Thursday, 5 April 2012

Pride

Pride is a strange thing.  To have pride in something is to stand by it and say "I'm happy to be part of that".  But to say you don't have pride in something seems to be code for saying that you are ashamed of it.

But for me, I'm "not proud" of pretty much everything in my life.  I'm certainly not ashamed of the colour of my eyes, but I don't have any pride in it either.  I like to believe there is a middle ground where one is neither proud nor ashamed of something.

When I make something I'm happy with, or do a piece of work which I like, then I do have pride in it.  I had a loss of confidence in the middle of a sprint training session last night for instance, and I'm proud of the way I pushed through that and got the session back on-track.  That's something I did, and I can take the credit for making it good.

What I lack is the sense of pride by association.  I am not proud to be British, for instance.  Don't make the mistake of presuming that means I'm ashamed to be British, because I'm not that either.  I'm just British, it's a fact and not something I view as either positive or negative.  Either way, it's certainly not something I had any more control over than the colour of my eyes.

I don't feel any loyalty to my country.  I don't feel any disloyalty or desire to betray my country, but countries are arbitrary inventions.  A country exists because of people long before I were born and wars they fought over where a particular line should be drawn.  Being born on one side of that line or the other is nothing to be proud, or ashamed of.

The notion that everyone should be proud - almost to the point of jingoism - is rife through the media at the moment.  The notion that every member of the armed forces is a valiant hero, fighting to protect the country of which we are all so proud is pushed at us as if it's natural that everyone should think that like.  Whereas the truth is - many of us don't.  I don't wish any harm to our soldiers, but in the absence of conscription, it is job which people have chosen to do, and whilst it's a job which takes courage and training to perform - so is being an airline pilot or a surgeon.  I simply don't hold with the notion that "being British" is somehow better than "being French" or "being Iraqi".  The current fervour for Britishness is starting to resemble a cult, and that's not something I find easy to live with.

There is a fine line between patriotism and racism.  I don't wish to suggest that everyone who is "proud to be British" is a racist, as that is obviously not true - but it's easy to slip from the idea of defending what "we think is right" to slip into a defence of "the British way of life" and that's dangerously close to Empire-building talk.  The truth is that some countries in the world would seek to destroy the British view of the world, but it's also true that a lot of people in this country seek to destroy the other country in return.  Morals, rights and ways of life are all subjective, and whilst there are certain fundamental rights which most people in the world agree on, even that is not as easy as you think.  Think of those people who are happy to condemn a country for having the death penalty still in force, but would then celebrate the murder in prison of a mass-murderer.

The people on the streets of Iran or North Korea don't hate me any more than I hate them.  Governments fight each other with words, and at a certain point that turns into a fight with guns.  But it's ordinary people who pull the trigger and face the bullets.  These days, we mourn the death of every British soldier with a solemn procession through the streets of a small town outside London - yet the same people celebrate the deaths of a member of the opposing army.  They are both men (or women) with families, friends and a life which has ended.  The difference between how many people mark them seems to outweigh the ideological differences of two governments.

I'm not a pacifist, and I accept that war is sometimes the answer.  But we have people who have signed up to fight those wars on our behalf, as do our enemies.  We should mourn death of anyone in a war, on either side, not with an overt display of patriotism, but with a sadness that we the world has grown large and divided enough that the loss of life is necessary to settle an argument over the position of arbitrary lines in the sand.

I can honestly say, that I've written about many things in this blog.  But why do I get the feeling this post is going to get me into trouble more than any other?

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