About hubris, nemesis – and gybing!
They slide easily off overcrowded bookshelves at our place – the books that seem to have all the answers. And they rarely fail.
So, I asked the house librarian to consult them.
The question: Is John Key taking a risk he will regret in being so dictatorial over the 308,000 signatures (one in 10 of eligible voters and 16,000 more than needed) on a request for a referendum on his controversial asset-selling plan?
He seems to have inherited a certainty that he always knows best and that his will is paramount.
More than that, he seems unwittingly to have inhaled some of that down-putting reflex which has so marked previous tenants of the Beehive suite.
Remember how those distinctive Muldoon features conveyed so totally his dismissal of any other view than his as having little merit, that half-smile and ridiculing response which branded opponents as people without judgment or intelligence, not worth his time or attention?
And almost certainly Greenies as well.
John Key has a ready smile when he rates his surroundings and those around him deserve such encouragement.
Much more potent is his halfsmile of disbelief which so often goes with a mild but clear rejection of some public policy proposal as not worth even the time he has allowed it. The ‘‘you’ve got to be joking’’ response.
We can expect more of this as the pressure mounts for him to allow a referendum vote on the sale or retention of national assets.
A well-judged opinion has come from a New Zealander with a background and opinion which should carry weight.
Former British Labour MP Bryan Gould has criticised John Key’s flat rejection of the 300,000-plus referendum votes cast on street corners and front doors of this country or in factory tea breaks or smoko.
Tens of thousands of Aucklanders are still indignant over the Key proposal to accept what is little more than a public bribe – the Government nodding its head and assuring SkyCity casino not only more habitforming pokies but also extending the company’s gambling licensing.
In return, SkyCity will build a $410 million convention centre so conveniently a dice throw away from its casino.
The deal smacks of more than a little familiar American pork barrel politics.
And it was opposed by, among others, the Auckland Council.
Link that partnership with the newly announced upgrading of Federal St with the $10m cost shared by the Auckland Council and a near neighbour. Who? SkyCity, of course. It will dig into its deep pockets and pay more than half of the cost.
It will be one of those interesting sharing of the street surface by pedestrians and traffic which sounds like a challenge for everyone.
Bryan Gould also links what he calls, with some justification, ‘‘the innocuous-sounding Trans-Pacific Partnership’’ where powerful US lobbyists want to rein in small nations like us in deals which are being shaped in secret, shared by the Key cabinet but not by the nation.
Bryan Gould predicts: ‘‘Overseas corporations will have greater legal rights against our government than does any New Zealand individual or company, and future New Zealand governments will not be able to change that position – even if they are elected to do so.’’ That’s a very worrying scenario. And what did the well-worn references from our bookshelves come up with? There’s that word ‘‘hubris’’. In modern usage, hubris denotes over-confident pride and arrogance. Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge.
Those accused of hubris often come from higher social backgrounds, such as politicians or wealthy celebrities.
There are warnings too. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in ancient Greek society.
The proverb ‘‘pride goeth (goes) before a fall’’ (from the biblical Book of Proverbs, 16:18) is thought to sum up the modern use of hubris.
It is also referred to as ‘‘pride that blinds’’, as it often causes one accused of hubris to act in foolish ways that belie commonsense.
Nemesis in Greek mythology is a spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris.
There are, of course, some people either in politics or as political journalists, who think and say that the whole referendum business was an originally faulty concept which produces equally hazardous outcomes.
But people sign referendums in good faith and trust that their voice will be heard.
True confession time. You may remember me venting about the enormous costs of 21st century America’s Cup racing which has sweet-talked the Government to pass over $36 million of taxpayers’ money to keep the nation’s best in the hunt on San Francisco Bay.
I also called for a return to the great days when New Zealand names gave their all and won in craft that looked like real sailing vessels and so on. Very emotive it was. Just as well I didn’t say that noone with any sense of history would watch high-speed contraptions doing whatever they might do, crewed by hard-hatted images out of Star Wars, etc.
Then, what did I do on Sunday morning? I watched the America’s Cup races and recognised – after the cheating and back-stabbing – great skills and courage.
So, the person who had once marvelled at the sight of crewmen out on the trapeze of . . . what was it, 18-footers? – and was never in a yacht in his life – quickly became an expert on gybing and the like.
I remembered too a French general watching the historic Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea and who summed up: ‘‘It is magnificent – but it isn’t war!’’
What we are watching so avidly this week is magnificent but it certainly isn’t yachting as we once knew it. Who cares? Gotta go – the next race is just starting. In the mailbag: ‘‘Valerie Davies is right. Yes, we need a child-friendly society.
‘‘But we also need a society that allows its fathers, teachers and such men to show their love and caring for children, including girls, without treating them as abusers or accusing them of grooming for sexual abuse.
‘‘Two or three decades ago there was a popular slogan: ‘Have you given a hug today?’ It has gone because a hug could be child abuse.
‘‘Cuddles – it’s a lovely word. Perhaps if abusers had been given cuddles and hugs when they were children they would know how to pass on their love to their children rather than abuse.’’
– N P Dobbs, Otahuhu