The Greeks, as ever, had a word for it. Or to be precise, three words that neatly encapsulate the current political imbroglio in the United Kingdom: hubris, nemesis and chaos.
I am slightly surprised to find that the Wikipedia entry for hubris (“a personal quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence”) currently remains illustrated with an engraving from Paradise Lost rather than a portrait of Theresa May.
Because there have surely been few better illustrations in history of a leader drawn into wild folly by a massive overestimate of their own abilities. Her defenders say she is good at being Prime Minister – though her track record as Home Secretary gives some good reasons to doubt that – but all can surely now agree that she is abjectly useless as a campaigner.
Having demotivated her own natural supporters by threatening to confiscate the homes of the elderly, and tie business up in new knots of red tape, she offered nothing positive to the young or the poor.
Unlike kindly old Uncle Jezza, who promised free higher education and a write-off of student debt. Small wonder that universities throughout the land were transformed into hotbeds of Labour activism.
So along comes nemesis, right on cue, in the shape of another election defeat for Labour that can be half plausibly presented as a triumph, because the unnecessary poll designed to give Mrs May a landslide victory has actually deprived her of the small working majority she inherited.
And far from delivering her from the more extreme Brexiteers in her party, as was supposed to be the objective, it has actually put her at the mercy of just about every pressure group going, from unreconciled Remainers to those who believe that the ideal location for additional London airport capacity is actually Londonderry, no doubt served by a modest sub-sea extension to HS2.
Mrs May negotiating with the DUP
I think we may reasonably assume that Mrs May had already irked The Queen by forcing her to cancel the annual Garter service in Windsor in order to open Parliament on Monday. So I would love to have heard the reaction when she apparently decided that, actually, that date would not work after all.
If she thought Her Majesty was going to forego a day at Royal Ascot to kick off proceedings later in the week, I think the likely reaction of “open the bloody thing yourself, then” might well account for the further turnaround that suggests, at the time of writing, that Monday 19th might be just fine after all.
Or then, again, maybe not.
This is what we call chaos. Before anyone even gets started on the big issues of Brexit and impending economic slowdown. Still, at least it has given us the handy new phrase “could not organise a State opening in a Parliament” to replace that tired old cliché involving breweries.
Meanwhile, by running the worst election campaign since records began, Mrs May has helpfully turned conventional Labour wisdom on its head by convincing them that a barmy left-wing prospectus is actually the way to voters’ hearts rather than electoral poison.
I finally realised that we had stepped through the proverbial looking glass when Labour successfully made political capital out of the London Bridge terrorist attack, while under the leadership of a man who has spent his entire political life consorting with terrorists and opposing every attempt to tighten national security.
The only small positives I can discern in the last action-packed week are the electoral setback for the SNP, and the exit from Parliament of Alex Salmond in particular. Plus the demotion from the great and ancient office of Lord Chancellor of Liz Truss, a woman who would have been over-promoted as a secretary, never mind a Secretary of State.
So where do we go from here? Someone has clearly already handed Mrs May the traditional bottle of Scotch and pearl-handled revolver, but unfortunately she once again grasped the wrong end of the stick and used it to despatch her trusted advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.
No doubt she will get the message sooner or later, but then who is to replace her? Bearing in mind that the best the last Conservative leadership contest managed to come up with was a non-choice between Mrs May and Andrea Leadsom.
One cannot discern a plethora of talent lining up to replace her: certainly no one to whom a sane elector would wish to hand the fate of the nation in its most important negotiations since … well, probably the ones that took us into the Common Market in 1973 rather than the Second World War, as everyone keeps parroting. Which was, as I seem to remember reading, much more about war war than jaw jaw.
As for the other side of the House, I really cannot bear to think of the state into which Jezza’s allotment would fall if he moved into 10 Downing Street. Or the number of lieu days he would accumulate while fretting about whether to press the button to order himself another pot of tea.
A Machiavellian might remember that Mrs May purported to be a Remainer in last year’s referendum, and wonder whether she has not deliberately thrown this year’s election as part of a cunning plan to make Brexit impossible after all.
May we detect the dipsomaniacally shaky hand of the EU in all this? Or is it perchance time for us to think long and hard about into exactly what outcome of the British election would best suit Mr Putin?
Because as surely as hubris follows nemesis, nothing emerges more predictably from chaos than a good conspiracy theory.