Hubris. A word you’ve heard but until you’re accused of having it have probably assumed you understood but in fact have no idea. At least, that was my experience. Thought I knew what it meant, didn’t. Maybe suffered from it, I don’t know. If I did, maybe I realise it now by seeing it being more and more evident in the news. How so?
Most of us possess reasonable levels of self-confidence. A few, lucky people possess enormous levels of self-confidence, but of a type that isn’t ‘in yer face’ and annoying. These people we respect and seek to emulate, and we do so in the knowledge that emulation will serve us well. Nice, professional, generous and inclusive people who pull us along and make us better than we are.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few of those.
Then there are those I call Flashhearts, based upon Rik Mayall’s delightfully funny Blackadder character. They truly are ‘in yer face’. They have self-confidence, but they demand that you acknowledge it. They don’t want respect and mere emulation. They demand ad-oration. You mere underlings are there for them, not the other way around.
Sometimes, these people start out well. They perform at a level of excellence, possess some serious talent, and have worked hard to get where they are. But at some point in this development, they start to believe, and to believe in, their own publicity.
And then they believe they can do no wrong. At the government/celebrity level, they believe themselves to be untouchable, unreproachable, unstoppable and unimpeachable. They dismiss criticism as badly-motivated. They see those who challenge their poor behaviours as jealous, as threats, as beneath them.
Name one. Actually, let me change that challenge. Try to name ONLY one! Bet you can’t. bet you know the Robert Maxwells, the Donald Trumps, the Jimmy Saviles. And many more.
I have two points to make from a Second Resolution perspective (on character).
First of all, the people who follow or serve them, but fail to challenge them, are enabling their bad behaviour. The follower’s self-interest is undermining their integrity. They won’t speak out because they feel they can’t. I understand, but there is a cost.
The second point is – we all suffer from it to some degree. Including me. We commit acts that we know would and could get us into trouble. We tell a joke that in the current climate just isn’t allowed, and we expect others to laugh and move on. (Whether that should be the case is a ‘cancel culture’ question but my point remains valid.) it’s 2021 and the English Cricket Board is now dealing with a racism issue, which I bet was seen by those committing the offensive behaviour as ‘team banter’. We are sexist, racist, homo-ist and so on – usually for the sole purpose of humour and not necessarily directly towards and in the presence of the target, but we do it anyway. Not maliciously, but we do it believing ourselves, in that specific instance and with our humorous intent, to be safe in doing so.
Hubris. It’s defined as ‘excessive pride towards or in defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis’. That’s posh for thinking you can beat the principles or rules, and then you get what’s coming to you in the form of poetic justice.
So when you tell that joke (for example), or ignore the systems, protocols and ethics that life calls upon you to observe because you think you’re above them, don’t be surprised when they bite back.