—by: Jeremy Rist
I’m fascinated with the connection between small scale personal life issues and how they can often reflect larger societal issues.
I can’t help but see everything in this world as connected.
One issue that has come up in my life recently is a lack of humility from people around me and how it’s making my life worse. I’m aware how arrogant this statement sounds. But as a reader, I would appreciate it if you assumed that I’m writing this as a person who strives to be humble. If you have reason to believe otherwise, then feel free to disagree.
This lack of humility has manifested in disrespect from roommates and old friends, and it has made my living situation more uncomfortable than I would like. Lack of humility is what makes someone think they can solve a problem without gathering the necessary facts or important data first. It makes someone trash a place because they feel they’re above cleaning. It makes someone raise their voice and get louder instead of listening. Lack of humility from some infringes on the dignity of others. It makes life more uncomfortable. It makes the present less desirable and makes the future more uncertain. I would say there’s something in the water…
Webster defines humility as the freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble.
To defend this arrogance for a second, capitalism has done its part to make humbleness a less desirable attribute. In the climate of a free market where everyone is climbing and stepping over someone to get ahead, it’s counterproductive to be humble. I can understand this, but I can’t accept this. Capitalism is an economic system, not life itself. The rewards capitalism provides for being successful may indeed be very desirable, but they aren’t everything. You can have high social status and all the money in the world, but it doesn’t guarantee happiness. I still view becoming a more humble person as a very noble pursuit and one that should be rewarded, not rejected. A solid dose of humility is good for anyone, rich or poor.
On the national scale, hubris and arrogance have found their human manifestation in the 45th President. The recording of him talking about women with the “grab them by the pussy” comment is but one glaring example, among many others. Pride and arrogance are experiencing a golden age at the moment. And I wish I could say that it was only on one side of the political aisle.
On the Democratic side you can find dangerous signs of unnecessarily high levels of pride and arrogance. After losing, losing, losing, and then losing again in the 2016 election, Nancy Pelosi took the time to make the comment that, “People don’t want a new direction.” Promoting a sort of stay-the-course attitude that is epicly misguided after losing to the most unqualified Presidential candidate ever and then also losing control of the House and the Senate.
Keep the direction? No. When you lose that badly to such poor competition you should be forced to find a new direction. You should be forced to rethink what you just did. You should take the loss as an opportunity to look inward, not outward in search for someone or something to blame. Humility would allow you to accept that now is a good time for some self-analysis.
One of the great things that sports can help teach us is what to do when you lose. Before losing you always experience moments when things start to go against you or when you face adversity. These moments are what can be most important to study. When you lose in a sporting event your team has two options: analyze the loss and make changes, or ignore the loss and continue with the same. I would argue that the first approach is the best, especially when the loss was to someone you shouldn’t have lost to. This is one of the strengths of Coach K’s tenure at Duke. Losses can often times propel his team to greater heights because he takes each loss as an opportunity to teach and for the players to learn and for the coaches to learn. Even Coach K doesn’t start with the presumption that he has all the answers. Defeat causes him to look around and examine best practices and methods. The team then becomes stronger through its ability to realize there is more than one way to win, more than one way to grapple with a problem, than simply charge, smash into a brick wall, fail, repeat.
I could not disagree with Pelosi more, and I’m shocked at the lack of humility that her comment shows. Of course, I’m not shocked that a filthy rich politician, who has benefited from the status quo, doesn’t want change. But I am shocked that she made that comment because I would assume that someone in her position would not be so tone-deaf. Unfortunately, the people in the Democratic Party who are in a position to play the role of “coach” for us appear to be the exactly wrong people. Pelosi and her ilk are so much more removed from the average citizen than K is from his players or even from the student body. He walks among his people. One of the things that generates the arrogance of our leadership, is there are so few of them and so many of us. Of course, they are out of touch. On top of that, they are surrounded by security all day, every day.
At this point, Bernie Sanders should be seen as the coach of the Democrats. He has the juice. He has the ideas that will help correct the mistakes that led to the loss. But, of course, in order to admit this the Democrats will need humility.
Sanders and the brave politicians who stepped away from the DNC and supported him made the choice to accept humility and talk about necessary reforms and changes in direction from a policy standpoint. They showed humbleness in accepting the faults of the past, like when Sanders said he would officially apologize to the Native American community for genocide. Sanders showed humility when he allowed Black Lives Matter protesters to rush his stage and talk themselves out. He showed humility even when he took the time to appreciate the bird that landed on his podium in the middle of his speech. That is how you do it. That is how you show that you humbly appreciate the moment.
The only legitimate argument that the Clinton camp had in the election was that “she could win,” it was a very arrogant argument at its core. There was a great amount of hubris about her coronation. This is not a good way to lead. Presuming victory simply because of what the situation is, or appears to be, is something I can say, as Duke fan looking back on the 2016-17 basketball season, will get you nowhere. Now we can also look back on Hillary and recognize that she and her team failed, even though she was the “top prospect” if you will. The game still has to be played and it has to be won. They lost. Because of that everyone associated with her and the Democratic establishment that supported her with their superdelegate votes should be put on notice. Their arrogance about winning resulted in a loss that puts the country in the position of facing a very dark future with a very uncertain present. Above all, it was their certainty about her winning that is the most disturbing. Their unwillingness to consider any course but Hillary is shameful and an insult to the democratic process. The establishment Democrats, corporate Democrats, pieces of shit, whatever we want to call them, refused to let facts get in the way of their preconceived opinions. Sadly, this is the same type of thinking that I get frustrated with on the Right with the “truther mentality.” Across the board it is beyond frustrating when people refuse to change their mind despite being presented with important new information that should be taken into consideration.
Since the disastrous general election the corporate Democrats have showed none of the humility necessary to heal the wounds of the Democratic primary and move the party forward. Appointing Keith Ellison to the DNC chair would have been a humble acknowledgement of their faults but they missed that opportunity. Keith Ellison, a Muslim Congressman from Minnesota, was one of the first major figures in the Democratic Party to step out of the mainstream and support Bernie over Hillary. Rewarding him for that bold move would have been a much needed acknowledgement that the primary was mishandled and that their ideas matter. His loss represents how the real interests of the people are, in fact, second to the big money interests in that party. This is not a good sign for regular Americans going forward.
During the election, all Hillary Clinton needed to do to win was to show some level of humility in the campaign. Humility is a window to humanity. Clinton’s basic ability to care about other people was one of the main knocks on her personality. She seemed cold. She seemed like a climber and an insider without a real soul or objective. Humility would have been acknowledging that she was aware that people had reservations about her and then proving why they were wrong. Instead, she plodded along the primary and general elections ignoring the fact that her personality had gigantic flaws that the American people were aware of and did not like. Even if this analysis of her as cold was incorrect, having the bravery to try to face and address that critique would have been a sign of strength. Instead she hid behind the fact that the establishment had gotten her this far and would continue to elevate her. Her campaign slogan, “I’m with her,” was a tremendous example of her arrogance. Political campaigns aren’t supposed to be celebrity contests, they aren’t supposed to be about the individual. “Hope” and “Change” is what won the Democrats the last election and that has nothing to do with Obama as an individual. No campaign from a Democratic candidate should ever be so self-centered as this one was. That is a losing strategy that must be changed.
In reality, people are realizing that there’s something funny going on in this country. Not like in a comedy special type of way either. The CIA, the gray suits, the permanent bureaucracy, the many industrial complexes, the NSA, and corporations have been running wild with this nation and the only thing powerful enough to check that is the government. However, the government must be run by The People for this to work, rather than run for The People or on behalf of The People. This message should be adopted and promoted by the Democrats if they want to seize this moment to regain power and appeal to future voters. It will take one thing though: humility.
They will have to humbly acknowledge that they took the easy big money when they knew they shouldn’t have. They have to humbly acknowledge that taking that money does change the way you think and the way you behave. They have to acknowledge that they temporarily forgot who they were supposed to be fighting for. They have to listen to the Democrats who did not forget and, in this amazing era of confusion and misinformation, humbly stayed true to what they believed deep down.
Humility would mean elevating voices that have been suppressed in the past for truth-telling. Elevating people like Dr. Cornel West or Rev. William Barber. When you accept humbleness and the values that accompany it, you actually discover that there’s much greater strength in a humble person than in an arrogant person. The humble person knows they can lose at times but is okay with that fact because they keep moving toward the right thing. An arrogant person can never be wrong and because of that their direction can be unpredictable and unclear. They can constantly change to be on whatever side just for the sake of winning and nothing else. Why admit you were wrong when you can just move to a different place where you can be considered right? Compartmentalize it, ignore it, and then move on. This type of behavior can lead to all sorts of unpleasant outcomes; front running, demagoguery, falsehoods, and lies are all a part of this dark spiral.
Simply put, when arrogant people are wrong it gets weird. Kind of like when a liar gets caught in a lie. It starts to feel really uncomfortable really fast. Everyone is unsure how to react and it creates a lot of tension. To an arrogant person there is no objective right or wrong, only their way or the highway. What matters to them is popularity, approval, and stroking the ego. At a certain point in the argument the initial matter ceases to be important and it becomes a personality contest of who will give in to whom, which completely undermines the initial reason for the disagreement. Perhaps it completely undermines reason itself.
Humble people self-analyze in order to better themselves, while arrogant people are always correct and thus need no betterment. In time, I believe humbleness will result in better and more successful people because of this.
Life is about progress. Life is a journey. A humble acknowledgment of this fact can make that journey a whole lot less tiresome and a whole lot more fun.
And if you’re interested in being a leader, especially a leader of millennials – the coming biggest generation – then you better make for damn sure that you have a healthy dose of humility in your diet. If you’re humble enough to admit when you’re wrong and if you show an ability to apologize, then you are seen to be a much stronger leader because people feel like they can trust you with complicated decisions. And it’s a complicated era. Changing your mind should not be considered a fault. As John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I reserve the right to change my mind.” Nobody expects anybody to be perfect, but we do expect people to admit fault when they make a mistake. And then we expect them to try something else. There is no honor in hiding or obfuscating your mistakes. There is no value in stubbornly claiming success in the face of an obvious failure. Not only does it discredit you as a messenger, but it also discredits everyone associated with you that chooses to fall in line.
Let these establishment Democrats, lying Republicans, corporatists, and heretics know what they’re dealing with. We all know their game and we’re tired of it.
Everything is not alright. The kids are not alright. My generation is angry and confused. We could use some humility from our leaders.
I will also make a promise to you, the readers, that what I expect from our leaders – I also expect from myself. I will always strive to be mindful of humility in my life. I hope you can do the same.