Boris Johnson urges us to learn from classical history.
In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the figure of divine retribution, a remorseless goddess who punished those who succumbed to hubris. Nemesis directed human affairs in such a way as to maintain equilibrium. She is also supposed to punish excessive pride, undeserved good fortune, and lack of moderation. Therefore she is feared.
Some artists, being persuaded that Nemesis manifests herself as a consequence of love, have given wings to Nemesis as they do to Love, who also appears winged. The parents of Nemesis are either Nyx, (Night alone), Erebos and Nyx, or Oceanus and Tethys. The name Nemesis is related to a Greek word that means “to give what is due.”
In literature, Nemesis is more often used to represent your worst enemy. For example, Professor Moriarty is described as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Victor in “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, who wanted to create a human being, eventually meets his nemesis in the creature he himself created. Harry Potter and Voldemart is another example. In sport, we hope that Roger Federer will not be Andy Murray’s Nemesis forever, and that Andy will one day beat his Nemesis. John Terry was England football captain, and his extravagant behaviour, (gambling, affairs, inappropriate behaviour regarding his personal box at Wembley) has resulted in him being stripped of the captaincy. Footballers are so feted and flattered they come to believe they can get away with anything, but that is not always true. Manager Capello has acted with strength and firmness by saying “Basta”.
There are many examples of Nemesis in politics. Ken Livingstone may find out for the second time that Boris Johnson is his nemesis. One definition of “nemesis” is “an opponent who cannot be beaten or overcome.” Ken seemed obsessively certain, because he had many years’ experience of the job, that he would beat Boris, but that did not turn out to be true. Now he wants his job back.
When we listen to Tony Blair facing the Chilcot Inquiry, it is tempting to wish that Nemesis would right the balance. It seems that he suffered from excessive pride, hubris, lack of moderation, everything that Nemesis is supposed to punish. But as the ex-Prime Minister said himself “God will judge me”.