Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Hubris / Speedometers

One of the most difficult decisions I make on a daily basis is a simple one.


I'm in my car, a Red 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier (with 162k miles, no less). I'm driving...somewhere...it doesn't matter where. The weather doesn't matter, nor does the freeway I am driving on. I am not late.

Do I speed? If so, do I travel 4 over? 5 over? 15 over? Does the degree of the law-breaking even matter?

Now, I could probably think about the morality of the speeding itself (which raises interesting legal and moral questions - there was an Org Studies student this year who actually wrote a thesis about the spirit and letter of the law...pretty cool).

But whether speeding is "right" or "wrong" is not what I find to be gripping about this particular instance. I care about what it means, and what the decision is emblematic of. It's a subtle, but telling meter of hubris.

Hubris is pretty destructive, in teams, organizations institutions and societies, I think. It leads to crazy behavior with devastating results. (Jim Collins gives an apt description of this in his book: How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. It's a good read).

If I'm speeding, it suggests that I think I'm above the law, because I know speeding is illegal, I know I'm doing it, but I do it anyway. It's like...eff you traffic laws, Ima do what I want because I don't answer to you, Elmo. If you believe that hubris is fungible to other aspects of life - i.e. if you have hubris when driving you'll have hubris when making other, more consequential decisions - that's really scary. It means you're greedy, arrogant and probably selfish. Maybe it means you're addicted to power.

It's terrifying because as power corrupts it means your hubris condemns you to moral insufficiency. In turn, that moral insufficiency causes you to harm others...potentially in terrible ways.

Because of all this, I've been paying closer attention to my speedometer lately. And I'm still speeding, albeit less. I hope I can control it. If I can't, it might mean hubris will consume me one day. I don't want that. I don't want that at all.

It's like in Spiderman: with great power comes great responsibility.

-nt

PS: this probably applies to texting, too.