Pride

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

35 comments

  1. It seems to me that there is a deliberate attempt to erase things that certain cultures/groups should be proud of because not everyone in the group was always on the good side.

    See, for example: https://archive.is/GAir7

    An honest accounting of Christianity would note that it is the only religion that has ever come out against slavery of anyone, believers or non-believers (lots of religions have said THEIR believers are special). Yet this is not something that Christians are allowed to take pride in because other Christians were less convinced. This ignores the fact that no one else anywhere else had said that slavery was bad beforehand

    1. Those who are better than others make the others less proud of themselves.

      1. Perhaps. But they also provide examples to look up to. And one can be proud that your culture/village/family created/molded that person. I have several past students who are going to do amazing things in this world, better than anything I could do, and I’m going to point to them and say “I taught them!” with a great deal of pride. Those who are less proud of themselves because of the actions of others need to look inside for answers as to why someone else’s success makes the others less proud of themselves.

  2. I believe that any functioning human has the right to do, say, or believe any bloody thing they wish to.
    I also believe that the universe owes no one a free pass from the consequences of those actions, words or ideas.
    I have a perfect right should I wish to rise up and yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. That does not deny anyone the right to try to stop me or to punish me for any unfortunate results of my action.
    Our progressive left have apparently decided that good intentions absolve them from any responsibility for the damage caused by such of their ideas that fly in the face of reality. And thus such good intentions add yet another paving stone in the oft celebrated highway to hell. My thought is that if that is how it shall be, it’s our obligation to see that they go first. It would be only polite of us to do so.

  3. Hear, Hear! Well said.

    The shift from Negative Rights (to be free to do for yourself) to Positive Rights (the requirement that others provide for you) will be the downfall of Western Civilization. It is difficult to have pride in oneself when one must have others provide for your ‘basic necessities’. As I deal with my current medical crisis I can look back on some of the things I’ve done in my life with pride as I overcame situations that were detrimental to my future (oftentimes I put myself in those awful situations all on my own) and realize that I can is a very simple and important philosophy to grab ahold of as I work through the next difficult situation.

  4. 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.

    I can’t convey the horror of Running Out at meal time.

    …which is why half of our meals are leftovers.

    1. In a society with refrigeration, there’s nothing wrong with having leftovers. Leftovers are delicious, sometimes even better than eating the first night was.

      I remember an article in the Wall Street Journal about fifteen years ago about whether or not it was acceptable to store and eat leftovers, or if all food not eaten immediately after it was prepared should be thrown out. That article, and about half the comments to it, might as well have been in Swahili for all I could understand what they were talking about.

      1. Oooh, ooh, cool thing– did you know that if you cook pasta, and then cool it, it changes the glycemic index to the “good thing” direction of whole wheat? (slower break down)

        Then somebody went, hey, what happens when we heat it back up….and it’s even better for you, as far as avoiding blood sugar spikes. 😀

        This is AWESOME for us, because the kids will eat pasta like I’d eat fresh baked bread. So I make a couple of pounds of (enriched, of course) pasta with butter and garlic salt, leave it in the fridge, and that’s one of their “snacks.”

        *looks at bunch of reasonably tall, slim gradeschoolers running around* It seems to work.

      2. If you cook a *lot* at one time, you generate enough leftovers for one night a week to be buffet night. Better be first in line to get the good stuff!

      3. Wait, what? Why would that even be a question? OF COURSE it’s acceptable to store and eat leftovers.

        Now, I wouldn’t serve them to guests, but…how deranged do you have to be to believe that it is better to waste food than to consume it?

        1. For my own experience, the population that this comes from is the same that wants only “organic” and “natural” food– the idea is to make food hard to get, not easy to have.
          The very idea of my son pulling the fridge open, at like four, dragging out a PLASTIC THING and setting it in the HEAT BOX for BUTTON PUSH and then eating it, offends them.

          Because food should be hard.

          1. “Because food should be hard”

            That…is completely absurd. At a certain level, occasionally deliberately getting food the hard way is something you should probably do, just to remind yourself how good you have it most of the time, but…all the time? That’s just insane.

        2. These must be the same people who don’t take their restaurant leftovers home for lunch the next day. You bet I ask for my doggie bag and it’s not the dog who’s eating that half of a hamburger or steak.

          Some restaurants put so much on the plate that I automatically cut the sandwich in half to bring home.

          1. They don’t even call them doggy bags anymore. Now they’ll come up and ask you if you want a box. (Unless I’m traveling without refrigeration, of course I take a box. 🍱)

      4. Ugh … leftovers. My own family was a fiend for leftovers. Me, I try and incorporate and cook leftovers in a way that doesn’t scream “warmed-over leftovers.”

        1. Sunday night…

          Look in the pantry, there’s a box of rice noodles and a small can of water chestnuts.

          Look in the deep freeze, there’s still some of the yellow onion that I cut for fajita nights.

          Look in the fridge, there’s leftover grilled sirloin (medium rare), half a box of beef stock, and half a jar of Mongolian barbecue sauce. Minced garlic, too.

          Pull out the wok, cook the noodles in the beef stock (add a bit of water, maybe a quarter cup?). Add thinly sliced steak. Cook until done (about three minutes), add water chestnuts, onions, and garlic. When chestnuts are just at the edge of losing the crunch, turn off heat, stir in barbecue sauce. Grab a couple of the 90 second rice bowls (white or brown, depending on individual preference), zap in microwave.

          Put wok on table with serving utensil, pull rice bowls from microwave, run around house to tell family that dinner is served.

          Now, Rachel Ray would probably scream, but 20 minutes of work and the family is fed. (Tonight was fresh, though, and in even less work time – crock pot beanless chili.)

  5. Pride is necessary, even unavoidable, but it must also be tempered with humility.
    “Through God’s Grace, I was able to achieve…”

    More problematic is the pride currently running rampant. It’s one thing to be a grasshopper. It’s another thing to take pride in it and actively resent the ants.

      1. One of my favorite characters in the history of Vienna is Duke Jasomirgot, who was nicknamed that because he started almost every declaration with “Ja, so mir Gott hilft,” Yes, if G-d helps me/ Yes, with G-d’s help. Got himself done in by a Habsburg, but he was a character worthy of the city. (Which has lots and lots of characters!)

  6. I am told that humans have a right to a vast list of things ranging from free speech to free sanitary towels.

    I can’t agree with you here, because these aren’t the same thing. Freedom of Speech belongs to me, because if I were alone in the woods, there would be no one to take it away from me. That’s a right. Society can take it away from me, but it can’t give it. It was mine in the first place, not something “society and civilization accords us.”

    The sanitary towels have to be made by someone, and if I were alone in the woods, there’s no one I can force to do that work. Thus, that’s not a right.

    1. FWIW I also considered pointing out that “stuff you have if someone doesn’t act to remove it” would be a better definition of right, but got distracted along the way. 😀

    2. perhaps it would be better put as ‘inalienable’ or absolute rights. But I don’t agree because I consider 1)allowing free speech to be a great social achievement of very few societies, to be admired. 2)In many societies, for much humanity’s existence, even whispering it under your breath, when you hope you are so deep in the woods no one can hear you is something many people are too afraid to do. They are even afraid to think some thoughts. Be proud of living in a society where this seems bizarre.

  7. I need to hit the rack, but if you really love waxing philosophical, I embrace you as a brother.

    So.

    Define “right”

    Define “nature”

    Define “society”

    rubs hands together gleefullyCome! Let us reason together.

    1. right:in this context something to which you are entitled regardless of circumstance. Nature: define context. Society: in this context see Adam Smith 🙂 (Society’s mirror)

      1. Well that backs me up. Regardless of circumstances I am “entitled” to some things. But now we have to get at “giving title to”. What or who is capable of granting titles to people? And why? How can circumstances matter if you do not know the what or the who?

        And if you think you *do* know, won’t that affect the circumstances? I am entitled to my dad’s love and care. You are not. Unless he adopts you.

        Context for nature: Based on your post it would seem to be the material world, that , those things we can measure, which have mass, color, etc.

        It’s a bit silly to talk about Nature and entitlement in the same breath, though so…

        Nature could mean the universe of all that exists, but that includes supernatural things outside of measurement: reason, love, truth, etc.

        There could be Something in Nature that gives titles to mankind.

        Alas there is no good my seeing Adam Smith: never read him.

        Can we define society for the purposes of discussion as a bounded community of human beings with mutual obligations?

        Having fun yet? 😃

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