"Pride goeth before a fall." Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. It initiates the inevitable demise of nearly every protagonist of Greek Tragedies. Yet modern culture seems to devalue humility as an admirable character trait. One might say that this is an age of self-righteousness.
The role of religion cannot be ignored in this cultural shift. Science plays an equal role. In either case, the perception that there are ultimate answers to be had regarding the paradox of life feeds the hubris that pervades modern society.
In the political arena, the extremes of hubris may undo generations of the successful execution of civil governance. Self-righteousness abrogates compromise. Without compromise governments fail.
In the public media the quest for fame, notoriety and recognition harms more than it benefits. Someone proposes to burn a book, they become famous. Someone records another's sexual encounter, they both become famous. We post personal details for all to see online. Why do people lust for this exposure? They seek to elevate themselves in the public eye and consequently in their own eyes. It's pride.
Of all the failures of our education system, perhaps the greatest failure is that we teach as if we know truth. The key to good teaching, as Socrates so ably demonstrated, is not to answer questions but to ask them. The goal of education is not to obtain knowledge, but to seek it. Passing a test does not demonstrate an ability to think, it demonstrates an ability to remember. Many of the greatest minds of history were very poor students. I admire a good question more than a good answer because it expands perception and provides new insights.
Self-righteousness breeds injustice, and violence. No one believes in their righteousness more than a politician, a general, a prosecutor or an insurgent yet all have a greater capacity to do harm than good.
Humility breeds tolerance and peace. Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Aung San Suu Kyi. These folks did not exemplify self-righteousness, they excelled at penetrating through an illusion of powerlessness to achieve great power.
My entreaty to all readers of this little essay is that when you interact with your fellow human beings. Do not seek answers from those who claim to know what is right and correct. Seek them from those who respond to you with good questions. The answers are transient. The questions endure.
Of course, what do I know?