With Sex Scandals, DSK And Weiner Expose Their Inner 'Psycho'

Essay: First Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. What is it about power that makes the men at the top behave so badly?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Philipp Löpfe

Cynics will tell you that modern society looks like a pyramid, with a few powerful psychopaths on top and a narrow slice of clueless subordinates just below them. The rest? The nobodies – the losers.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anthony Weiner scandals would certainly seem to bolster that theory. In DSK's case, it's difficult for ordinary mortals to grasp why a man—a Socialist no less—who stood an excellent chance of winning the next French presidential elections would behave like a decadent aristocrat helping himself to the help. The Weiner case, if that's at all possible, is even more bizarre.

Anthony Weiner, who just resigned as Democratic congressman from New York, is extremely bright and has friends, like the Clintons, in high places. Weiner was already a few rungs up on the ladder of what was expected to be a brilliant career, with some seeing him as New York City's next mayor. He can forget that now. Why? Because of some ridiculous Internet photos of a well-built, well-endowed guy in his underpants.

The guy of course was Weiner, who had taken to sending the photos to young women. The story broke first on a conservative blog. It wasn't long before it was picked up by all the U.S. media channels. At first, an indignant Weiner denied involvement, calling the whole thing a right-wing plot. A few days later, however, he fessed up. Yes, he was the guy in the photos. And he'd tweeted them to at least six young women, he told reporters at a press conference, choking up as he apologized to his wife and family.

Comedy value?

The Weiner case has high comedy value, starting with his name, which is pronounced like something that isn't just another word for hotdog. (Yes, in case you don't yet know, In American slang it also means penis.) The possible wordplays on "Weiner's wiener" are endless. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show came up with 57, all of them hilarious. But when you've stopped laughing, you start to see just how unfunny the story is. Because yet again, it demonstrates that psychopaths apparently possess the qualities you need to attain positions of power.

Psychopaths are not stupid — on the contrary, they are often highly intelligent and can be extremely charming. The problem is, they can't grasp the meaning of the word "empathy."" They can't begin to imagine what other people are feeling. Their focus is exclusively on themselves. In their unfettered narcissistic craziness it never occurs to them that maybe a hotel housekeeper isn't really up for sex with a 62-year-old IMF boss, or that even younger women might not find the sight of a middle-aged politician's penis particularly seductive.

Strauss-Kahn and Weiner's blind self-adulation has turned out to be the rope they've hanged themselves with. But it was exactly the same rope – that same narcissism – that brought them into positions of power in the first place. That's the thing. Seen that way, the cynics and their pyramid theory may have a point. And it's no consolation that there are many studies out there showing that the number of psychopaths in top management is well above average.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - idf-fotos

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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