a pedicure/manicure, or whether he had a habit of burping whilst making love, or farted at the dinner table, picking his nose whilst eating, how many times a week he makes love to his partner etc etc - we should all boo hoo the press and demand a stop to that.
Is it possible that Hollande is asking us not to have a right to challenge his integrity?
The level of arrogance exhibited at that conference was so Kilimanjaro high that its peak was way out of anyone's sight. At some point it felt as if he were about to start singing the old tune: I am the King of the Castle... and we know the end to that one.
Is it not indeed Hollande's responsibility - the word he happily utters, but mainly when associated with France's economic situation - to not use this barricade of 'privacy' and to honestly if not truthfully answer simple questions to those who have elected him and whom he represents. Is that not what's expected of every true leader?
Integrity is not a garment that can be put on and taken off, if and when required, so that we can be honest in one room but not necessarily in another. Integrity is a requisite quality in all leadership and all relationships, including one between a leader of a country and its people. There is no room for being selective with integrity. When lived, it breathes forth in all that we say do and even think. Lived integrity is like a loyal dog - it loves us back, it honours and respects us.
What has also been very curious is that although Hollande was allegedly the one caught out in a 'mischief' the articles are predominantly about Hollande's partner Valerie Trierweller. It seems rather disconcerting that all the floodlights appear to be on her, and having ended up in hospital the watts just kept going up, yet appear only deeply dimmed lights flicker on Hollande!
Apparently the French public want the First Lady kicked out of the Palace. How come she is France's main or even big concern currently? Would it not serve to contemplate on the future of the President and his Palatial suite?
When a person is elected to lead a country, an organisation, a party, government department etc, we put a certain amount (if not complete) trust in that person, in their integrity, honesty and their decency.
Privacy might be the 'magic' word that many can use to hide behind but should this not change? No revolution is needed just for us All to start waking up, demanding answers to some serious questions and not be put of by any arrogance or bullying stance by the ones clutching the thrones. We need to remember that those who elected them have always a choice to remove them too.
Somebody in France wrote an email after Hollande's atrocious attitude at the Press conference: "Nero fiddling whilst the lackeys look on - what a waste of time".
Which prompted me to think - although (hopefully) unlike in Ancient Rome, no poisonous concoctions are being cooked up in some sordid Parisian quarters and no heads are coming off like overripe apples falling off trees, yet from the little that was seen and heard at this press conference, the way in which leadership is being conducted suddenly Nero and the Ancient Rome do not seem all that distant.
It is my impression that here is a very strong case of lack of integrity that the French should be calling out and asking Hollande to address, infidelity or not.