For a minute or two last week I thought I was back in kindergarten. Imagine being surrounded by grown women giggling over a cell phone like naughty little girls enjoying something forbidden. In this instance the forbidden fruit turned out to be nude pictures of a well known individual circulating on the web. You may well ask, dear reader, what was so special of those images, keeping in mind the varieties of porn available on the Internet and elsewhere.
The fuss reminded me of something I’d read about the extra millions of Penthouse copies sold when word got out that the recalled issue featured the latest Miss America and another 19-year-old girl doing what they imagined would remain private. Their trusted young photographer had given his word! Something similar happened involving Playboy magazine and a young and naked Madonna. Is celebrity junk all that different from the garden variety?
Over the weekend nearly everyone I encountered wanted to talk about that picture on the web and the featured dimensions. The centre of attraction had earlier been considered just another politician. Now a hailstorm of related memes, jokes, and plain nasty and demeaning comments had turned him into the nation’s most discussed topic.
As for me, I abandoned Facebook for several hours. But when I revisited, it occurred to me that for Saint Lucians at home and abroad nothing was more worthy of discussion. True, we’ve always been a nation of bullies; cyber bullies, even. But who knew the situation could get this bad?
I couldn’t help wondering what I would do if, instead of our unfortunate MP, I had been the one flashing to the world what only the specially chosen were entitled to see. Kill myself? Others in that situation had done just that, I recalled. For certain, some of my FB friends would abruptly abandon me. Others would feign shock. No one would talk about how I’d been betrayed by a trusted, even loved one. I’d be declared stupid, naïve, at best too trusting. Meanwhile the backbiters would be hissing: “Well, on the quiet she really was always a ho!”
As for the latest cyber fiasco, there are several elements at play here: the MP’s responsibility to the public, for one. What exactly is it in this case? Who knows for certain? That office holders should not engage in extra-marital activity? Who would have the courage to pronounce him guilty of illicit behaviour that has always been normal behaviour in Saint Lucia? I am not endorsing, mind you, only stating the indisputable. I kept thinking over the weekend of all those kids with government-issued computers. I wondered how many had lately used them for study, by which I mean school-related study.
I was hopeful for a fleeting moment this week, with thoughts that perhaps the most recent case would encourage abused women, in particular victims of cyber bullying, to go to the cops. Then I remembered the countless long-forgotten unresolved rape cases, and the untold numbers never reported. I thought about the famous “one or two serial rapists in our midst”. Men, it seemed, have always had the system’s tacit endorsement to abuse women with impunity.
Might this matter with the MP may be only the tip of the iceberg? Blackmail via the Internet? To be altogether truthful, many men have chosen to pay up rather than be forced to defend attempted rape allegations. No sooner had the story broken last Friday (it turns out it has been under investigation since early December) than the alleged blackmailer and photo distributor appeared before a magistrate and was ordered to post bail. As someone noted, how ironic that the first person to land in such a predicament here turned out to be a woman, never mindthat most victims of cyber bullying here are female. It will be said that this might not have come as far as it has, had the alleged victim been a woman and not a parliamentarian. I’ll leave it at that until the court rules. Meanwhile, there is this image in my head of a powerful man wagging his finger and saying under oath: “I never had sex with that woman . . .” Is that what we’re likely to hear down the road? To that I say: “It all depends on what you mean by is!”