So many great words come from Greek origins.
Hubris. That’s a really good one.
We tend to associate it with pride and arrogance- with the suggestion that neither are remotely warranted. In ancient Greece acting against the laws regulating hubris could get you brought up on serious charges. Why? Because such violations persecuted someone else. They were more than the act of displaying (illegitimate) overestimations of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities in manner that is completely disconnected from reality. Hubristic acts messed with the freedoms and honour of others.
In a society in which the concepts of honour and shame were a presiding reality, a person’s honour was tied up in all things- identity, familial connections, business transactions. Every aspect of life was connected with the maintenance of the honour that was afforded by one’s station in life (however highfalutin or lowly that status may have been). Likewise, shame (usually associated with the women in the family) was tied into the fabric of societal interaction. To interfere with this balance was to create societal discord- not something that the authorities were all that enthusiastic about.
Hubris, in ancient Greece, was a crime perpetuated by humans against other humans. The gods were not accused of hubris, and did not punish those who were guilty of the extremity of arrogance and sense of entitlement. They left it up to us humans to figure out the penalties for that particular crime ourselves.
Whether or not one believes in any sort of divine justice or theodicy (I don’t, for the record), hubris is a transgression that must be handled by us. And it must be done immediately in order to prevent further damage. Although we may not live in a society in which the dynamics of honour and shame are a ruling focus, it’s past time we took steps to restore some honour to the offices of our political leaders who have shamed us all in their unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions. Or inaction, as the case may be. We should no longer have to be ashamed of the actions of another- even if that shame is hardly the point. There are far more serious things at play here than being the continuing source for late night talk show jokers (as apt and clever as they may be).
I’ve read a number of editorials lately that talk about Toronto and its transformation from a town in which the ‘old, white elite’ looked to maintain the status quo while sitting in their urban enclosures (our affluent downtown neighbourhoods), as they always have done, into a truly amalgamated mega-city that offers all things to all people. This has been the perception– both at home and on the international stage. There is tension between the city and the suburbs, for sure.
This guy was duly elected as a reactionary response to some of these things. Even though it was the WRONG thing to do, I get that there were those who thought his claims and promises were the right thing for the city. I also get that there is (currently) no apparatus in our system of municipal government that permits the removal- against his will- of someone who was elected to the post.
Therefore, short of higher intervention (from the provincial government- not a deity), it is up to the person in question to truly accept responsibility for his actions and words and step down.
That isn’t looking like it will happen.
He says he’s going to continue doing the job he was elected to do. He loves his job. Good for him. We should all be so lucky to have a job that we love. I don’t- yet I get up every day and go in and do the best I can to fulfill my responsibilities so the bills get paid.
In his case, what’s not to love? Rolling into work at noon, leaving meetings to coach a football team (although he doesn’t do that any more- at the request of said team), having a grand old time at public events, travelling to exotic locales (if Chicago and Austin may be deemed as such) as the city’s representative, being able to blow off major city events (Pride for e.g.) to head to the family cottage, having a staff that seems willing to put up with never ending demands that have little (if anything) to do with his actual role as Chief Magistrate, spouting off ad nauseam on a weekly radio show (although that has also stopped), throwing expensive barbeques that allow his ‘Nation’ to feed his narcissistic personality… and all this, while pulling down something like $170K/year.
Narcissist. There’s another great word, again, inherited from the Greeks. Its root, the Greek word ναρκη (narke) meaning ‘sleep’ or ‘numbness’, is also the root of the word narcotic (coincidence? I think not). Narcissus, the mythological character who is the poster child for this particular pathology, was self-fixated to such an extent that it led his own destruction.
Is any of this sounding familiar? I’m certainly no psychologist, but that Oracle of All Information (the Wikipedia) defines narcissistic personality disorder as ‘a personality disorder in which one is excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.’
I’m sick of thinking about these things. Yet I realize that fatigue of this nature is what allows people in power- especially those who are abusing that power- to remain where they are. While one might feel as though there is no point in continuing to talk about things like vulgarity, consorting with criminals, criminal behaviours, extreme lapses in judgement, bullying of employees, misuse of common funds (just pulling random examples from no particular source)… it is part of our responsibility as vigilant citizens of this world to do so.
He seems completely and pathologically unaware that the right thing to do is to step down and get the help he needs. Or not. Whatever personal stuff he is dealing with is absolutely within his province to either address or let fester. But he does NOT get to force the rest of us to continue in this spiralling fall with him. By all accounts and actions thus far demonstrated, he is incapable of understanding that this is not about HIM. It is about what is best for this city he claims to love. It is about the needs of all of us who call Toronto home. Regardless of what he wants.
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need
And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
Sing it, Mick.