When power is in hands of the giver

I USED to imagine I wanted power over women. Rich and beautiful women in particular. So I devoted a couple of decades to the pursuit of pretty young things.

What we pursue and what we end up with comes down to commitment, and I mistook true commitment for frenzy. No lady I landed was rich and beautiful. At least not at the same time.

Commitment means giving 100 per cent. I was chugging along at 99, which is not nearly the same thing. I also missed the point. A lateral thinker would have said: ''Hey, this is not working. I've been scouring the globe for a rich and beautiful woman to have power over and - based on results - I am remarkably unsuccessful. So why don't I get some power over a dozen women who are reasonably attractive and have a healthy bank balance?'' Patrick Wong, recently released after four years in the slammer on a manslaughter charge, did exactly that. He had women bending over backwards, frontwards and sideways to give him money for drugs and gambling.

One pretty 27-year-old is so moved she is happy to spend seven years in the jug on what some consider is on his behalf. Another little darling was so taken by his vulnerability she married him while he was still inside.

Numerous articles have been written about The Man Who Had Power Over Women. I do not take issue with these stories as they stand. What I do question is the premise on which they are based, and how that premise is an absurdity most of us see as normal.

For example, did Wong go to these ladies and say ''give me all your money, your devotion and your body or I will give your entire family a manicure with a chain saw''? Apparently not. In fact, he did nothing but accept the bread, the body and the beatification as it was laid on him.

He has already been acquitted of the charge of manslaughter. Now, we want to make him guilty of having power over people. Again, I am at a loss to understand how one human who has not chained another to his cellar wall and is holding an M16 to her child's head can have any power over that person.

Whatever the girls gave Wong, they gave freely. That is not to say that Patrick Wong is a front-runner for Nice Guy of the Year Award. But as far as I am aware there is no law against taking whatever it is anyone not certified insane wants to give you.

The horrible truth is we humans differ from other species inasmuch as we have choice. We can choose, moment to moment, the direction we want our lives to take. Nobody makes us choose one way or the other. We examine the possibilities and we make the bestavailable choice. However you want to look at it, nobody ever made a bad choice. Not you, not me, not even persuasive Patrick Wong and his generous ladies.

Sure, we can reflect on the implications of those choices and say it may have been a poor choice. But, guess what? It was the best one available and we made it. Some schools of thought would call the act of choosing taking responsibility for your own life.

The toppling of the Berlin Wall was the cause of hysterical celebration for that reason: a people born to have freedom of choice had an ugly regime stamp choice underfoot. It was the return of choice that set the champagne corks flying.

People in Hongkong have a choice, and a bunch of women chose to give some bloke money and sex. Does that make him guilty or sinful? I do not think so. Any guilt or sin is between Patrick David Wong and his conscience. He has a choice to feel guilty or sinful, or not. It is up to him.

Press reports put these sorry adventures down to Wong's ''charisma'', as if being charismatic is unlawful. It is interesting that when we are looking at reasons to vote for a president or a prime minister, charisma is top of the list. We whine with frustration if the man we want to support has the perfect experience for the job, but no charisma. Even if he has charisma we are not forced to vote for him.

Wong and his new wife, Shirley, are both members of some weirdo Christian religious sect which is also being called ''charismatic'', implying it (or they) has the power to make people join it. It is so powerful people just sink to their knees, pleading to become members of a wacko cult.

We are even asked to take the bait and see Wong as having no choice in being a drug addict. He said he could not cope with the death of his parents so he turned to cocaine, gambling and womanising. It is amazing how nobody has a choice any more.

I do not know what version of the Holy Bible Wong is reading these days, the original or the ramblings of a cult leader. As far as I am aware, the original contains a fair bit on the subject of choice. Whenever we wail about man's inhumanity to man and how a ''good'' God would not allow Hitlers and general injustice to happen, theologians respond with: ''God gave us freedom of choice. How could she have done more?'' I am not sure what is meant by a ''charismatic Christian religious sect''. Probably it means that at the end of the year they send out Charismas cards. Peter Sherwood is managing director of Edelman Public Relations Hongkong.