Hubris Syndrome …

Its a funny situation in India … every time one talks of hubris, a few people will point to our PM, Mr. Narendra Modi and all of Delhi will point to their beloved CM, “nautanki” Kejriwal. I will join the folks of Delhi who point to Kejriwal, while I understand that our PM may sometimes exhibit that quality but his outstanding work and overall maturity doesn’t let it get out of hand. The HMVs (Hate Modi Voices) of course will titter as they read this statement but so be it – if you cannot see the good work happening and the positive changes, then God help you!

I just read this article titled “Is Political Hubris and illness” and since its written by an American it obviously points to their current favourite punching bag – the President of USA, Donald Trump. Its interesting to note, that there is a bill submitted to Congress there, to assess the President’s mental health. I don’t know if that  will help much because the hubris syndrome takes effect after the person gets into a powerful position and not before. I think the perfect candidate for testing the “hubris syndrome” hypothesis is the Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal.

This man was the anti-corruption crusade’s poster boy, he certainly speaks well and “had” the ability to be an icon someday. Suddenly in just two years, the mental posters of this poster boy are being torn everywhere and except for the daily dose of “Modi rant” there is nothing to write home about. Please read this analysis of two years of the AAP government – AAP Government in Delhi – two year report card. This man came with a bagful of promises, and am ok if some of them were tall promises because politicians need to make tall promises, but NOTHING gets implemented. Whatever gets implemented is also done shoddily. Take the odd-even scheme – zero thought on how to implement it and quick claims of it having succeeded. The worst is this daily dose of “Modi rant”… If one didn’t know that Modiji was the PM of our country and had just read AK’s tweets everyday, he/she would have thought that Modi is some kind of a “bhoot” (spirit) that has taken host in AK’s mind-body-spirit and doesn’t let him do anything. The reality is that PM Modi is very busy doing his stuff and am quite sure, he has AK in his sights but one of his minions will be watching over this man..waiting to see if he puts a foot wrong. Arvind Kejriwal is a non-entity in the national scene!

Clear symptoms of the hubris syndrome displayed by AK – The obscene amount of money spent on advertising about the AAP government and himself, the assumption that within two years of forming a political party they can be a pan-India presence, the hugging of corruption’s synonym Lalu Yadav on a public platform, shielding his corrupt ministers, expelling the two founder members of AAP, calling the PM a psychopath, trying to jump to Punjab and Goa in the hope that AAP will win there, no inner party democracy, the list is just endless. Where has it lead the anti-corruption movement and where has it taken Arvind Kejriwal ? He is today the butt of every joke, even his vote bank, the auto drivers have distanced themselves from him, and Delhi is regressing. The Delhi voter is frustrated and AK is not reading the writing on the wall. Some of his die-hard supporters are dying and soon he will hardly have supporters!! BUT, in the grip of the hubris syndrome – he doesn’t see it.

I wish to ask David Owen and Jonathan Davidson who wrote the article “Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?” whether they noticed that the leaders suffering from the “hubris syndrome” gain weight? Arvind Kejriwal has gained weight and it cannot be because he is suffering from stress – he has no portfolio except the “Modi rant” portfolio … so it is something else. The other one who succumbed to the hubris syndrome is the late CM of TamilNadu Jayalalitha and again, she was obese. She had a near perfect figure, looked like a doll while working as an actress, and also many years into politics she maintained it, but the minute she got into the CM’s role and knew that she was immensely powerful, she started to gain weight. Again, she displayed all the qualities of someone suffering from the hubris syndrome, including not listening to good advise! Wonder if there is a connection to leaders suffering from the hubris syndrome and gaining weight. Vice versa is certainly not true. A lot of overweight people have body image issues and not hubris !

Do read the article – Is Political Hubris an illness?. Am also copy/pasting it for those who do not wish to click on the link. And as the last line in the article says “watch him very carefully”… many are watching AK carefully! and yes, many more are watching Modiji very carefully as we and they should.


President Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics.
President Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics.PHOTOGRAPH BY BENJAMIN LOWY / GETTY

In February, 2009, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of health and politics titled “Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?” The authors were David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who has studied the mental health of politicians. They proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, “impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.”

Owen and Davidson studied the behavior and medical records of dozens of American and British political leaders, from Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who took office in 1908, to President George W. Bush, who left office in 2009. Across that century, they identified a tendency among some otherwise high-achieving individuals to close themselves off from critics and to overestimate their odds of success. Neville Chamberlain wrongly believed that he could appease Hitler; Tony Blair supported the invasion of Iraq even after his envoy informed him that the plan had “no leadership, no strategy, no coördination,” among other defects. When a leader succumbs to hubris syndrome, the authors wrote, his experience at the top has distorted his personality and decision-making.

“The Greeks warned us about it,” Owen told me recently, when I called him at home, in Britain. “When you see it, you’ve got to be very conscious that you may be watching somebody who is intoxicated with power.” After training as a doctor, Owen spent thirty-two years in politics, heading the Foreign Office from 1977 to 1979, and he developed a fascination with the ways in which C.E.O.s, dictators, and parliamentarians who are otherwise successful in their professions can be warped by the pressures and self-glorification presented by power. “It takes one to know one,” he said, dryly. “For a lot of us who are in leadership roles, the problem with the word ‘narcissism’ is that it has a very Freudian linkage and, if you use it, people will shy away from it.”

Owen was only partly interested in establishing a formal diagnosis. (Hubris syndrome does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.) More fundamentally, he wanted to call out a kind of public cognitive bias, in which voters and shareholders are often slow to acknowledge signs of irrational behavior in their chosen leaders because that acknowledgment reflects poorly on the decision to put them there. “You get rumors or people are telling you that things aren’t going all that marvellously, and either you’ve made a wrong choice or something has happened to him,” Owen told me. He helped establish a charity, the Daedalus Trust, which raises public awareness of hubris syndrome in public life, and he encourages institutions—banks, schools, political entities—to assess leaders’ mental health on a fixed schedule. “Then it’s easier to spot an incipient intoxication of power,” he said.

President Donald Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics. To his friends and allies, he elicits an array of anodyne, even appealing, adjectives: unpredictable, fearless, irascible, sly. Many of his counterparts in diplomacy, and in American politics, are rapidly shedding the euphemisms that they once used to express their appraisals, however. When Trump, after a confused viewing of a Fox News segment, urged people at a rally to look at “what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?,” suggesting that an incident—which no one could identify; nothing notable had happened the night before—had something to do with Sweden being overrun by refugees, Swedes reached a judgment. “They thought the man had gone bananas,” Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister and foreign minister, told Susan Glasser, of Politico, in an interview published this week. “It was a somewhat unsettling thing to see the president of the United States without any factual basis whatsoever lunge out against a small country in the way that he did.”

Though politicians often accuse each other of being crazy, Trump has inspired a more clinical and sober discussion. (In the magazine this week, I write about proposals in Congress to assess the President’s mental health.) In recent days, the discussion of Trump’s stability has entered a blunter phase. Over the weekend, Trump made a series of bizarre comments, including questioning the history of the Civil War, saying he was “looking at” breaking up banks (prompting a stock-market slide), and demonstrating unfamiliarity with basics of the health-care bill known as Trumpcare. The Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told an interviewer that it was “among the most bizarre recent twenty-four hours in American Presidential history,” adding, “It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the President.” Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, told his television audience, “My mother’s had dementia for ten years. . . . That sounds like the sort of thing my mother would say today.”

In the Washington Post on Thursday, the conservative columnist George Will wrote, “It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability.” After months of bemoaning Trump’s policies and incivility, Will is now bluntly warning of his instability. “Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion, that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances,” Will wrote. “So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.”

When I asked Owen if Trump meets the threshold of hubris syndrome, he replied that Trump was a hard case, because he reigned over a family business for so long before entering politics. “He has obviously got hubris, but did he acquire it in his business? What was he like when he was twenty? I refuse to put a label on him because I don’t know enough.” Owen added, “Watch him very carefully. It’s a phenomenon that needs to be analyzed, but it will not be very revealing to put labels on it that are inappropriate just because you desperately want to say, ‘He’s crazy.’ ”



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