Belmont Club

Repeat Defender

Rula Jebreal of MSNBC rhetorically asks: “Belusconi failed his country politically, economically and morally. So why does he think he should run again?”

That could spawn a whole list of similarly phrased questions. For example, why did Hugo Chavez think he should run for re-election after the shambles he has made of Venezuela? Why does he think he can name his own successor assuming that Divine Providence determines he should not continue. Speaking before undergoing surgery Chavez said “my firm opinion, as clear as the full moon — irrevocable, absolute, total — is … that you elect Nicolas Maduro as president”. Clear as the full moon alright, but what difference does it make?

There’s nothing unusual in a failed administration being proud of its accomplishments. Daniel Harper at the Weekly Standard notes that Obama is still running for re-election, even after having been re-elected. “Barack Obama’s reelection campaign sent an email today asking supporters to call Congress to help gather support for the president’s ‘fiscal cliff’ proposal. Then, the campaign asks supporters to donate–even though the election ended over a month ago.”

The importuning never ends. You shouldn’t expect it to. If politicians had any sense decency they wouldn’t be politicians. Anyone who expects a politician to hold back from a sense of propriety will be waiting a long time.

As in politics, so in love. The Sydney newspapers were roiled by stories of the conviction of a certain Simon Lowe, “a serial lover who once dated movie star Barbara Hershey and told women his name was Portuguese for ‘beautiful hunter'” from a series of offenses. The alias he gave to a string of beautiful and successful women who he victimized was ‘Bonito Monteiro'”

But the facade crumbled when the courts exposed his true character: a rapist with a penchant for violence against women, whose real name was Simon Lowe.

Lowe’s troubled history was laid bare in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal where the 44-year-old conman was last month ordered to serve an 11-year prison term after he failed in a bid to overturn the sentence imposed for raping a former lover.

His victim, who cannot be named, was a 37-year-old woman from Sydney’s eastern suburbs who Lowe subjected to almost a year of torture.The woman said in documents tendered to the court that Lowe threatened her with iron bars and told her he would “go after my family and … gut my dad like a fish” if she went to the police.

To the question: ‘who would vote for Silvio Berlusconi’ one retort would be “who the heck believes a man who introduces himself as ‘Bonito Monteiro?'” It’s as likely a name as Elvis Preston or Vlad Pitt. But the answer is a whole passel of beautiful and accomplished women believed him despite that. “Lowe’s style of seduction – as revealed in a previous court case – involved buying women expensive champagne, dining at upmarket restaurants such as Aqua Luna and Sails, sending bouquets and serenading them with a guitar.” Then he’d rob his victims, rape them and warn them not to talk.

One victim even wrote a book, titled Perfect Stranger detailing how she “lost it all” — “a great job, a beautiful apartment, a life of champagne and mixing it with Sydney’s A-list, and a steady relationship” — when she ditched all that in exchange for “a handsome and charismatic Simon. He sweeps her off her feet with promises the one thing her younger boyfriend won’t give her – a baby. She takes the biggest risk of her life, leaving all certainties behind for love”.

All too quickly, the romance turns sour, and Simon goes from charming to controlling, from magnetic to threatening. By the time Kay uncovers his violent past, Simon has decided he will not let her go – and he’s not a man to be argued with. Trapped in a terrifying relationship, isolated from friends and family, Kay must decided what she values most, and fight for it.

Svengalis have a knack for convincing their victims that they would be lost without them. That and an element of not-so-subtle menace often means that once caught up in their mesmeric gaze victims find it hard to escape their influence. None can stop to think, until it is too late, that the the worst they an do is leave the loser and go back to being their old successful selves.

Why this doesn’t happen is a mystery. It is often assumed that most people have “common sense”, defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. So why can’t seemingly intelligent people avoid bad people?

The failure of common sense may lie in the fact that it is learned. People are not born with it. It is transmitted by tradition. We learn that “some related concepts [to common sense] include intuitions, pre-theoretic belief, ordinary language, the frame problem, foundational beliefs, good sense, endoxa, axioms, wisdom, folk wisdom, folklore, and public opinion”. Thus the “enlightened people” who are taught it is cool to set aside the normal warning signs may be the most vulnerable to Svengalis.

Hence it may be no coincidence that the victims of Svengalis and demagogues are societies who think themselves above convention.  They can be edgy and cool, and blinded with this overconfidence, fall straight into the web of the predator. People and voters who insist on knowing prosaic facts — like knowing where Bonito Monteiro was born, who his family was, who his friends are — are less likely to be taken in by fast talk and moonlight that those who are willing to be swept away.

People in abusive relationships are shackled by their emotions and are ironically most vulnerable when they are at the point of ditching the abuser. Then the sweet music starts up. This creates  “back and forthing”. An attempt to leave the abuser causes the emotions to come flooding back often stoked by messages from Svengali saying “we can have it back, baby” eliciting the inevitable, “I still love you”.

This may go some way to explaining Chavez and Berlusconi. Their victims can never have it back. But Svengali can.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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