Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sometime ago I heard about a mini-fight breaking out among fringe activists over starting an anti-war march at the Gandhi statue in Washington, DC. One of the women went nuts over the idea because according to her, "Gandhi was a wife beater." This came as a big shock to me not because Gandhi has wrongly been made synonymous with some sort of passive non-violence. I know that these types of icons are often hypocrites in their personal lives. I was just surprised since Gandhi was such a skinny little dude.

I ran this idea of a wife-abusing Gandhi by Nazli of Sibil Tala fame, and while she didn't know anything about any beatings, she told me that the guy decided at some point that he was going to go celibate, and therefore denied his wife any form of a sexual relations, which counts as a form of abuse, I suppose, since apparently Mrs. Gandhi had no say in this decision.

It turns out that Gandhi did go celibate at around aged 40, and he used to "test" himself, he used to sleep naked with nubile Indian women. But that is neither here nor there.

I bring up Gandhi and the allegations of wife abuse because lately I've been hearing about many renowned men who are world class jerks in the private realm.

In general, when I have critiques of such men (and women), I try to keep my focus on their ideas, works, and professional activities, rather than getting into their personal life. However, I would be lying if I didn't admit taking a certain amount of guilty pleasure when I find out that someone with bad politics is also horrible as a person (though sadly, I'm just as often disappointed to hear that someone whose work and ideas I admire is also a complete jerk as a person).

But today, let's stick to cases of the former, that is, terrible people who have equally terrible ideas. I found out this week that V.S. Naipul, whose writings are troubling in many respects, was in real life arrogant, racist, and abusive not only to his wives but his mistresses as well. I'm looking forward to reading the biography that lays it all out.

Finally, the wife-abuser I really want to talk about, I can't, since all I have are rumors and speculations. But I will give you a hint: he is Iranian, he is one of those 79-revolutionaries turned frequent US visitor/resident/employee, and he is a scholar (a real one, not one of the dime a doze who work for the US "think" tanks and claim degrees and expertise that they don't have). Apparently when this guy started falling out with the powers that be, his political rivals arranged the leak of documents from doctors who had treated his wives after what appeared to be incidents of domestic violence. I can't say much more than this, but the last characteristic I mentioned--the fact that this guy is smart and knows things-- eliminates a whole lot of people, so feel free to take a guess!