Kings and Hubris

There once was a king much loved by his people. His Grandfather, who reigned over the people for 55 years, and his father who reigned for only 2 years were murderous bastards, murderous brigands, worthless men. Where his father and grandfather had introduced pantheons of gods to the people, all of this alongside murderous propensities and killings of innocent people, this third generation king reduced number of gods to one only.

Whenever a kingdom is characterized by a pantheon of gods, with people choosing different gods for appeasement or worship, there always is bound to be confusion in human interactions. If Citizen A worships the sun god, and Citizen B worships the god of the sea, Citizens A and B can see each other as different, can be suspicious of each other. When a kingdom is characterized by only one god, turning of attention of everyone to one god introduces hegemony of the sort that binds people together, makes them feel they are one people — not many different people bound together within one kingdom.

While it did not work quite as well as he would have hoped, in the proclamation of Christianity to be official state religion, Constantine the Great , Emperor of Rome attempted such harmonization about 324 A.D. What today constitutes modern state of Germany was forged largely via formal adoption of Christianity by feudal kings and imposition of Christianity as state religion on the people. All of this from somewhat about 751 A.D. (just before Charlemagne) through 962 A.D, which was timing of coronation of Otto I. While such imposition in today’s civilization would be considered inappropriate and non-democratic, in those largely barbaric days, absent hegemony with respect to religious beliefs, forging of viable states was nigh impossible.

The decision by highlighted third generation king to reduce pantheon of gods to one only, to the very first god worshiped by the people worked like a charm. During all of the reign of this king, there was hegemony of sort never before experienced in course of interactions of the people with one another. There was a peacefulness and joy never experienced before, heights of peace and joy never deemed feasible. All because a king believed harmony between his people was important. This third generation king not only was kind and loving to his people, he also was a mighty warrior whom other kings in the region wisely chose not to engage with in war.

In ancient times, kings sometimes went to war believing the call to war was divine, was a tugging on their hearts by God. Somewhere along the line, there came along a powerful king from somewhat far away who felt inclined to impose discipline of war on some other king in vicinity of highlighted third generation king. The third generation king in question felt compelled to come to the assistance of his neighbor king. The invading king replied he had no business with this third generation king, swore by the God of the third generation king that he would not bother him, would not invade him, would do his business and leave without any incursions into territory of the third generation king.

Rather unfortunately, the third generation king in question would have none of it. He was a good king who had taken care of his people, his kingdom. He firmly believed his good character and warrior ability provided him with rationale to come to the aid of his neighboring kingdom, which in his opinion was about to be oppressed by invasion from another kingdom. The third generation king engaged in battle with the invading force, was killed. True to his word, the invading king never entered territory of this third generation king for pillaging or enslavement of people, simply turned around went back to his own kingdom.

It is clear to see that the third generation king gave in to hubris of good character and good intentions. Good intentions, however, are not substitutes for good thinking because the question is, “should a good king come to the aid of neighbor king who is oppressing his own people?

If a king is good to his own people, yet chooses to come to the aid of a neighbor king who is oppressing his own people he perpetuates suffering within another kingdom. It is hubris then for a king to come to defense of another merely because their kingdoms lie in close proximity to one another.

Hubris is one of the most dangerous outcomes of success at good stuff, or success at bad stuff. People who steal for pleasure and are good at it tend to develop hubris, eventually get caught. People who stop valuing others around them because they increasingly attribute all of their success to themselves eventually crash and burn.

Hubris that is outgrowth of success is perhaps the most dangerous pitfall whenever societies or civilizations enjoy growth, prosperity, success.

People who believe in God, and believe they are special to God sometimes engage in battles already abandoned by the God in whom they believe. While caught up in hubris of how special they are, they lose sight of the fact that their God has determined nothing good can come out of engagement in the specific battle in question. You see, if God truly exists there must be good purpose to His actions, else we might as well ignore Him and try to be god to ourselves. What good is there in honoring and worshiping a capricious god? A god who blesses you today only so he can yank it all away tomorrow? Is it not better to engage him or her in battle and die fighting? There is more certainty in knowledge of the fact that whatever it is you have you yanked from him, and he would have to fight his heart out to get it back. Like the Greeks would say (I paraphrase), “A good death is better than a life of ignominy.” This was the reason Sparta and eventually the rest of Greece refused to bow to Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes was not going to be satisfied with tribute in gold and leaving of the people alone, Artaxerxes desired to enslave. “A good death is better than a life of ignominy” is rationale for every righteous revolution which ever has occurred on face of this earth. Only in presence of a beneficent God does honoring of God as Creator have any meaning whatsoever.

But then I digress.

Watch out for hubris in your decisions, attitudes, choices, actions, beliefs, interactions with others. Hubris is not same as confidence. Hubris can be especially inferred whenever a person is aware of contradictions in their actions, yet chooses to proceed with course of action. Contradictions can be between beliefs and actions, right and wrong, evidence contrary to course of action, knowledge of how actions embarked on largely are detrimental to everyone except the decision maker etc.

The third generation king in this story? Disguised himself to go into battle, always a disgraceful ploy for a great king to employ. Clearly then the king was aware of contradictions in his actions, yet chose to proceed with set course of action. Many kings have lost their way in past to hubris, kings too many to mention. You would be wise to keep hubris at bay in spheres within which you, in your own little or great way, can be deemed a king, or a king in making.

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Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos