On Hubris and Jingoism

Hubris (pron.: /ˈhjuːbrɪs/), also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Jingoism (pron.: jingo-ism), extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy.[1] In practice, it is a country’s advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others—an extreme type of nationalism. The term originated in Britain, expressing a pugnacious attitude toward Russia in the 1870s, and appeared in the American press by 1893.

Both definitions are from the following website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

Unfortunately, I am not on the ground back in Kenya to get a true sense of what the “Kenyan street” is saying or feeling about the just adjudicated elections. What I do have is unfettered and dare I say reliable access to the internet and some of the best research facilities in the world – Stanford and Cal Berkeley’s libraries and book stores. I also have the freedom to articulate and publish my perspectives as I see fit – obviously without slandering or libeling others. I make it a point to religiously read the online versions of the Daily Nation and Standard newspapers not to mention the various publications about Kenya, the region and the continent. Beyond reading the articles, I also read the blogs and the comments other readers make in response to the various articles. I have to say that the hubris and jingoism, especially among supporters of the victorious Jubilee Coalition who seem to dominate the Daily Nation comment section is comparable to the hubris and jingoism I saw among supporters of the victorious Republican Party shortly after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush during the disputed 2000 elections versus Democrat Al Gore. I also think that the chest-thumping is not limited to the general readership of the paper(s). One can discern the political bias or inclination of opinion makers such as Professor Makau, Macharia Gathaio, Philip Ochieng, Jaindi Kisero; at least I can just like one can tell the political bias of some American opinion makes such as George Will, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, E.J Dionne, Cynthia Tucker etc.

Below are samples of the comments made in response to the article Obama urges Uhuru, Ruto to build on gains of new constitution that appeared in the April 5 issue of Daily Nation and the April 5 issue of The Standard in the article titled Obama congratulates President-elect Uhuru

moses •3 hours ago
“This so called “humans” should first deal with countries which are a threat to them and the world like Iran and North Korea then come and tell us your humain ideas coz you think others are less “Human” than you.”

Langat 5 April 2013 3:22 PM
“I expected the americans to be told to ‘o jump into a lake with their unwanted message. We ARE a sovereign state & dont need them. Heck we should be sidelining them so they know ‘choices have consequences.”

Musema kweli•a day ago
“Better late than never. Or do we say they swallowed their pride?”

ngigien•a day ago
“Wonderful! twin elect looks inseparable. UhuRuto please go ahead and don’t look back, these westerners are late comers but they will join the train one by one as we head to promised land”

As evidenced by a previous post titled “Where is the outrage over “their” hypocrisy?” I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the sentiments expressed by the comments posted in Kenya’s local dailies. In fact, some of the comments are very instructive, indeed prescient. What I find troubling is the hubristic and jingoistic tone of most of them. And in keeping with the similarities I see between Kenya’s Jubilee Coalition and America’s Republican Party, there is an arrogance reflected in most of the comments in the blogosphere that belies the reality of the global village we all live in, not to mention the realpolitik nature of relationships between nations. The reality is that relationships between most nations are based on power (economic, cultural, military etc.) and other practical factors even though the ideal situation would be for nations to minimize use of power, particularly military power in their dealings with one another and base their relationship on mutual respect and shared interests. All told, nations act in their (selfish) best interests and most have no qualms imposing their will on other nations if they have to and can!

As embodied by the Republican administrations of former B-actor Ronald Reagan and a son of privilege Bush Fils (George W. Bush), there is the “God is on our side, we are right and you are wrong” take on their approach to governing that I see reflected in the afterglow of Jubilee’s victory. Langat’s post best captures the hubris and jingoism I allude to and is akin to George W. Bush’s “you are with us or against us” mantra in the weeks after the tragedy of 9/11. A mantra dripping with such haughtiness, self-righteousness and jingoism that the majority of the country, including the American press failed to fully verify the claims that Iraq had WMDs or that its leader, Saddam Hussein was complicit in 9/11. Mehopes the world, including Jubilee and its supporters have learnt from the hubris of George W. Bush and the Neo-cons.

We all agree that President-elect Kenyatta was democratically elected and Supreme Court-approved as the fourth president of Kenya and that notwithstanding, I hope that I am misinterpreting his contention that diplomatic contacts between the two countries (Kenya and US) would be between the democratically elected leaders i.e. between him Mr. Kenyatta, a crimes-against-humanity suspect and Mr. Obama the “the leader of the free world” otherwise this would be the height of hubris and inflated self-importance – on Mr. Kenyatta’s part.

Memo to Mr. Kenyatta:
The President of the United States does not meet with suspects, definitely not knowingly, certainly not those facing charges at The Hague! That he, Mr. Obama, sent the Ambassador with a seemingly reconciliatory message was itself unusual and indicative of the delicate balance the US (and the West) has to strike in its relationship with Kenya given the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and his VP Mr. Ruto. The world has become very inter-dependent and Kenya and America have mutual interests that make it imperative for the two countries to work together. Methinks that it behoves all, especially the seemingly jingoistic supporters of Jubilee to remember that the US is the sole superpower left in the wake of the Cold War even though one can argue that the world is fast-becoming multi-polar with various power centres – US, EU, Russia, China, Brasil, India etc. Be that as it may, I would say that unlike the other global centres of power, America is most likely the only one that has both hard and soft power whose impact and reach is truly global. While American military might has its limitations as evidenced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter, soft power, is very nuanced, potentially limitless and possibly more debilitating to the aggressively capitalist Kenya.

I would caution Jubilee and its leadership and supporters to pay close attention to the trajectory of the Republican Party here in America, its supporters and the presidency of Bush Fils after the Supreme Court ruling got him into the White House in the 2000 election. I would argue that the “victory” got to their head and the rest, as they say, is history. Pride indeed comes before a fall.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, International Relations/Global Issues, Kenya, Politics

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