Oh dear. Perhaps a good time to read something else. I’m about to wax philosophical again. I’m frequently told that is the side of me I should keep locked away in a dark closet somewhere and fed on alternate Tuesdays. That may well be because I contend that the only natural and inviolate human right is to die. Much horror, as I am told that humans have a right to a vast list of things ranging from free speech to free sanitary towels. Many of these things are jolly nice. I am pleased for any human to have them. But they actually are not things nature accords us. Billions of people, for eons, have not had them, despite being human. They are ‘rights’ our society and civilization accords us. Mostly they are things people fought long and hard to see everyone had a chance at. They are something to be very proud of in your society and something to honor and respect those who paid – sometimes with their only actual natural right, to see others had.
Ah. Pride. Yes, it’s right out of fashion these days. Shame and self-hatred – especially for those who gave so much to make the society and civilization we live in, but in fact for everyone. Because there is profit in being a victim, and nothing but disparagement for those who took on their disadvantages and, by sheer force of will and determination, beat them – or died winners, because they didn’t let it stop them trying.
I remember as a very young boy going with my father into a poor black household back in Africa. The Old Man said to me ‘Now look, if you’re offered something, take it and eat it with as much of a show of enjoying it as you can.”
“But they’re so poor. I don’t want to take their food.”
I still remember the gist of what he said. “They’ve got nothing much but their pride. That means offering a guest the best food. You’ll insult them by not taking it.”
My dad learned English as a second language, and still thought in Sotho and translated a lot – which made for some very odd turns of phrase at times! He understood the people and was respected and loved for it. He explained to me why even the poorest households… always cook slightly too much. It’s a matter of pride to have something left over. Now, there are many cultures who look at that and say ‘wasteful!’ It is of course. But it is also a matter of pride in themselves, and when you have very little else – the few scraps of maize-meal in bottom of the pot – means that you have your pride.
Cultures vary. Different things matter in different societies – My Scots ancestors prided themselves on being thrifty and provident against disaster. ‘Waste not – want not’. I believe they also prided themselves on their ability to dine on English sheep, but that is another matter entirely. Anyway, this is a recurrent theme in all my books (not the sheep. Or not always the sheep. Self-pride). At the moment I am writing about the descendants of a load of convicts – who have almost nothing – except their independence, adaptability and pride in that. They look down, somewhat, on those who are de facto slaves to the Aliens – although some of those slaves live longer and eat better. If they didn’t, they’d go and join them. Many of their best characteristics come from that pride.
You can tell me pride goeth before a fall. I’ll agree with you, but… maybe the man who takes that tumble, and still has pride in himself, has the self-respect and self-esteem to get up and try again. That man has my respect, and whatever support I can give – although I know he’s prickly, and doesn’t WANT my charity, and certainly not my pity. He has his pride, and his self-respect.
But self-respect is a hard thing to ask of the human who is left with little but the pity of others. To be the object of pity, of charity, of special perks and hand-outs may be very profitable, but it’s also very degrading, damaging to that self-pride. Which is where all the rationalizations come in about being owed this and that – that it is not charity, or that you have to be helped, just to compete. And of course, with this comes blaming others and certainly never acknowledging any fault of your own, and dragging them down to make you feel better. If you paint individuals with nice broad brush, you can make that charity an act of atonement for history they never had anything to do with, but you label them as its heirs (whether they are or not, whether they personally have wealth and success or poverty and hardship). Of course, that means you have to denigrate the group, trash things the group have achieved, to destroy their pride in themselves.
I don’t think there are any winners in this. Humans as individuals make choices and have strengths – things to be proud of. Things they have actually achieved, that they know they can look on with some self-pride, some self-respect. Give people that to aspire to, and they will do things, build themselves and their society up. It has become fashionable to break people down. Me: I’d rather build them up.
Everyone’s ancestors – especially judged by today’s mores, included assholes… and also were also by their own time and mores, proud of themselves. If that stopped, they died out and were forgotten. Every culture has flaws. Some are more successful than others, and have afforded more ‘rights’ and more quality of life than others. In many ways it is hard to top the pinnacle of comfort and freedoms that Western Civilization has provided to the greater part of populations within it. If you can’t find something to be proud of about that, it will surely wither. Show me a better alternative, and I might think that’s a good idea. I’ll grant that it is not logical, is quixotic and sometimes really funny, but I think I’d rather keep it, and keep taking and adding good things I see in other places.
That, to me anyway, doesn’t have the least impact on my respecting individuals, and extending my belief that humans – of any shade or origin or creed or any other criteria – can do some exceptional and wonderful things. Not all of them, but some of them always. And that is something they should be very proud of, and we should celebrate and I can and do respect. Being proud of what you are, can make you do things of which you can be proud, and shy from things which would shame you. A lot of good has come out of that.
Image by Hier und jetzt endet leider meine Reise auf Pixabay 😢 from Pixabay