I’ve written extensively about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. I’ve said almost everything I had to say on the subject. That was until Friday when the case fell apart and I resorted mostly to third party quotes and small sound bite commentary because I was too angry to properly articulate my thoughts.
See, my views about the victim prevent me from any objectivity in this case. Honestly (and this is why I would have never been a good journalist), I have no sympathy, empathy or even good thoughts for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Not just because of the rape accusations but also because of his betrayal of the socialist ideals he was supposed to uphold as a prominent member of the French Socialist Party. His ideals that went through the drain when he accepted to become head of the IMF, one of the most subjugating, neo-imperialist institutions imposed on the Global South.
And now, of course, there is no longer a case against him. However, and this is where I’d like us to focus, there is no longer a case because, it is claimed, the victim lied on issues unrelated to the rape allegations. Let that sink in for a second: a woman who is an asylum seeker/ refugee, who hails from one of the poorest countries on earth (where the IMF played a big role in promoting the prevailing poverty and economic hardships that afflict her homeland) was found to have lied in order to get on with her life.
“All of those things do not have anything to do with whether or not she was raped,” said Human Rights Watch’s Marianne Mollman in an interview with IPS.
“I would like to see one single person who has never told a lie in their life,” she added.
And see, with all due respect to Ms. Mollman, she is missing the point. This goes much further than pointing at the collective and trying to wash away the impact of the current development by claiming that “we all lie”. The core of the problem here is slightly different: some people’s survival, their very own sustainability sometimes depend on a lie. We judge these lies based on parameters that never contemplate this need for survival. We apply a normalized quasi religious stance: lying is bad! But hardly anyone questions why the lies are necessary, why we live in a system where certain people must lie in order to get access to privileges that are always afforded to members of the dominant culture.
Someone might lie on their application for food stamps or other survival related benefits; someone else might lie to law enforcement about their status as an undocumented immigrant; yet another person living somewhere where abortion is illegal might lie about undergoing a procedure because admission might as well represent the concrete possibility of doing jail time; a young person might lie about past drug offenses because admitting to them would mean they will never get a good job prospect. I could build a list of survival related lies that would fill a complete encyclopedia. The lies that the oppressed tell in order to make their lives slightly less oppressive.
And of course, the system punishes these lies by attacking and defiling the only thing the liars can claim as their own: their bodies. An immigrant woman is allegedly raped and the punishment for her lies is to remove her access to justice. Not even the pretension of justice will be afforded to her, oh no. This is the point where all pretension is abandoned and we clearly inform the victim that she has voided her access to justice when she lied in order to survive.
Again, with all due respect to Human Rights Watch spokesperson Marianne Mollman, not all lies are equal. Why is nobody holding Dominique Strauss-Kahn accountable for the lies that the IMF told those of us who were subjected to their policies and adjustment plans? Those lies that promised prosperity, development and abundance but instead led to misery, broken lives and even death? Why are the survival related lies of a chambermaid punishable by denial of justice whereas the lies of the alleged perpetrator are rewarded with a political career?