I learnt a brand new word over the holiday, linked to the David Blunkett story. He was repeatedly accused of behaving with hubris. This word of Greek origin is often used in conjonction with Greek tragedy, to describe the attitude of a character who believes to be above the Gods and shows extreme arrogance. Oedipus (for constantly questioning the gods and the oracle of Delphi) and Antigone (for insisting her brother must be buried when religious and political authorities have decided he should remain where he is) are famous examples of characters demonstrating hubris, an attitude which leads to their destruction. Aldous Huxley said: “The Greeks knew very well that hubris against the essentially divine order of Nature would be followed by its appropriate nemesis”.
So what did David Blunkett, former Home Secretary, do to deserve to be in such illustrious company? He used his position to help his lover’s nanny get a visa, then had to resign following public outcry. Perhaps not quite in the same league as a Greek hero.
The comments in the French press were really interesting, all the articles I read agreeing on the fact that if this had happened in France, no one would have batted an eyelid. According to Libération, it is “Une pure comédie «people», comme seule la Grande-Bretagne sait en concocter. Un drame personnel qui s’est transformé en affaire d’Etat, au nom de trois ou quatre fautes de conduite qui ne feraient pas une brève en France” (a pure “celeb” comedy, such as only Great-Britain is capable of concocting. A personal drama which turned into an affair of state, for three or four breaches of conduct that wouldn’t have attracted any media attention in France).
So, Greek tragedy? Perhaps soap opera is more appropriate.