Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's Only Arrogance If You're Wrong

Today's news seems to be themed. Let's scan it quickly, shall we?
1) He will not Blago gently into that good night:
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is lashing out at lawmakers who booted him from office, calling his removal a "hijacking."
2) Christian Bale's F-bombing:

"I want you off the f***ing set, you pr***," Bale reportedly says at the start of the audio recording, which TMZ reported was sent by the film's executives to their insurance company in case the actor didn't finish filming the movie.

"I'm sorry," Hurlbut reportedly replies.

"No, don't just be sorry. Think for one f***king second," Bale reportedly shouts. "What the f*** are you doing? Are you a professional or not?"

The man said to be Bale appears to grow angrier as Hurlbut replies to him in a calm tone, "Yes, I am."

"No, no. Am I gonna f***ing rip your lights down in the middle of the scene? Then why the f***are you walking right through, 'Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,' in the background," the man said to be Bale, sing-songs. "What the f*** is it with you? What the f*** don't you understand?"

For the Iranian government, it is an important milestone along the road to reclaiming Persia's ancient claim to major power status, which it feels the jealous west is trying to deny it.

It is also enormously significant in Iranian internal politics. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got elected promising economic benefits for the common man and modernisation. He has made a complete mess of the first part of that mission. Delivering the second is important for his prospects of re-election in June, in the eyes of both the average voter and – even more importantly, given the controlled nature of Iranian democracy – the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

All of these items have one thing in common: central to the event is a sense of entitlement, of hubris. Of arrogance.
I know a little something about that.
We've all had our "Bale moments." We've flipped off the driver who cut in front of us, or swerved around someone in the supermarket to beat them to the express line and then argued with them when they raise the mildest objections.
We've all had our "Blago moments," too, trying to defend the indefensible with outlandish comments and thin-skinned objections.
And we've all had our "Ahmadinejad moments," where we try to recapture past glories in an attempt to re-establish ourselves as players in a game. In this instance, Iran is trying to raise the spectre of the old Persian civilization, one that was on the cutting edge of technology and knowledge, centuries ago. Who among us hasn't played a game of basketball years after our sneakers have been put away?
All of these (less so in the case of Iran) are pretty laughable, but mostly because the folks involved are wrong, and wrong for the wrong reasons.
Blagojevich wasn't impeached and removed from office for criminal convictions. He abused the power of his office, something that's fairly clear from even the minuscule evidence that was presented in the Illinois legislature. His objection that he wasn't allowed to present a defense has some merit, to be sure, but from what he's said about the witnesses, it seems he was determined to practice his defense against any criminal charges Patrick Fitzgerald was going to bring. That was a waste of time.
Similarly, Iran doesn't really need to send up a satellite to prove it is ready to lead once again in advancing knowledge. A simple and truly free, secular election would go a long way to proving that, an election not controlled by a fear-ridden Assembly of Experts, grasping to keep power against the samizdats of information the Iranian people have been accumulating.
And Bale, for whatever reason, didn't need to tear into the DP who made a simple yet ugly mistake. Having been in a similar situation myself, you turn it into a blooper reel, let the guy get his job done, and move on. Let the director handle any fall out. Keeping in mind that a few days after this incident, he was arrested in London for assault, it seems likely there's a deeper motive for this outburst.
Arrogance can take many forms: the arrogance of a President who pretends to know everything he needs to know before committing to war, or the arrogance of a driver who claims a parking spot as his own, even tho there's already someone waiting for it. The president might be right, he might be wrong. If he's wrong, it's arrogance, hubris. If events prove him right, then he's a leader, a genius.
It's a thin line that separates arrogance from genius. Again, a line I've straddled often. In no way do I intend to defend the arrogance I've noted above, but I'm proud to be considered arrogant, because it means I'm willing to step up and give things a try, and not sit on the sidelines cheering other people on, and following like a sheep. And I'll succeed much more often than not, which is why I keep trying to forge ahead.
It's really only arrogance when you fail epically and you don't learn from it. If you can't balance the humility of having been thrown out of office or dealing with your problems yourself rather than taking them out on others, or surrendering to the notion that perhaps your best days lie ahead, not behind, then you truly are arrogant.