She remains me of the young Catherine Deneuve, and I have a week spot for blondes with character.
Her name is Gulnara Karimova, and she is (or was) take your pick: a politician, a Harvard graduate, a singer, a clothing and perfume line creator, a business woman worth over a billion dollars, a celebrity and a fallen angel.
She is 47 now, held under house arrest in her native Uzbekistan, most likely on the orders of her late father. The last news is that she is not well, messed up on drugs, not taking the new reality very good. The Americans seized her assets of about $850M and the Swiss want to talk to her eagerly about some money laundering issues, which stops me cold in my tracks.
And I though life was fast in the old times but its painfully slow today, so she proves me wrong and I like it.
I give you another example of a life in the fast line and it’s a doozy.
In just 19 years Napoleon Bonaparte accomplished this: defeated Austria, Italy and scored a victory against Egypt in July 1798. The next year he invaded the Ottoman Empire. In October 1805, the British wiped him out at the Battle of Trafalgar. In December Napoleon achieved his greatest victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1807, Napoleon defeated the Russians at Friedland, in 1809, he defeated the Austrians at Wagram. Then Napoleon led a massive army into Russia in the summer of 1812. This was followed in 1813 by the Battle of Leipzig (The Battle of Nations). Napoleon then retreated to France, and in his mid-40s, was forced to abdicate the throne. After less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped Elba and sailed to France with a group of about 1,000 supporters and returned to Paris. King Louis XVIII fled, and Napoleon began his Hundred Days campaign. On June 16 he defeated the Prussians, then he was crushed at Waterloo near Brussels.
Now compare this performance to the Americans being bagged down in Afghanistan for about the same amount of time not having much to show for it.
Some people are just different.
Most of the German Nazi elite were born around the turn of the century. Hitler was a bit older, 44, when he took over the reign of Germany; Goering was 40 at that time. But most of the Nazi top leaders were in the early 30s when they were voted into power (a low for democracy) and then in their mid 40s they were tried at Nurnberg. The point is that the Nazi regime and war that followed was engineered by a group of young men drunk on power.
Now, I am spending the evening in Calvi, Corsica, and will ride to the Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio in the morning, to visit the ancestral home of the Bonaparte family (it was in their possession until 1967).
Staying in a hotel with a view of the citadel of Calvi, I am reminded that it is the base of the 2nd Parachute Regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It’s part of the spearhead of the French rapid reaction force having been engaged in covert operations in most of the world's flash points in modern history. The French commandos also operate in the sub-Saharan regions where even the Yanks are hesitant to engage.
I listened to a talk by an ex-commando and teacher now, about what they look for when they recruit. “The shooting, fighting or swimming are all teachable skills”, he said. “The thing we look for is mental toughness. We look for guys who will keep going, never give up.”
Maybe this is how accelerated life happens, good and bad.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler