Pride and Politics

November 18, 2022

By Paul Malvern |

After a lifetime spent studying, observing and occasionally participating in politics and government, one of my main takeaways is that, no matter what the stated ideologies or lofty goals of our political and governmental masters, much of what drives these people flows from their own personal needs, motivations and brokenness.

And one of the most malignant of those drivers is pride.

While pride has figured prominently in human affairs throughout history, its damage to individuals and society has been noted by the great ethical and moral thinkers in every age. For example, the ancient Greeks considered hubris (as they called it) a major character flaw. As such it played a central role in many of their tragedies, demonstrating how the great and powerful are often destroyed by their inability to control their behaviour and emotions due to overweening pride. Christianity holds an equally gloomy view of pride, seeing it as the worst of all sins, since it is the great sin of Satan, who claims to be the equal of God. And both Jesus and the Old Testament prophets continually warned against succumbing to this sin, which if not resisted, destroys not only individuals but also nations and empires. Indeed, so spiritually deadly does Christianity consider pride to be that both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches offer Confession as a mechanism for whittling down adherents’ inflated egos, identifying problematic behaviour and attitudes, and providing sage advice as to how they can mend their ways. (It has been said that there are no ‘tough guys’ in the Confessional.) Recognizing the value of such an institution, some Evangelicals now offer “accountability partners or groups” that provide believers with people they can talk to honestly (that is, “confess”) about their sins and get help in correcting their behaviour.

In spite of such wise counsel, we humans continue to embrace pride, no doubt hoping that an exception to its dire consequences will be made in our own case – a tragic self-deception, given the damage it inflicts on every aspect of life and every institution, including religion, cultural and intellectual life, the media and even the family.

Donald Trump’s Greek Tragedy

But to fully appreciate just how negative pridefulness can be, we need look no further than the realm of politics and government – one excellent example being the recent churlish behaviour of former President Donald Trump who went out of his way to personally insult Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – whom he called “Ron Desanctimonious” - and Virginia Governor, Glenn Youngkin – whom he ridiculed for having a last name that sounded Chinese. Such gratuitous insults represent classic examples of Trump-speak which may in part explain why he failed to get re-elected. For while such jibes may sound clever in Trump’s head, they actually make him look petty and damage his image without providing any obvious gain.

So why would he do such a thing? The answer, I believe, can be summed up in two words, “hurt pride”.

To begin with, Trump is clearly smarting because a number of the candidates he promoted during the midterms did poorly and because the Republican Party, over which he currently has considerable influence, did not enjoy the “red tsunami” many had predicted. Which has caused some to blame Trump for the Party’s underperformance.

Perhaps more importantly, Youngkin and DeSantis are rising stars within the Republican Party – with DeSantis being touted as a possible presidential candidate in the 2024 election. Given Trump’s fragile ego, sharing the limelight with these two men is not an option. So, Trump does what he always does in such situations. He goes on the attack – and a vicious one at that.

This temptation to attack is strengthened by the seeming refusal of these two men to kowtow to him as he thinks they should. For he firmly believes that they owe their positions to him and the support he gave them. In short, they are ungrateful for his help and they deserve any abuse he hurls at them.

What he can’t see (possibly blinded by his wounded inner child) is that none of this acting out is going to get him what he wants. For it won’t improve his chances of being elected in 2024. Nor will his verbal abuse hurled at DeSantis and Youngkin hurt them, but may rather help them since they will be seen as the innocent victims of a totally unfair unprovoked attack.

America’s Greek Tragedy

For those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, Trump’s current distress must seem like a gift from heaven. For in their eyes Trump is a stupid and evil man who threatens everything they hold dear. So, he deserves everything he gets. And more.

But for those not afflicted by this terrible Syndrome, Trump’s woes seem more like a Greek tragedy unfolding before their eyes – a tragedy made more poignant by its terrible inevitability.

Worse yet, it is increasingly clear that this tragedy is not really about Trump who is just a bit player in a larger drama in which America itself is the lead actor. For only a fool could fail to see that the United States is in a sharp decline – in part because of its moral failings and a widespread belief among its leaders and many of its citizens that its great wealth and military power allow them to do anything they want with absolutely no consequences. The error of this delusional thinking has become painfully obvious over the last two years as the Biden Administration has given new meaning to the word “incompetence”. Which has caused some to yearn for the “good old days” of the Trump era when the economy was booming, minority hiring was at record levels and you didn’t have to choose between filling up your car’s gas tank and paying your utility bills. And while it is true that we don’t have to put up with Trump’s mean Tweets anymore, the sad reality is that he has been replaced by a man who is clearly dementing and whose policies are damaging and dividing his country like never before. Which is evident from polls conducted in June 2022 which revealed that 85% of Americans believe their country is going in the wrong direction.

Pride Knows No Borders

Of course, Trump isn’t the first public figure to be blinded by pride and he won’t be the last. For pride does not recognize national boundaries. Nor does it afflict only some ideologies and groups while leaving others “simon-pure”. So, if Trump and America are in trouble because of their pride-driven foolishness, they clearly are in good company. Take, for example, social democratic Sweden which for many years has billed itself as a “humanitarian super power”. Acting on this rather flattering self-delusion, successive governments have crafted policies whose unintended consequences have resulted in the creation of “no-go zones” (aka “vulnerable areas”) in a number of Swedish cities characterised by drugs, violence and high levels of crime. Not surprisingly, the existence of no-go zones played a significant role in the recent political earthquake in that country – namely, the election of a conservative coalition government which includes the Swedish Democrats, a right-wing Party previously viewed by the political Establishment as being beyond the pale.

Equally prideful have been successive German governments – most notably that of recently retired Angela Merkel who opened her country’s borders in 2015 to a million unvetted third world refugees (many of them young single men) - with predictable results - and ordered the closing of Germany’s nuclear power stations in 2011 and their replacement by Russian natural gas and solar and wind power – also with predictable results.

Then there is the deadly pride of Russian Premier Vladimir Putin whose desire to establish himself in textbooks as the man who restored Russia to its imperial greatness has led to massive death and destruction in Ukraine as evidenced by an estimated 100,000 Russian military casualties, a similar number on the Ukrainian side, 40,000 civilian casualties, and as many as 30 million people having been forced to flee their homes. With no sign of this war ending any time soon, the carnage promises to rise even more.

And not to be ignored is Canada’s Justin Trudeau whose decisions over the last seven years clearly demonstrate what a pride-driven government looks like.

Take for instance his stubborn refusal to talk to members of the Truckers Convoy whom he saw as beneath him - they supposedly being homophobic, trans-phobic, misogynists and racists. Or his “holier-than-thou” scapegoating of the unvaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic whom he claimed “don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist”. And what of his attacks on the oil and gas industry and his ever-increasing carbon taxes which raise the price to consumers of gasoline and heating oil? Or his call for 30% cuts to fertilizer emissions by 2030 which farmers say could threaten Canada’s food supply? All because he knows better than us.

And finally, what of the overwhelming pridefulness of global elites who think there are too many of us on Planet Earth and who seek ways of solving that problem by reducing the number of babies who are conceived and make it alive through the birth canal? And who seem determined to make life miserable for us by some “Great Reset” which will radically alter how we are governed, how we live and work, and, more disturbingly, what we eat – as seen by suggestions that it might be a good idea to replace meat in our diet by insects. Perhaps most ominous was the prediction contained in a 2018 WEF video which stated that “you will own nothing and be happy”.

All Is Not Lost

Even so, all is not lost. For the Universe does have a mechanism in place to deal with pride – as seen by Greek Tragedies and the human history that has followed them by way of confirmation. For time and again many great and powerful individuals, institutions, nations and empires have come crashing down due to their overweening pride. Thus, proving that there is indeed justice in the universe.

The problem is that there is often enormous collateral damage along the way. So, the trick is to survive the mess that powerful people create through their wilfulness while at the same time ensuring that our lives and the lives of those close to us are not damaged by our own pridefulness. One way to do this is by seeking the truth – for example, by refusing to accept unquestioningly what others say (especially those in positions of authority who have their own agendas), by resisting the pressure to blindly conform, and by refusing to lie to ourselves about who we are and why we are doing things. For as Jesus of Nazareth so rightly notes, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”.

But doing this will be hard since the forces that seek to keep us from the truth are strong, and their control over information via the mainstream media and education system is so powerful that barring some unusual event our only hope for enlightenment and change at the national level is some sort of spiritual revival. For as Gordon Lightfoot says in his song, The Pride of Man:
"And only God can lead his people
Back into the Earth again
Thy holy mountain be restored
Have mercy on thy people Lord."
In the meantime, we struggle on, not worrying about the pridefulness of people like Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau. But rather doing our best to address our own problem with pride – knowing that, as hard as this is, it is well worth the effort. For it is vital if our relationships with those around us – including our families – are to be happy, fulfilling, and peaceful.

Image Credit: Nikiforos Lytras, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, Nikiforos Lytras’ depiction of Antigone and Polynices, 1854. National Gallery, Athens. | Ancient Greek Story of Antigone Warns Against Sin of Pride

Category: ,
We provide commentary on the cultural decline of the Western world, from a conservative perspective.