Recently, I had an occasion to indulge in a rather lengthy debate on linking one’s religious pride and patriotism. It all originated in one of my friends on Twitter tweeting that he is a proud Muslim who doesn’t believe in preaching but practising. Another friend replied saying that the former has all the rights to be proud as a Musilm, provided he is first a good Indian. I was disappointed at this tweet for various reasons. Firstly, being proud about one’s religion has nothing to do with one’s pride in his/her country. Secondly, religion itself being a personal choice, others should not be condescending by granting a right to be proud about it. Thirdly, the tweet clearly demonstrated a religious profiling of Muslims, as if to show that Muslims, unless proven otherwise are not good Indians.
While we were at debating this issue, I suggested that it is not right for us to be proud of mere status, but pride should be in our achievements. My point was that things which are not in our control, or are not results of our efforts, but just happened to us like our country, religion, caste, mother tongue, race, colour, sexual orientation etc are nothing to be proud of, as these attributes are mere matter of facts.
As an aside, another friend of mine questioned the logic of this view. To prove his point he asked me that if one can only be proud of one’s achievements, how is that I am proud of my parents? I replied to him through a counter question as to what made him think that I am proud of my parents at all? I further explained to him that I may love and respect my parents but did not find anything to be particularly proud of that that they are my parents. Rather, I would be proud about the fact that I have been a good son to my parents (fulfilling all my duties) than taking pride in the fact that they happen to be my parents.
My friend was not convinced of the logic of this view. He repeated that he finds the argument illogical. I replied to him that I have no problem in his being proud of his parents (or being a proud Hindu or proud Muslim or proud Indian) so long as he doesn’t hold that pride against others who do not meet this qualifications. In other words, one may be proud of his parents but that should not extent further to hold in contempt others who do not share same parentage with him.
These exchanges prompted me to look at the concepts of ‘pride’ and ‘proud’ little more deeply. What is pride? What makes one proud? According to Wikipedia, one of the first definitions of pride came from St. Augustine, who defined pride as “the love of one’s own excellence”. In this sense the ‘pride’ is the opposite of either ‘humility’ or ‘guilt’.
In the words of Sullivan, “Pride is an inward directed emotion that exemplifies either an inflated sense of one’s personal status or the specific, mostly positive, emotion that is a product of praise or independent self-reflection. Pride is distinct from happiness and joy.
‘Proud’ is the adjective form. It is feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honourable or creditable to oneself. It is also ‘having, or proceeding from, or showing a high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance or superiority.
I will not go further deep into the abstract thinking on the concept of pride. It would serve our purpose to know that pride and proud are associated with one’s own superiority or excellence viz-a-viz other persons.
Being proud about a particular status usually follows that absence of that status is a cause for guilt or inferiority. If I say I am proud of being straight in my sexual orientation, I am also making an implied statement that I would have felt guilty or I would be inferior if I happened to be a gay. Similarly, if I am proud of being an Indian, it would mean that I wouldn’t have been so superior, had I been born as anything but an Indian.
The above juxtaposition of pride and guilt/inferiority is not a cause of botheration so long as they remain internal to a person. But what happens if this mindset is extended to other persons who does not confirm to the same status? The classical ‘us’ versus ‘they’ prejudices? For example, when I am proud of being the son of my parents , am I saying that not being the son of my parents but of any other parents is a cause for inferiority or guilt? In other words, does being son of my parents make me superior to those who were not lucky to be born to same parents? Remember, pride is distinct from mere joy or happiness for being the son of one’s parents or belonging to some other status.
That is how it ends up more often than not. We know any number of prejudices associated with status. The proud whites found the blacks and coloured not worthy of any respect. A proud Muslim often finds a non-Muslim as mere Cafir, infidel and unworthy person, against whom even a bloody Jihad is permitted. No wonder we have so many prejudices in this world as we have so many factors about which we are proud! We hold other non-conformists (to our status) in contempt!
The problem gets even worse when one’s pride is exploited by some unscrupulous persons or groups. These elements exacerbate the pride of individuals in some common status, real or perceived, through propaganda and then exploit that intense pride to achieve their nefarious objectives. We can see lot of instances of such exploitation.
By appealing to a follower’s pride, the reason and logic are easily sidestepped. What remains is only emotion and by manipulating that emotion you can get almost anything done by the unsuspecting follower, be it a pogrom of ‘others’ or a bomb blast directed at innocents. Almost all religious denominations are guilty of manipulating pride of its followers, at one time or other, to achieve superiority over other religions.
At the time of wars (even sometimes at the time of peace), regimes effectively whip up the pride in one’s country to the extent that no one dares to question any wrong doings of that regime. In patriotism, the line between benign pride and chauvinism is not too thick.
How can we overcome this exploitation and channelize our energies towards creating a better human race that is organised only on the principles of mutual love, respect and dependency? Well, the first step is to recognise that a status is not something to be proud of.
Any status that gets bestowed upon us is not something that we earned. If I am son of my parents it is not my achievement but a mere coincidence. Every son or daughter in this world is a child of some or other parents, though the quality of those parents may differ. If my parents are good, I should feel joy and be thankful about it; not take any pride in it. If my birth happened in India, I may feel happy about it and love this country; but nothing to be proud about that birth. Every person is born in one or other country; not by his/her choice.
Same is the case of religion or other such statuses. Your religion, caste or mother tongue is only a fact that occurred due to mere chance of your being born to certain parents and not to others.
Second step is to consider how many of others who do not conform to the status in question would feel proud of our status? Would any person other than those born to Indian parents (with the exception of miniscule number of persons who adopted Indian citizenship for their love for India) feel proud about being an Indian? In other worlds, how many Pakistanis, British or French men would feel deprived that they were not born in India? When we start considering this, we feel most of the ‘they’ are also proud of similar yet very dissimilar status and that there is nothing great in our own status to be proud of.
Finally, we must all try to restrict our pride to our own achievements. Not what we were given with, but what we created/gave back, should be the reason for our pride. Our pride would then soon get deflated to the feeling humility because we have often got much more than what we could give back, be it our family, society, nation or humanity.
Let us be proud in not being the child of certain parents but in being a good child to them. Let us not feel pride in being an Indian but what we gave back to India. Let us not find pride in being a Hindu/Muslim, but in following the true tenets of those religions – in other words, being a true Hindu or Muslim.
Above all, let us find pride in being better human beings and making this society more humane.