In 2009 David Owen (Psychiatrist and past Foreign Secretary in the UK) and J Davidson of Duke University, department of psychiatry published a paper with the title “Hubris Syndrome”. The syndrome is defined as “exaggerated pride, overwhelming self-confidence and contempt for others”. Another definition which I obtained from the internet states: “Hubris indicates a loss of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities”.
The sufferer of Hubris syndrome may exhibit the following:
· Messianic zeal
· Exaltation in speech
· Conflates self with nation
Is Hubris syndrome of presidents preventable? The answer is yes, and the following measures could be helpful:
· No president should be allowed to stay in power beyond 8 years
· Treat presidents as human beings with the same virtues and vices that we know ourselves posses.
· The president should always be reminded of his all –too-human frailty. King Philip of Macedonia allegedly employed a man with a stick, the main job of this man is to walk into Philip’s quarter at any hour and hit him over the head with the stick to remind him that he was only mortal.
· Free press and media should play the role of the man with the stick reminding the rulers that they are humans with flaws and short comings like the rest of us. In modern Egypt the official press and media (TV, radio) has to change its role from being a cheerleader of the president to become the voice of the people and the guardian of free and democratic Egypt. Free press and media should aim at the following:
o Faire and objective monitoring of the president and government performance.
o Offering constructive critical analysis of the work of the ruling elites.
o Ensuring that the rulers are in continuous contact with reality and fully aware of the needs of the ordinary and voiceless citizens.
o The nauseating tradition of daily praise of the president and his achievements should be avoided. Free media and press are not propaganda tools in the hands of the rulers to magnify their achievements and hide their failures.
· The culture and practices of worshiping the ruler should stop:
a. There is no need for the president’s photo to be displayed in every public and private office in the country.
b. There is no need to fill the news paper with adverts costing large amount of money to congratulate the president in every religious or national occasion.
c. There is no need to have big posters displayed in our streets and squares citing the wonderful qualities of the president and stating the unconditional support of all the people.
d. There are no needs for songs that worship the president. We need more songs that reflect the achievements and also the suffering of our people, songs that can give us hope in a better future, and songs to encourage us to work harder for the sake of our country and discourage us from selfish behaviour and abuses of power.
Finally, it is the duty of all of us to ensure that the old culture and practices that breed presidents with Hubris Syndrome are avoided. We already had three presidents over the last 6 decades with Hubris Syndrome, this is more than enough for Egypt and the Egyptian people and we certainly should not allow the creation of another one!!
[NB: hubris syndrome was detailed in an article written by Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times on 13/2/2011]