Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Hubris of Elizabeth and Ruth

Queen Elizabeth, long ago expected to abdicate and allow Charles (himself 70 at this point) to rule, just allowed herself to be used as a pawn in the Brexit calamity.

She seems to possess all her faculties, and many of us celebrate her historically long reign and the sense of stability flowing from her stiff backbone and staunch traditionalism. But few 93 year olds - even those as formidable as Elizabeth II - have it in them to risk a nuclear option - defying a prime minister at titanic risk. Paradoxically, figurehead rulers might need more balls than empowered ones. There's enormous headwind in opposing audacious choices in the event of once-per-century crisis, making it quite an undertaking to step out of the background and do what's right. It seems clear that Elizabeth's inability to answer that call this week stems from her much earlier refusal to cede to a younger successor. Her hubris left her country in danger, and the bill just came due.

I won't waste ink explaining the perfectly obvious case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I similarly otherwise admire and respect.

Neither of my parents put enough effort into anticipating their respective declines. They wrote wills and appointed executors, but other details were left gapingly unaddressed. It wasn't a matter of sloppiness or poor legal advice. It stemmed from baseless confidence that, up to death, they'd remain competent and autonomous.

It's a sort of hubris. Me, I know from long experience that I'm flawed and failure-prone, and fully expect it to get much worse going forward. I plan for (and frame for) failure in all things, and I seem to fail a little bit less than normal - only because I've slopped around in my own incompetence like a pig in his muck, while others feel sparkly clean as they periodically fall into holes hollering "DOH!"

Remember my observation that most people would rather be idiots than feel like idiots? It's like that. The desire to imagine ourselves perennially robust and immortal helps ensure that we'll be extra frail and dependent. Smart people embrace their stupidity, and successful people embrace their failure. It's the perennial choice: you can seem, or you can be.

It's all in the framing!

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