Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.
-- Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Cleveland, July 2016 --
The elite? The elite? Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I´m smarter than they are. I´m richer than they are. I became president and they didn´t.
-- Donald Trump, Duluth, June 2018 --
There it is -- look no further.
He goes to sleep every night convinced that history will treasure every nose wipe.
The ancient Greeks identified Trump´s fatal flaw.
They named it ὕβρις -- hubris.
Wikipedia defines hubris as "extreme pride or self-confidence. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power."
Hubris is turning Donald Trump into a Greek tragedy.
And that means, a Greek tragedy for America.
* * *
Aristotle wrote that the indispensable element of tragedy is hamartia.
Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) has been alternatively translated as fatal flaw, frailty, sin, trespass, mistake, miscalculation, error of judgment. The problem is, the more the meaning of hamartia is investigated, the more its meaning slips away. That is always the case when a word refers to a phenomenon deeply rooted in the unconscious.
Scholars agree, however, that the most basic sense of hamartia is missing the mark.
Hamartia takes various forms, e.g., ignorance of one´s origins ("Oedipus") and obsessive love ("Othello"). Hubris, however, seems to be the most common hamartia. If hamartia is not always hubris, hubris is almost always hamartia.
Here is Aristotle´s celebrated quote on hamartia. Dramatists and critics around the world study it over and over:
"A perfect tragedy should...imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. It follows plainly, in the first place, that the change, of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear; it merely shocks us. Nor, again, that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Tragedy...it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless, satisfy the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear; for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. Such an event, therefore, will be neither pitiful nor terrible. There remains, then, the character between these two extremes,—that of a man who is not eminently good and just,-yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous...The change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but, reversely, from good to bad. It should come about as the result not of vice, but of some great error or frailty..."*
Almost every night Trump´s hamartia goes on worldwide display in his twitter-brained comments. He routinely (obsessive-compulsively?) insults and humiliates not only political opponents and the media but also private individuals, e.g., Robert De Nero is "a very low IQ individual." That is not standard practice among presidents, and for two good reasons:
(i) The average citizen will view such attacks as an abuse of power. He fears that if his president is free to humiliate anybody, the next target could be him or his family.
(ii) A president by definition represents a country; he represents all its people. If he threatens or insults a citizen, it follows that the president does not -- or at least, might not -- represent him. Now, if the person occupying the president´s chair does not represent one citizen, who else does he not represent?
A floodgate opens; a torrent of doubts and questions of legitimacy rushes in.
Insults are always a grave error, especially when made by political leaders. Machiavelli repeatedly warned against them:
"I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you."**
When a presidentl breaks the taboos -- Trump has broken a trainload of them -- accompanying power, if given the chance, the people will come down hard -- with both feet.
If given the chance...
* * *
I swear ´tis better to be much abus´d
Than but to know ít a little.
-- William Shakespeare, "Othello," Act III, Scene 3 --
Can Donald Trump learn? Can he get rid of his hamartia and start hitting the mark?
Or is his hamartia bigger than he is?
We know what the ancient Greeks would say.
Hubris is what is making Trump so full of holes a typical teenager can play him like a flute.
You just saw what Russia and North Korea and China already know, as well as why, how, and what they are doing about it.
Now you know it too.
*Aristotle, Poetics, Chapter 13.
**Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses, Book 2, Chapter XXVI. Contempt and insults engender hatred against those who indulge in them, without being of any advantage to them.