Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Hubristic 2005. And '06 Isn't Looking So Hot Either

For the past five years or so, the San Francisco Chronicle has chosen a word of the year. Usually, it's the year's buzzword, like metrosexual or red-state. This year, however, in a highly editorialized decision, the Chron chose (well, readers chose, ish) hubris the word for 2005.

Seems a bit hopeful, doesn't it? Premature?

In a related article appearing today, a Chron writer looks at the ways in which 2005 humbled America. Major cities destroyed, the President getting nabbed for his mistakes (hahaha, yeah, I can't keep a straight face on that either - he hasn't really been taken down yet at all), Schwarzenegger getting the snot kicked out of him on his foolish special election.

But it seems a bit, well, hubristic to see Katrina as a divinely delivered comeuppance. And while the second Chron piece describes a swaggering Bush slipping on political banana peels, he hasn't really tumbled enough to learn anything, has he? There no sufficiently Greecian end in sight to the luckiest political bastard ever to walk the earth. The only place this guy falls is up.

Schwarzenegger may be a good example of hurbis in action, but I'll feel confident about that only when his ass is drummed out of office in November (much more satisfying than if he bags out of the race completely and talks himself into a false nobility).

Hubris means overbearing pride or presumption. Arrogance. From what I recall, however, the result of hubrisic behavior was always really, really . . . uh, bad. (It's early on New Year's Day - you want erudite? You're probably on the wrong blog). Blindings, the burning of cities, dealing with the guilt of slaying one or both of your parents, stuff like that.

I don't want the United States to be punished - I'm generally against blindings, slaying, mayhem, etc - and I do think we're hubristic in the extreme these days. But identifying 2005 as the year of "hubris" implies somehow that we've moved past such behavior. Identifying hubris requires distance, doesn't it?

There are glimmers of hope. Katrina coverage evidenced journalists willing to report and analyze once they - and we - realized that the government's talking points were coming straight out of official asses.

Was 2004 the year of bravado and 2005 the year of comeuppance, as the article claims? Are we all just misuing an otherwise useful word? Probably. But patting ourselves on the back for lessons learned might be our latest expertly exhibited hubris.

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