Tag Archives: hubris

Comment Of The Day: “The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord”

Nemisis pursues an arrogant mortal…

Here is slickwilly’s reflection on the breakdown of systems, human error, hubris and nemisis in his Comment of the Day on the post,The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord:

The O ring failure had a great impact on young slickwilly, who was home on a rare sick day and watched the shuttle blow up live. The information that later came out made it clear that launching spaceships was fraught with danger, as there were so many things that could go wrong in such a complex system it was a wonder they ALL did not blow up.

My first and only brush with ethics (engineering: make sure the bridge does not fall down) was greatly reinforced by memories of that Shuttle disaster. (I still get chills when I think of the radio message “Roger, go with throttle up” which preceded that explosion.

The definition of hubris is “excessive pride or self-confidence” and comes from Greek Tragedy’s  “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to Nemesis.” (NOTE: Nemisis was the vengeful Greek god who destroyed mortals guilty of hubris.)

Hubris caused the Shuttle tragedy. NASA (and their contractors) became complacent, and allowed less important considerations (like flight schedules, politics, and mission timelines) overcome important items like launch protocols and safety. Continue reading

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The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord

As you may have noticed, your host has been involuntarily separated from Ethics Alarms for about 24 hours. Several things occurred that under normal circumstances would have had me dashing off a post while waiting for flights or preparing to check out of my hotel—and there were definitely several comments that had me reaching for a phantom keyboard—but I was without laptop, thanks to leaving the power cord behind in my previous hotel.

So I have a little story to tell. I stayed at a decent Boston hotel last night, not a 4 star hotel like the one I just left  in Atlanta (The Four Seasons), but a nice one, professionally run, dependable. Yet this morning this was my wake-up call, via recording:

“It’s 7 AM. This is your wake-up call for March 8, 2018.”

Almost at the same time, David Hogg was on CNN, explaining how darned easy it was to create a system that would prevent school shootings forevermore.

Wrong. Systems break down, you experience-free, arrogant, disrespectful, know-nothing puppet.  The belief that human beings can devise systems that will solve every problem, or any problem, and do what they are designed to do without failing miserably at the worst possible times and in the worst imaginable ways is signature significance for a fool, or a child. O-Rings fail. Police don’t act on warnings that a kid is violent. Obamacare raises health care premiums.  Political parties end up nominating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Jack Ruby breaks past police security. Communism ends up killing hundreds of millions rather than creating a worker paradise. The Titanic hits the wrong iceberg exactly where it’s weakest. Hitler takes a sleeping pill during the Normandy invasion.

The T-Rex gets loose. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

Good morning…

1 “And the survey says…! The results of the polls in yesterday’s 1/10 warm-up (so far) are..

  • Chris Christie is the leader in the “most hubris” poll, with 38.53% of the vote, but its pretty close. I’m pretty sure “All of them” would be leading if I had included it.

(I voted for Steve Bannon.)

  • 50% voted that journalist interviewers should be trained to recognize and flag invalid rationalizations.

A solid second was the choice, “They couldn’t do it objectively,” at 43%

  • By a 2-1 ratio over either of the other choices, over 50% believe that Plan E, the 25th Amendment removal plot, should be thoroughly discredited but the news media won’t let it go.

2. I also worry about Bobby DarinYesterday’s lament about declining cultural literacy and how movie artists that we should remember for our society’s enlightenment, perspective and inspiration are increasingly falling into a dark memory hole is relevant to a current development on Broadway: “The Bobby Darin Story” will kick off the new “Lyrics” season from January. 20 to 22, with rising star Jonathan Groff as Darin. Bobby Darin, one of my favorite performers and an unusually versatile and eclectic one, died before he was 40 and just barely hangs on in the culture now, thanks to his classic recording of “Mack the Knife.” (Also this month, the jukebox musical about Darin, “Dream Lover,” opened in Sydney.) Everything about Darin has been unlucky, his bad fortune culminating in the weird 2004 biopic that starred Kevin Spacey as Bobby. The movie was a bomb, and Spacey’s ugly fall guarantees that the film will be seen  by future generations about as often as Annette in”Muscle Beach Party.” As the Cary Grant post noted, sometimes all it takes is a vivid reference to rescue a lost life of note.

Darin’s own lost life is itself an ethics thought experiment. He knew at a young age that he was not going to live long, because he had an irreparably damaged heart. His response was to be furiously creative and to live life at a mad and reckless pace. The new show’s director says, “He lived a gritty, driven life. He hurt people along the way and people hurt him.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2018: All Poll Edition [Updated and Corrected]

Good Morning, everybody.

1 The ancient Greeks in my family were pleased. Yesterday could be used in public schools to teach the concept of hubris. I doubt that public schools teach concepts like hubris, unfortunately. (I doubt that most public school teachers could explain hubris.) For in a single day..

  • We saw Steve Bannon dismissed from his kingdom, right-wing propaganda organ Breitbart.
  • We learned that Joe Arpaaio, who is only not facing prison time because of a generous pardon frm President Trump, and who lost his latest election for sheriff, and who is 85-years-old, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.
  • NJ Governor Chris Christie gave his farewell address, celebrating himself. Earlier this week he said that he would be President today if not for Donald Trump.

2. “What’s done is done.” Yesterday, a Democratic mouthpiece who sounded like Kristin Chenoweth on speed (looked like her too) was confronted with videotapes of the last two Democratic Presidents swearing that they were committed to strengthening the borders and enforcing immigration laws. “We are a nation of immigrants,” intoned Bill Clinton. “We are also a nation of laws.”

“What’s done is done,” blathered ‘Kristin.’

This is the unethical rationalization known on the Ethics Alarms list as #51 . The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past”: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Megyn Kelly, William Saroyan, Ethics, Me, And Us: A Rueful Essay” (#1)

My post over the weekend, one long in germination, regarding the personal and societal dilemma of balancing one’s duty to oneself, one’s duty to be useful  and the infuriating hard-wired human tendency to always seek something different and better, received a gratifying response and at least two Comments of the Day.

This is the first, by frequent COTD auteur Extradimensional Cephalopod, is a marvelous supplement to my post, and I wish I had written it myself, except I couldn’t have.

Here is EC’s Comment of the Day on the post, Megyn Kelly, William Saroyan, Ethics, Me, And Us: A Rueful Essay:

One of the central principles of Buddhism is “life is suffering”. Clarified, it means that conscious beings inherently have some concept of how they want the world to be that is different from how it actually is. Alternatively, if the world is already how they want it to be, either the chaos in the world will bring it out of alignment with their desires, or they will eventually become dissatisfied as their minds develop further. This is what the bartender in Saroyan’s story is referring to. It’s the existential condition; “condemned to be free”, as Sartre put it.

Having studied desire and motivation from an existential point of view, I’ve codified eight motivations that lead people to form goals. They are based on three dichotomies: experience versus control, greater and lesser quantity, and order versus chaos.

Greed/ambition: the desire for more control or more accomplishment (acquiring more possessions or becoming more important).
Gluttony/celebration: the desire for more of an experience (greater intensities or more constant access).
Wrath/boldness: the desire to break through limits by exerting control (disregarding rules or doing the impossible).
Lust/curiosity: the desire to remove limits on one’s experiences (experiencing the unknown).
Hubris/scrupulousness: the desire to impose limits through one’s control (absolute, perfect control over something).
Envy/dedication: the desire to impose limits on one’s experiences (obsession or tunnel vision).
Sloth/contentment: the desire to have less control (having responsibility or having to pay less attention).
Cowardice/prudence: the desire to have less of an experience (avoiding pain or discomfort). Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/9/17

GOOD MORNING!

1. The Pope gave an interview saying, in Italian of course, that the United States of America, which he offensively grouped with Russia, China, North Korea and Syria, have “a distorted vision of the world.”

The Pope, who has spent the bulk of his adult life seeing the world through the narrowly focused lense of the Catholic Church, and who hails from a South American leftist state, thinks that the United States has a distorted view of the world. Wow. Besides the stunning hubris of this pronouncement, the Pope is engaging in an abuse of position and influence, and a remarkably short-sighted one. If he wants to exercise any influence at all over citizens of the world who have not been indoctrinate since childhood to regard him as a godly sage by virtue of a secret political vote by a bunch of superannuated Cardinals, he has to earn credibility by the evident quality of the statements he makes. Later on, in the same interview, the Pope made it clear that his  undistorted vision of the world involves endorsing open borders.

I think the Pope has a distorted view of the trustworthiness of celibate men who have access to young boys, so I really couldn’t care less what he thinks about U.S. policies when he can’t objectively and responsibly process the terrible realities in his own organization.

2. I’ve been reading and  listening to sportswriters since I was ten, and I have to say that I have little respect for the critical thinking skills of most of them. I was gobsmacked by an example of why this morning, as Steve Buckley, a long-time baseball reporter for the Hub’s #2 paper The Boston Herald, opined in a virtue-signaling mess of a column that “War heroes, not David Ortiz, deserve streets named after them.” David Ortiz, in case you live in a fallout shelter, is the recently retired iconic slugger of the Boston Red Sox. The team recently retired his number, and in a related honor, the city of Boston re-named a small street near the park after him. It had earlier named one of the many bridges in the city after him.

“We should reserve the streets, the corners, the squares, the playgrounds, to remember the men and women who died serving our country.” Buckley writes. Why? He never really gives a reason, he just tells us that this is the way it should be.  Why are the veterans who die in military service more honor-worthy than those who risked their lives but survived? Since when are society’s only real heroes military heroes? Is he a time-traveler from Ancient Sparta? Do contributions to society during peacetime or on the home front matter less to a community than what happens on a foreign battlefield?

What about fallen police officers and fire fighters? Not worth a street name? Philanthropists, inventors and innovators who made life better for all, launched businesses, created jobs, helped families and neighborhood thrive—these don’t warrant a little bit of  local immortality?  David Ortiz made millions of people happy. In a racially divided city, Ortiz, a black man, became the face of Boston sports, at least for those who were nauseated by Tom Brady’s smug countenance.  That was as important as his clutch home runs. Trivializing Ortiz’s contributions to Boston (the relationship of Bostonians to their infuriating baseball team is too complex to explain quickly to anyone who hasn’t been part of it) is trivializing the importance of entertainment and popular culture, which is nothing short of ignorant, especially in the United States. In the District of Columbia, a school is named after Duke Ellington. Good. In Los Angeles, for decades until California leftists finally removed it, a major airport was named after John Wayne. Excellent. And in Boston, the largest tunnel is named after Ted Williams, but maybe Buckley thinks that’s OK because Williams was a combat flier in two wars. (Pssst! Ted’s tunnel isn’t bearing his name because he crash-landed that jet, Steve!)

As a society and a species, we have a duty to remember those who have contributed to the culture we enjoy. There aren’t enough streets, schools, bridges and parks to honor them all, but they all deserve to be honored. Continue reading

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“The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral”? Only If You’re In Denial, Mr. Chait!

That should be "lessons," plural...

That should be “lessons,” plural...

The many outbursts of  liberal anger, resentment, accusations and denial over the election have been revealing, and not in a good way. Few have been as directly and stubbornly misguided and biased, however, as the current New York Magazine article by Jonathan Chait, with the clickbait title, “The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral.”

It is, in essence, yet another example of Democrats attempting to argue away any accountability for their own misfortune, making Chait’s piece itself a denial of several moral lessons, such as “I am the architect of my own destiny,” “Take responsibility for your failures,” and “Don’t blame others for your own mistakes.” The post-election progressive freak-out, of which Chait is a part, also has a very important moral lesson in store, the one embodied in the Serenity Prayer authored by theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the  courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Clearly, this moral lesson is completely elusive, with pointless recounts underway supported by the Clinton campaign; round the clock complaining about the Electoral College, part of the 225 year-old rules of the game the Democrats accepted when they ran a candidate in the election; unethical and futile attempts intimidate electors or convince them to violate their vows;  embarrassingly infantile laments and near-breakdowns of whining students on college campuses,; and “Not My President!” protests and riots.

The lessons are there to learn, Jonathan, you just don’t want to learn them. He actually writes—and if this isn’t denial, I don’t know what is, “It is hard to think of an election defeat more singularly absent of important lessons.”  What??? To the contrary, it is hard to think of an election that taught more important lessons than this one. Continue reading

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