Sunday, June 29, 2008

Of Pride

Updated 01 July 08: See below.

Pride - the root of all that sentiments we identify as nationalism, patriotism, chinese pride, gay pride, white pride, black pride and so on.

I read this paragraph about pride a very long time ago, and it was simply the best piece I have ever seen written on this topic. Absolutely spot on.

You have no right to be proud, unless you did it yourself. That goes for anything from racial pride to patriotism. Your race, gender and nationality are fucking accidents of birth. Being proud of something you got stuck with when mamma squeezed you out is stupid. You have a right to be proud of your own personal accomplishments, and perhaps those of your children (if you were actually a good parent, and your kids didn't succeed by sheer bloody-mindedness alone). That's it. Your parents fucked, Mom got knocked up, and ~9 months later, there you were. Race, gender and nationality handed to you out of some cosmic lottery machine. Fuck your white pride, black pride, national pride, and all the horseshit that goes along with it.
The next time you feel proud about your <insert a cultural / social identity>, and bundled with it, some sense of xenophobia or contempt towards others - think about this.


Update: After reading some disagreements in the comments, I would like to clarify my opinion about this issue.
  1. In the first paragraph, "Pride - the root of all that sentiments..." doesn't mean that the sentiments are "evils". In spite of the common phrase "the root of all evil", in this sentence I only meant "the origin or cause of".

  2. In the final paragraph, I don't mean that if you have pride, you automatically have xenophobia or contempt towards others as well. It's more of, "if you also have xenophobia or contempt that comes with pride". However, to be frank, although parochial mentality doesn't always come with pride, it does come out pretty often.

  3. By quoting that angry paragraph, I might have painted myself as taking an extreme view against anyone with any sort of pride about any social identity. That's not true. In fact, I am more of against the assertion of superiority or dominance, rather than pride per se. I don't think pride about culture-by-chance is very meaningful; however, I have no issue with people feeling good about what one's great-grandfather did, and I certainly won't feel like "fuck your pride" in that case.

    However, I take it very seriously when people think that they are a proud race, the superiority / pride of which they will defend to the end of their lives. Proud by birth, they say. I need not say more about race issues in Malaysia. I also happen to read some chinese forum, and their rising nationalism is quite a worrying phenomenon. Nationalism is one of the trigger of the wars by Japanese and Nazis, in any case.


day-dreamer said...

Indeed something to think about.

But what's wrong with being proud of {insert a cultural / social identity}?

ShouFarn said...

Because you didn't earn it.

You'd be rightfully proud if you revolutionized the culture, or introduced new stuff to it.

Simply being born and weaned into a culture is nothing to be proud of, you didn't have to do any work.

Ka Lip said...

I think 'pride' sort of arose from its 'opposite'. That is... where people were looked down on: i.e. African, Gays & lesbians, even Asians.

So it's not always about saying I'm OH SO PROUD for being accidentally born into a particular group but rather, I'm just as good as any other person regardless of what differences I may have.

changyang1230 said...

day-dreamer: The wrong is more due to the second part, the parochiality and xenophobia bit.

shoufarn: I guess one might be entitled to feel proud if he exemplifies the "good" of a certain cultural group, but in that case it might be more appropriate to feel proud about yourself rather than feel proud that "hey we Chinese have the world's most noble culture." Unfortunately such thought is more prevalent than I used to think. In fact a long time ago I almost succumbed to such thought before I knew better. :P

ka lip: Yup I agree that many of such "pride movement" arise from prejudice and discrimination, especially those that of GLTB, African etc. However, there are equally many prides that are from the self-acclaimed superior groups - the white pride, chinese pride (this one you probably might categorise it either way), nationalism etc.

The state of being proud of social identity per se may not be as harmful as, say, systematic discrimination. In fact pride might actually be beneficial in daily life. Say, Leisel Jones wins an Olympic gold and you feel so damn proud of your country - have you contributed in any way to her success, except perhaps paying taxes that partly funded her training and campaign? And, why should I feel damn proud that Manchester United beats Chelsea, when I basically pay nothing to buy memorabilia, and my only contribution is visits to their website and +1 viewer in the telecast? I am probably not entitled to feel proud, but hey, if Leisel Jone's medal can light up an Australian and Man Utd's light up mine, it probably is acceptable I guess? :)

On a bigger scale, however, social pride sits behind many forms of social discrimination and parochiality. A huge part of history is painted with people going around colonising others with the excuse of "civilising the inferior world" (White pride), or saying that "we Chinese will beat the crap out of the rest of the world!!" (the rising Chinese nationalism today). Yes this is quite a slippery slope argument, but when we have witnessed so many slopes that have gone down the abyss, there are reasons for us to be very worried.

Although the examples above might be the more serious cases; I believe that they are a dangerous path many "pride" heads to. And to think that all these harms arising from one's belief in their entitlement to pride from the cosmic lottery, is depressing.

Anonymous said...

"Your parents fucked, Mom got knocked up, and ~9 months later, there you were!"


crushedguava said...

I still don't see why you shouldn't be proud of who you are, as long as it doesn't cause you to look down upon others.

Why can't I be proud of what my parents did? Or what my ancestors did?

So I didn't earn it. But I can still be proud of something bigger that who I personally am.

Ka Lip said...

I think a distinction between pride and hubris needs to be made. For some of us, being 'proud' is a positive feeling about our cultural or social identity.

I agree though to think ourselves better than others would be pushing boundaries. (As per the examples given - one could argue that colonization did bring about good change to some parts of the world but that's a different debate)

Mind you, if everyone could be proud of only the things they've achieved themselves, the world would be a very sad place.

changyang1230 said...

This article expounds on this viewpoint so much better than I do.

(I do not purport to fully agree with everything it says, and I have actually yet to fully digest every single point. :P But it seems to address the issue pretty comprehensively.)