observations and opinion
the very dangerous thing called “pride”
So apparently there are some stupid louts out there calling themselves “the Proud Boys.” Because they are proud of their race. This is a perfectly ordinary example of human idiocy. Unfortunately, we seem to be giving prizes out for it now.
I would submit that no-one, of any race, should be either ashamed or proud, of their race. One’s race is the very definition of a “non-accomplishment.”
I am white. I am male. I am neither of those things by my own choice. I am imbued with innate, inherited characteristics. They are neither my fault nor my achievement.
I am white and I am male. Am I supposed to bask in the glory of what other, mostly now-dead white men have accomplished? (which is rather a lot). Or should I stew in grief and shame over what many mostly now-dead white men did wrong? (which is rather a lot).
Neither. I am neither to be blamed for, or to be credited with others’ deeds. What I am supposed to do – I think – is the best I can with whatever talents and strengths Fate deposited in me.
And if I am to be “proud” of anything (other than my kid) surely it can only be, whatever my meagre efforts achieve. I certainly should not be proud of my “heritage” – something over which I had no influence or control.
It may be easier for me to adopt this position than for others. My race (white), my gender (male), my ethnicity (British) have put me in a position where those aspects of my persona (race, gender, ethnicity) have never been an issue, because they’ve never been a burden. Relatively few people discredit me personally, because of those inherent and inherited characteristics of mine. And frankly if someone demeans me because of my race or gender, it is easy for me to dismiss them as cranks.
Of course, they’re not just cranks. My lucky landing means I have not faced the undeserved marginalization and discrimination that a non-white, or a non-male person has historically suffered under. The question is: should I be ashamed of what people like me, in the past, did to people like them, in the past? And I think the answer to that is easy: no. I bear no guilt or shame for the sins of white men past. But as I should not be ashamed of myself for being “like” past villains, so too I should not be “proud” of myself for being akin to past heroes.
This will not go down well with people who industriously market their own forms of pride. The LGBTQ community calls its annual celebration “Pride” – a reaction, of course, to having lived a history of fear and shame (and to encourage those still afraid and ashamed, to step out). I sympathize with this version of “pride”. Personally I don’t think that being sexually aroused by any kind of person in particular, is something that one should be “proud” of – your loins burn, they burn. Members of Canadian First Nations (called “Indians” in the USA) often speak of being proud. Again, this is a reaction against a history of being terribly abused, robbed and marginalized. But the mere fact of having DNA which traces back to an Algonquin or Apache, is nothing to be “proud” of in the sense that you get any credit for it, is it?
No, it isn’t something to take credit for. You get no credit for being the progeny of someone else. None.
Now, for people who fit into groups that have been consistently undervalued, (such as those mentioned above and many others), there is real value in identifying examples of people who are “like us” who have been saintly or highly accomplished. That can even extend to collective accomplishments (the First Nations were better to the environment than Europeans, for example). Why celebrate things that we personally aren’t responsible for? Because those who belong to marginalized groups, need to remind themselves and everyone else, that people in their groups ARE capable of goodness and greatness.
Thus, there is no sin in drawing attention to the fact that women have accomplished rather a lot more than they get credit for. Women and men need to be reminded of the true potential of women. But should anyone be proud simply of “being a woman?” Should she feel proud of her chromosomes? Or should she feel proud of the kind of person she tries to be?
In an effort to properly recognize the historically disadvantaged, western society has tilted into self-conscious group identity ideology. It is understandable but it is a true social disaster. In an effort to lift up those who are oppressed we have sanctioned a form of thought which actually erodes personal responsibility and aggravates the ills we seek to cure.
It seems to me a delusion – a distraction – to glory in the alleged merits of one’s group. It is also dangerous. A delusion to credit yourself with something you haven’t personally achieved. A distraction from the work of becoming a better person. A danger to others.
You will see deeply unmeritorious, unaccomplished people (people who don’t have much to be individually proud of) assert pride in their collective group identity. These are what we call racists and bigots. That is what Nazism was all about. It is what white supremacy is all about. It is what Islamism is all about. It is almost always evil.
If you are a Muslim and in being so, you are a better person, you should credit yourself for learning about your faith, doing the work of observance and being a good person. So too if you are a similar Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist or Fleetwood Mac fanatic. Your pride should reflect your efforts and accomplishments, nothing more, nothing less.
There is nothing to be proud or ashamed of in being white, any more or less than being anything else. I hope the “Proud Boys” find something worthy of pride. Maybe they can be proud of learning NOT to be proud of their skin colour. That would be a start.