The Politician’s Tragedy: From Hubris to Nemesis

“Roving ambition helps many a man to good and many it falsely lures to light desires, till failure trips them unawares, and they fall on the fire that consumes them.”

— Antigone (The Chorus)

Observing the national political landscape following the surprising victory of the Alliance Lepep and the fate of some of the protagonists of the situation any student of the “Classics” would not fail to notice the parallels between these and the fate of some of the main actors of ancient Greek tragedy. The Greek sense of life asserts that “the forces which shape or destroy our lives lie outside the governance of reason and justice.” There was a great belief that fate governed human lives and that “lachesis”, the element of luck had much to do with it.

As opposed to this ancient emphasis on fate, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment have favoured a different view of the world, as forcefully brought out in Rousseau’s writing – “the misery and injustice of man’s fate were not… the consequence of some tragic, immutable flaw in human nature… The chains of man… were man-forged. They could be broken by human hammers.”

However the recent political developments here and the fate of some of those involved having expounded so many features of ancient Greek or even more contemporary Shakespearean tragedies, it became very tempting to delve into those /these to provide a more literary (the festive season oblige) interpretation of these events.

Ancient Greek tragedy was characterized by the movement of the fate of the principal protagonist of a play through three successive stages.

First, there is hubris. This was usually committed at the beginning of the play and entailed the main protagonist acting in such manner as to offend the Gods (the people in parliamentary democracy!) through offending the moral law of the land and through overpowering pride and a sense of innate superiority.

Hubris is followed by Aite at which time there are frequent signs and warnings that this kind of behaviour will lead to the downfall of the perpetrator if they are not halted. Failure to heed such warnings then inevitably leads to the protagonist being chased by Nemesis seen as the inevitable destruction and vengeance of the Gods which comes in the form of some calamity befalling the concerned actor leading him to regret his hubris.

The rest of this column will take a closer look at how some of the recent events are heavily imbued with this sense of ancient Greek tragedy.

Until April this year the MMM-MSM Remake had been concluded into a powerful political force and the consensus was that they would win the next elections by a walkover. As it is now becoming apparent, the promise of an immediate accession to prime ministership for Paul Bérenger for a period of five years instead of the 3/2 years deal of the Remake seems to have been the catalyst of a sudden turn of events leading eventually to the demise of the proposed alliance.

Hubris, the MMM’s overconfidence to the effect that they were the true king makers and dominant force in shaping the future political scenario favoured such flimsy and incoherent behaviour. A case of Hubris followed by Nemesis taking the form of the proposed 30/30 Alliance deal, electoral reform for introduction of Proportional Representation and the project of the Second Republic — propositions which were totally alien to the electorate of both parties — a fact which clearly escaped the brash leaders.

As for the Labour Party, the Hubris seems to have started since the very start of the 2010 mandate. Inspite of some challenging events following immediately upon the break-up of the LP-MSM government in early 2012, the progressive stabilization of the situation led to the pervasive conviction that by hook or by crook the Party would conclude an “unbeatable” alliance with the MMM sometime before the coming elections. There can be no other explanation for the behaviour and style of leadership adopted by Navin Ramgoolam since even those early days. Even his closest collaborators complained about the total lack of respect and consideration towards them and the high degree of humiliation to which they were subjected on an almost daily basis.

The Hubris moment however occurred when what ought to have been a purely private affair broke out into the political sphere with the emergence of a certain lady into the public glare. On that occasion the public expected some form of restraint from the Prime Minister in his reaction to that particular situation but instead were appalled by what followed. This constituted the signal for the start of the final assault on the political career of Navin Ramgoolam by his opponents, including a most virulent Paul Berenger and his side-kicks at the MMM.

Jump forward to April 2014. Paul Berenger very summarily decides to dump the Jugnauths on some flimsy pretext and immediately starts a protracted negotiation process with Navin Ramgoolam. These were ostentatiously driven by their sudden rediscovery of a great chemistry existing between them and which presumably was in latency for quite some time.

In truth, from the very start, both protagonists were convinced that by bringing their parties together they would set in motion a magical formula for an unbeatable proposition at the next elections. The said formula which read something like 40+40=60 was concocted by experts in quantitative analysis and mathematical modelling.

In the general elation which followed the announcement of a deal between the two leaders, it would have seemed absurd to even start thinking that this would instead prove to be the perfect Nemesis for both leaders. The admittedly rare words of caution and warning were brushed aside by the confident leaders and their hordes of close advisers.

In the final analysis the claim of the two leaders that they were proposing to create a modern Mauritius and a model country for the rest of the world through the implementation of their Second Republic can be looked upon as tempting the Fates.

* Published in print edition on 24 December 2014

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