It is said that the ancient Greeks needed a word to describe “excessive pride towards or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis”.

They settled on Hubris.

Bunkum, pure bunkum.

As per the ancient Greek literature, hubris referred to actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser. The most famous example of Hubris found there is Midias punching Demosthenes.

Its in only in comparatively modern times that the meaning of excessive pride or self-confidence has gathered ground.



Those with the benefit of hindsight claim Adolf Hitler is the posterboy for Hubris.

Well not anymore.

2014 has been the year of Hubris.


First there was the silver spoon sucking aristocrats of the Indian AntiNational Congress with their obnoxious and derogatory campaign and abuses about a “chaiwala”

Well they have lost their silverspoons now and are sucking on lemons instead.

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Then there was the krantikaari dharnaloving topiwale Kejribaal, who in a moment of supreme hubris, announced his intention of contesting in 400 odd Lok Sabha seats.

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Then there was the Brazil national football team, especially their manager Mr. Scolari.

We all know how that turned out.

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But the best case of Hubris was yet to come.


That came when the Sri Lankan President Mr. Percy Mahindra Rajapaksa, supremely confident of blowing away any and all opposition, called for the presidential elections 2 years early.

As far as Hubris goes, nothing comes even close to it – except of course the Aam Aadmi party.,_2015


What made the result so shocking was its sheer unpredictability. Even a few months ago, Mr. Rajapaksa was the supreme grand pooba of the country, the master of all he surveyed. The opposition was in bits and pieces.  Hell ,there was no unified opposition.

And yet he lost.

Analysts are trying to figure out why, but from initial reports and the ground situation, it seems:

1. Tamils

The Tamils voted en masse for the opponent Mr. Sirisena. There is no doubt that excesses and abuses took place during the war. There were allegation of war crimes from around the world. Even a token apology or statement regarding inquiries into the crimes might not have alienated the Tamils so much. But instead, Mr. Rajapaksa took a confrontational attitude and kept on claiming that there was no abuse, no crime etc. naturally this alienated the whole community there.

The LTTE had tried to assassinate Mr. Sirisena 5 times, there was no love there. And yet the Tamils voted for him. Just goes to show their hatred and disenchantment for Mr. Rajapaksa.

2. Muslims

Apparently the Muslims were also critical of his rule. They claim that under Mr. Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka has grown more strict Buddhist.

3. The liberals have been furious with him due to his rampant nepotism. He had bypassed all protocol or constitutional procedures to elect his family and cronies into positions of power all over. According to one estimate, this resulted in the Rajapaksa family having discretionary control of two-thirds of the nation’s budget.

3b. Corruption

3c. As per the constitution, a Sri Lankan president can stand for office only twice – much like the USA system. Mr. Rajapaksa had kicked out Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and put in his crony Mohan Peiris in that position. He then announced his intention of standing in the elections for a 3rd term and naturally the new Chief Justice amended the rules to allow for this. The people were not amused.

4. The need for development

While Colombo and the western part of the country was/is getting richer and more developed everyday, the rural Sri Lanka has got only a pittance of the development bandwagon. The underdeveloped north and east voted against him hoping for a change in fortunes.

5. Unification of the Opposition

Mr. Sirisena was formerly a minister in Mr. Rajapaska’s cabinet. Just a few months he resigned from his position and defected to the opposition. His Sinhalese credentials were never in doubt and thus had a solid votebank there. He also recruited the Buddhist nationalists to his cause. He also successfully manage to get both former prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, and former president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, – the two heavyeights of the pre-Rajapaksa era – to his side, further consolidating the opposition.

6. India vs China

Mr. Rajapaksa had cut off much of the traditional Indo-Lanka ties in favour of Sri Lanka-China ties. After getting favourable treaties, the Chinese got and developed a huge area in the west of the country for their own interests; they are developing a naval and commercial port overt there for Chinese ships. They also built a big airport in Mr. Rajapaksa’s hometown – which sees very little use – and is seen by the common people as a reward for Mr. Rajapaksa for selling out the country.

The pro-India elements thus gravitated to the opposition.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to allow an Aussie tycoon to build a massive casino complex further angered the more traditional/conservative elements of the country.

The election results were a result of all these.

To his credit, Mr. Rajapaksa has graciously conceded defeat and by all accounts, there is a peaceful transition and changeover taking place.


All the best to the people of Sri Lanka – may their future be bright.

And hope Mr. Rajapaksa learnt his lesson and won’t make the same mistakes again.



One thought on “Hubris

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