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On Pride

May 6, 2010

Continuing with the theme of unloading on this blog the things which weigh on my mind during the long working day – pride.

When is it reasonable to feel pride? I have perhaps a little more contact with the US than most of the English, and it’s always struck me as a very strong difference between the two countries. Many Americans make quite a big deal out of being proud to be American, whereas I’m not sure I’ve ever heard any Englishman proclaim his pride in being English.

It’s an interesting difference, and I wouldn’t say it stems from a lack of English patriotism. It’s possible part of it has to do with extremist politics. Proclaiming patriotism as a cover for slightly dubious policy is a common tactic in the political right. The two party system in the US means that the most right wing party is one of the major political forces in the country, and there’s no shame (well… comparatively) in subscribing to its views. In the UK, with a much more open system, the most right wing parties are groups like the BNP and even the National Front – groups with the stigma of racism and fascism attached, that many people shy away from. This has led to people being a little cautious about being overly patriotic.

But I don’t think that’s all there is to it. Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as being proud of being English. That’s not to say that I’m not fond of the place, or even that I’m not very glad indeed to have been born here, but I don’t feel I can justify pride in something that I didn’t work to achieve.

That’s the nub of it, really – pride is for things you have personally had a hand in. I’m not proud of being English, my IQ, being right handed or having brown hair. I am proud of my music, my old fencing record, and various other skills and achievements. See the difference?

Boasting about innate traits and acts of chance is unjustified. Boasting about achievements you’ve worked hard towards IS justified – although sometimes boorish.

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