HUBRIS and its companion,  LITOST

Radio 4 had an excellent item on hubris today, exploring how the mighty and self important people of the world;  those with an unshakeable belief and confidence in themselves and their power,  create empires, structures and monuments to their own pride.    Sadat’s statue, Trump Tower, Nicolae Ceausescu’s palace, a referendum that you rashly believe will give you the result you want; these are outstanding monuments to hubris, and are doomed to fail in the end.  Their enemies rejoice at this, naturally.  Looking at this from another viewpoint, the hubris that needs to create this personal empire is often that of a person with basic insecurity and a need to control his environment. I say ‘his’ because although I can think of a few females exhibiting hubris, there aren’t many. Imelda Marcos springs to mind, but that’s all. 

Pride goes before a fall, the old saying tells us, and like Ozymandias’ statue, ruined parts may be all that’s left, as ‘the lone and level sands stretch far away’  into the future. Then we are left with a mess, a mess of sort-of -academy schools, sort-of-High Speed Rail proposals, sort-of- energy solutions.

LITOST comes when the the crash comes. It’s a Czech word for the feeling you have when a miserable, shaming loss of face is experienced when plans go badly wrong.  We experience it at second hand when we witness a powerful world leader being made to account for his actions in The Hague, or leaving Downing Street in a hurry. It’s not pleasant to witness, even taking into account what the Germans call Schadenfreude, or pleasure in another’s downfall. But it’s human.

Loss of face and shame have to be carefully handled, I believe, since they accompany emotions of loss, anger and a desire for revenge. How you treat your enemies may be more important than how you treat your friends in the long run.

Something to ponder on there.

You may also like

Bill Milner
Remembering Bill Milner, poet missed in Market Drayton
Buzzard Flying
Voice Past
Voice from the past – neglected poet – James Elroy Flecker
Working Type.
Playing with Words

Leave a Reply