”The effects which follow on too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade not for God…but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better but leave it either as it is, or even perceptibly worse than it was, before the crusade began.” - The Devils of Loudon, Aldous Huxley
There is no light on human nature more pitiless and perceptive and accurate than mythology. Through hundreds if not thousands of years all the dross was burned away, leaving some very acute observations about the human condition.
Unfortunately mythology is not taught in schools or the churches or by parents. Too bad, since there is wisdom in these stories, wisdom that doesn’t exist at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, places that produce “the Best and Brightest” now busy destroying the United States.
The ancient Greeks outlined this sequence: Koros to Hubris to Ate to Nemesis. They argued about what exactly each word meant. Scholars still argue today. To me, to understand it, just look around at modern society.
I’ve heard Koros described as a kind of greed -- and had those ancient Greeks been Christian, they would have called it one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I’ve also heard Koros described as what happens to people of unsound character when they gain great wealth and power (meaning, more than anything else, political power, which ultimately is the power to “legally” kill people).
Examples (which are another name for stories) work best. Dubya Shrub, who started two unnecessary wars, has an unsound character. An alcoholic who was never treated for it (which makes him a dry drunk), who is brain-damaged by that alcoholism, along with past heavy cocaine use, who never had a job in his life, who was (is?) on psychiatric medication, who believes he is a Christian who is “saved” and believes he was chosen by God to be President (which reminds of the “Divine Right” of European kings – which the U.S. was founded to get away from).
To use just our last three Presidents (Obama, Bush and Clinton) as examples, they are portraits of what Friedrich Hayek meant when he wrote his famous article, “Why the Worst Get on Top.” It’s also why the Founding Fathers were opposed to the leftist delusion of “democracy” – again, the worst get on top.
A man or woman, a weakling of unstable character, who gains great wealth and political power, then next suffers from Hubris -- another name for the towering, grandiose Pride that afflicted Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost (as I’ve mentioned, I prefer the term, “the Monstrous Self”).
Hubris is arrogance, moral blindness, wanton violence, which creates in the afflicted the ability to cruelly and brutally humiliate people without any qualms whatsoever – the way Herod and Caligula and other human monsters did. They always rationalize as a necessary thing how even the innocent suffer terribly, which is why there exists the ironic observation (which both Jesus and Aesop noticed) that all tyrants call themselves benefactors.
The Greeks, with their usual intelligence and perspicacity, banned representations of brutal public humiliation from their theater as obscene – and the original definition of obscene meant something that should not be shown in public.
Not so surprisingly, the root words of “obscene” and “humiliation” both mean “dirt” – to treat someone as dirt. Humiliation also means “to mortify,” which means to “make dead,” not necessarily physically dead, but worse, dead in psyche, as in the walking dead – zombie or vampire, which is how those whose souls have been murdered by vicious humiliations describe themselves.
I am reminded of the sociologist C. Wright Mills when he wrote about what he called “crackpot realists” -- fools who are convinced they know what they are doing but don’t, and instead destroy in their attempts to save. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were fine specimens of that.
Seeing wrong as right is Ate -- madness. When a politician starts unnecessary wars in which they become even richer (again, the greed of Koros), in which tens of thousands of innocent people are killed and many more impoverished, and the instigators claim they had the “time of their lives” (as both Bush and Clinton said), that is Ate.
Shrub was far more arrogant than Clinton or Obama (he was, after all, referred to as Smirk). The more arrogance one shows, the more it is covering up feelings of humiliation. As the psychiatrist James Gilligan so perceptively wrote, “The most dangerous men in the world are the ones who are afraid they are wimps.”
It has been noticed for many years by many people that bullies cover up their cowardice with braggadocio – arrogance on top hiding their feelings of humiliation. When such people gain political power millions can die because of their attempts to replace shame with pride (Hitler had one testicle, Stalin had badly pocked skin, fused toes on one foot and a withered arm, LBJ escalated in Vietnam because he was afraid his critics would consider him “chicken” if he didn’t – and Dubya is an alcoholic and Chickenhawk coward who refused to fly in Vietnam).
Now we come to Nemesis. Nemesis is the goddess of fate and retribution. You can use many other names: revenge, vengeance and retaliation, payback, blowback…perhaps even justice. (As an aside, the Greeks called justice Dike and it exists because of the criminal acts created by Hubris.)
I find it significant that Nemesis means “fate.” That means cause-and-effect, although I believe it is more accurate to define it as a cybernetic system, specifically a positive feedback system: humiliation leads to revenge, then those who are the objects of revenge seek revenge in turn, and so in, an escalating spiral of death and destruction.
Humiliation doesn’t always have to lead to revenge, if the object of humiliation can maintain his or her innocence, as in such stories as “Cinderella” and the first Harry Potter novel (in both cases they are stories that illustrate the saying, “Living well is the best revenge”).
But when it comes to groups of people – ethnic groups, religions, nations – immunity to feelings of humiliation can never be maintained and revenge will always happen. Mobs cannot think, only feel; they never follow principles, only leaders, and they always fall for propaganda that portrays them as innocent victims and their opponents as evil, subhuman monsters bent on death and destruction.
Osama bin Laden said the Islamic countries in the Middle East had been humiliated by the U.S. for 80 years, and that the revenge of 9-11 was “a copy” of what the U.S. had done. Then the U.S. sought revenge for the humiliation of 9-11, and now those people the American government is killing in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting their revenge by killing our soldiers in return. Those who are blinded by political fanaticism cannot see this (because they perceive all political problems as Good versus Evil), and as long as they are deluded, they never will be able to see the truth of things.
In a nutshell, when you brutally humiliate people and make them suffer cruelly, and don’t even know you’re doing it, and instead of ending the suffering by not attacking them you see it as something good and necessary, you’re going to be pretty damned surprised when the people you are oppressing and exploiting and killing rise up and kill you back. You’ll be outraged and consider it ingratitude; they’ll consider it justice.
When unsound people (meaning about 80% of all politicians) get political power, they always seek to expand it. This is why the State throughout history has always expanded its power, always at the expense of people and society.
There have been quite a few people throughout history (Marcus Aurelius and Akbar the Great, for two) who have been able to handle political power. Unfortunately, Clinton, Shrub and Obama don’t belong to that admirable group. Those who consciously seek political power are avaricious, self-deluded weaklings and can never handle it properly.
As Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I prefer the sayings, “Power intoxicates and immunity corrupts,” and “Power is the horse that evil rides.”
As Dostoevsky put it in The House of the Dead, "Tyranny...finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."
The opposite of Hubris is humility, or what the Greeks called Sophrosyne. It can be described as “Nothing in excess” and “Know thyself,” meaning having a clear understanding of your character, your strengths and limitations. It means treating people with respect, not brutalizing and humiliating them, and when it comes to relations with other countries, to, as our Founding Fathers advised, trade with them but otherwise leave them alone.
Unfortunately, if you flunk history (which so far has always happened), you have to go through the whole mess again. The U.S., which has the whole of history before it, is ignoring all its successful lessons and is instead repeating all its failures.