Our Modern Hubris Factory 4

All our problems come down to the way we vote.

Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.

 - attributed to Euripides

Over the course of this series, we've examined the ways in which human beings have a hard time accepting that sudden and profound change is about to happen.  We've also gone into the reasons why the life experiences of most of our elites make it impossible for them to admit failure or ever recognize being wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Unfortunately for all of us, we are reaching the point where sudden and catastrophic change on a global scale will be inevitable.  Despite the near-unanimous understanding that we're on the wrong track, our rulers determinedly keep us pointed in the same disastrous direction.

Don't they realize that they, too, can go down with the ship?  Don't they care about the lives of all the little people who don't have even the hope of escaping in a Learjet to the refuge of the Swiss bullion vaults?

For some - well, no they don't.  Most people, though, even the very rich, like to see themselves as caring about other people just as we all do.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our elites have spent their entire lives in the pursuit of the image of success as opposed to the substance of actual success.  This is because in our modern media-driven sound-bite age, the mere image of success can create actual personal success.  Just look at the wretched denizens of artificial "reality" shows, whose bank accounts have been stuffed full of very real dollars.

Snooki, however, isn't going to destroy the world economy.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner very well may; his decisions actually matter, yet they're manifestly no better than hers, and certainly more criminal.

Yet because his entire life and that of his peers has been spent persuading everyone that he's never wrong, it's hard for Tim Geithner to believe, even in private, that he is in fact wrong - or Mr. Obama, or Ben Bernanke, or Chris Dodd, or any of the rest of them.  They are, in a word, the victims of self-imposed hubris.

Of Hubris and Hell

The dictionary tells us that hubris is "excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance."  The way the people at the top live, it would be almost impossible for them not to have excessive pride, self-confidence, and arrogance, what with all the respectful bowing and scraping and (if you're a Democrat) the worshipful attitude of the mainstream media.  They're not used to being questioned; they haven't been seriously criticized in years, and when they were, they spun a plausible-sounding explanation to defuse the criticism and move on to the next level.

The trouble is, the buck does eventually stop somewhere, sometime, and now it has.  There is no explanation or excuse for Mr. Obama's total failure to restart our economy; that is his job, plain and simple, and no amount of deflection will make it anything but his job.  The Obama administration owns the current depression, like it or lump it, and we all know it.

To solve our problems, Mr. Obama would have to admit that everything he's done since he entered college did not work, and therefore he needs to do the exact opposite.  But he can't!  That would be admitting error, which he's psychologically incapable of doing.

Is this his fault?  On a personal and moral level, perhaps so, but on a larger level it's all our faults.  We have allowed our electoral system to be perverted into something which selects, not the most competent, but the one who puts on the best show.

Mr. Obama did precisely what he needed to do to win the big prize: he, with the assistance of media sycophants, put on the best show of competence and leadership.  He gave us the 'ol soft shoe and we fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

Never mind that it was all a fake.  Never mind that, as the last article detailed, he never did anything real in any of his previous high-seeming positions.  Never mind, in fact, that virtually nobody in the entire Obama administration has ever created a single real job doing something real, productive and profitable.  It's no wonder they have no idea how it's done!

He did what we decided we wanted, to win at the game we helped create and have tolerated since the Kennedy administration.  Mr. Obama and his fellow elites are the ultimate example of the saying, "Give me perverse incentives, and do not be surprised when I act perversely."

How can we get out of this fix?  Replacing Mr. Obama is not enough; it's barely the first step.

In order for there to be any hope of recovery, for America to return to its former glory, we must change the incentives in such a way as to ensure that those who rise to the top actually belong there.

There's nothing wrong with the Constitution, with our system of elections, even with our party politics themselves.  What we must do is to demand substance and reality, and to instantly discard mere image with the harshest condemnation.

Our visual media has spent the last half-century building image up into the illusion of a substitute for reality.  The last four years have awakened many Americans to the scam; they now know they're being lied to and have been for a long time.

It's been observed for years that good people want nothing to do with politics.  This is because, for many years, we've not picked good people to be the politicians nor demanded that politicians be good.  This can all be changed by a change at the ballot box.

For the Presidency is still the most powerful office on earth, and people still desire it.  When We the People once again demand that Presidents, Congressman, Senators, judges, mayors, selectmen - heck, even dogcatchers - be honest, forthright, truly accomplished, effective, and genuine in their leadership - then, once again, they will be.

And not one moment before.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

You seem to have added two words "with pride" to the quote from Euripides. Did you make this up?
i can not find any citations for it.
Why not, "with indigestion", or "sciatica"? The two words do not advance your thesis about hubris. Why bother?

December 13, 2011 9:41 AM


I was intrigued by what you said and did some research.

You appear to be somewhat correct

The only other reference I could find is by a writer named William A. Taylor who mentions it in a book about A.I.

Direct link to the book with highlighted words:


December 13, 2011 9:49 AM

It's not like the Republicans would have done anything materially different (or even have suggested anything).

Both parties are only interested in rearranging the deck chairs while the ship is sinking.

December 13, 2011 11:05 AM

Inasmuch as it can be said to be the fault of the voters, that we have gotten the government we deserved (and not all of us deserved!), I have usually thought of the problem this way:

The great divide, if you will, is not between the 1% and the 99%, it is not between the haves or have nots, the left or the right, the reds and the greens, whatever else. Rather, it is a divide between those who can and those who can not tolerate in others the same freedoms they want for themselves. Smaller divisions exist around different questions - the freedom do use your money as you wish and to let others do the same; the freedom to go to bed with whomever you choose and let others do the same (with limitations concerning age, etc - this is also not a marriage question); the freedom to take or not take any substance you wish and to keep your hands off if another chooses a different path; the freedom to stay to the right and drive the speed limit or to hit the left lane and vanish in the distance, and of course let others do the same.

The difference between the parties as they exist today is that they cater to different varieties of people who will not tolerate freedoms guaranteed to others.

Democrats will happily encourage you to hit the sack with anything you wish - male, female, farm animal, children - and then encourage you to terminate any accidental pregnancies. They will beam proudly as you exercise your freedom to smoke various plants and to take frequent leave of your faculties. They will rejoice as a Mexican sneaks across the border and insist that it is his right to do so. But they will not tolerate your freedom to illuminate your house with whatever light bulbs you think fit, to give or not to give to charities as your conscience may direct, or to purchase and operate any vehicle you want.

For Republicans, reverse (in general) the above.

The chief reason I tend to vote R (and never D) is the question of money. With enough economic freedoms restored, I believe the other questions will largely begin to resolve themselves....but that's for another time.

December 13, 2011 1:53 PM

I was pleased to see that Petrarch put the blame where it belongs, on the voters. The problem now is that the people won't give up their entitlements.

Having identified the problem the solution is really quite simple. The question is the implementation of the solution. Will the American people stand for the solution? With half of the people on some entitlement or another I personally do not see a return to what made America the most powerful country in the world. If I am correct, and I hope I am not, then an implosion of our economic system is inevitable and we will then go one of two ways. Dictatorship or a revamped, pure capitalistic society. Time will tell.

As a side note, a solution and its problems by Petrarch would be appreciated. He has given a lot of thought and research to the malaise that we find ourselves in and I like solution type articles.

December 13, 2011 2:54 PM

Well, it's certainly gratifying to hear from readers who read, consider, and research so thoroughly. Regarding Euripides, I must admit to not being skilled in Attic Greek so I've no way to directly confirm the original quote, but a quick canvass of Google appears to indicate that you're right. "With pride" does speak directly to the theme of hubris - "hubris" being, more or less, a type of pride - but the provenance does look a little dicey, so we'll truncate the quote.

As far as solutions to the problem go, I've written on them in the past:


Alas, we get into the arena of political possibility and the Overton Window; we simply aren't in a place where the necessary changes can be made. Perhaps things still need to get even worse before they can get any better, perish the thought.

December 13, 2011 3:00 PM


You are so right about the deck chairs.

December 13, 2011 7:48 PM

@Hank - you're wrong, they're not even rearranging the deck chairs. They're busily figuring out new ways to steal more and more of our money. They don't even know we're in trouble. Why should they know - they aren't in trouble.

December 13, 2011 8:04 PM

You didn't cite Euripides with quote marks, so it's ok to change it. I don't think you should change what you wrote; put "pride" back in. You said "Attributed" and nobody knows what he really said, so it doesn't matter.

His point was that many leaders destroyed themselves over the years with various forms of madness. We know more about madness how than he did, so we can be more specific.

What madness made Napoleon think he could conquer Russia? The madness of pride - he thought he was an invincible military genius.

What madness made Hitler attack Yugoslavia before attacking Russia? The madness of wounded pride - the Yugos had insulted him or something.

Once he'd delayed a month or so messing around in Yugoslavia, what madness made der Fuehrer go into Russia with winter coming closer? The madness of pride - he thought he had even more military genius than Napoleon.

Euripides may not have been smart enough to realize just what the gods made men mad with, but in recent cases, what they're mad with is pride, nothing more, nothing less.

What madness makes Obama think that government can bring wealth when Mao, Chavez, Castro, Stalin, Roosevelt, Carter, and many others all failed? Pride.

It's pride that destroys.

Somebody said against stupidity the gods themselves content in vain. Hitler wasn't stupid, nor was Napoleon, nor Stalin, nor Mao. It had to be pride.

Put it back!

December 13, 2011 10:09 PM
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