The Age of Arrogance

Will our time mark the end of hubris?

In an age in which arrogance is accepted as standard behavior rather than rejected as excessive, hubris has vanished. Originally a Greek term for a fatal character flaw, usually of overweening pride, hubris was a sin against the gods, and usually led to tragic actions, a downfall due to over-reaching, and often to death. 

Arrogance and instant gratification

A doctor once told me that the basic difficulty with his patients was their arrogant demand to be given a pill that would instantly make their medical problem disappear. 

 Were they not taught to delay gratification? I was, and so were you. 

Group pride, beneficial or detrimental

Part 5

I’ve been writing about a continuum of pride with arrogance at one far end and great humility at the other. An earlier column discussed individual pride in that context. 

There is also group pride. Even the Amish, who aim at humility, have group pride — based on their belief that they are on the right path while others who do not share their particular beliefs are not.

Truth-telling and representational democracy

All democratically elected presidents lie to the public now and then, some more frequently than others. But all autocratic leaders lie to the public all the time and every time, believing that telling the truth never benefits them. 

Our Founding Fathers had a sense that truth and democracy were irrevocably intertwined, that embracing honesty and truthful communications to the public was at the heart of what they referred to as republicanism. 

The pitfalls of arrogance and pride

Part 4

Imagine a continuum of pride, with extreme arrogance at one end and abject humility at the other. I’ll be examining this continuum in this and the next several columns. 

As examples of arrogance proliferate, the continuum is being continually extended further in that direction. But the other end, that of humility, is shrinking, as examples of abject humility become harder to find — humility is out of fashion, and those who aspire to humility don’t trumpet it. 

Of pharaohs, wealth, lies and a larger bullhorn

Part 3

A main reason for our individual and collective arrogance is our individual and collective wealth. 

The contemporary human need to ‘be somebody’

• “Arrogance is aggressive presumption.” 

• “Arrogance is an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.” 

• “Arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” 

Part 2

None of these contemporary definitions satisfies me.