Home Commentary Humility and hubris

Humility and hubris

Humility, said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, former Archbishop of Manila and now prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, is what’s needed in the new normal of the post-pandemic period.

The Vatican official lamented that COVID-19 has really fostered division in many parts of the world.

He pointed out that in the months since the public health crisis started, we now see “fighting and blaming,” and the “imposition of influence and power.”



While some people claim that the pandemic “has humbled humanity,” he said, “I think humility is not welcome in the new normal…. When will we learn?”

He concluded his homily with this: “Let us welcome the king who will come to us on a lowly donkey who will put to shame all the weapons, the arms of pride and domination, for that is not the true kingdom. The true kingdom is inaugurated by the humble one with the meek heart.”

Cardinal Tagle may well have been thinking of the situation in his country, where the diametrical opposite of humility appears to be what is now the norm among leaders.

Hubris is arrogance. In Greek tragedy, hubris is an excess of ambition or pride that ultimately leads to ruin.

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Hubris is when the highest elected official of the land, who should be the first to respect religious beliefs and sensitivities, relentlessly attacks the leaders of the Catholic Church in the country, including Cardinal Tagle himself, and accuses them of various wrongdoing out of spite because they have severely criticized his bloody war on drugs.

Hubris is when the same top official gloats over what he says is his success in dismantling the oligarchy in the country, when the very real fear is that he could be merely paving the way for his own set of cronies to take over those enterprises owned by big businessmen he accuses of making too much money at public expense.

Hubris is when the current government is dominated by former top military and police generals who have been plucked out of retirement because, according to the president, they don’t ask questions and simply obey his orders.

Hubris is when a top official haughtily dismisses the opinion of a retired Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on how to handle Chinese incursions on the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea and the audacity to tell one of the country’s best legal minds to refrain from commenting on security issues.

Hubris is when lawmakers gang up on a media conglomerate and accuse its management of a litany of sins, ignoring the certification by various government agencies that it had complied with laws on taxation, ownership, and citizenship of its chairman emeritus, and railroading the rejection of the 25-year renewal of its legislative franchise on dubious grounds.

Hubris is when the temporary government body tasked with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, headed by the Health department secretary but also dominated by former generals, draws up draconian lockdown rules without any public consultation whatsoever.

This body relies heavily on strict law enforcement, including the imposition of restrictions on mobility and public observance of health protocols, such as strict mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, and prohibition on mass gatherings, instead of directly helping health authorities in the testing and treatment of COVID-19 cases. This is a virtual military-civilian junta that puts the military solution in the forefront of solving the public health emergency.

Hubris is not a sign of strength, it is a sign of weakness.

Cardinal Tagle is right: we need leaders who would be humble enough to recognize their shortcomings and weaknesses, and be kind and compassionate towards those already suffering from dire economic circumstances resulting from an overextended lockdown that in turn is the end-product of an under-budgeted but overburdened health care system.

Humility, not an excess of ambition, pride and arrogance on the part of those who are supposed to lead the people, is what will allow this nation not only to survive but also to prevail over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ernesto M. Hilario writes on political and social justice issues for various publications in the Philippines. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.

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