23 April 2006

National Pride?

I'm quite confused about the concept of being proud of one's country.

You hear it quite often: "I'm proud of being American" and lately, "I'm proud of being Australian".

What does this mean?

I'd have to say, I feel no pride about my nationality. I'm not a proud Australian. Sure, there are things in my life that I'm proud of. But they are things I've worked at, things I've got for myself. I didn't choose to be Australian, I was born here and have yet to raise enough cash to leave. Maybe if I'd fought a hard battle for citizanship I'd be proud of that... but I didn't. It was chance, and what's that to be proud of?

I would find it hard to be proud of my country, since I don't really see anything to be proud of. I see things to be grateful for, but not proud of. I'm grateful that the government here does not have the right to 'legally' kill me. I'm grateful that I have enough to eat, enough room to stretch out, a welfare system to fall back on if things fuck up (including subsidised medical care). But I'm not 'proud' of these things.

I don't feel there is a strong sense of nationalism here. Some people have it, some don't. I don't think there's any one thing that all Australians agree on - though some may disagree with me.

I cannot be proud of the actions of my government. They are supposed to represent us, but their actions don't represent me. I'm ashamed to think the rest of the world might judge me by the actions of the Australian government. Is a liking of your government neccesary to a feeling of national pride?

I don't feel proud of our so-called national values. There is an increasing tendancy here to call things 'unAustralian' - what that means is these things don't fit with the values of those who call them unAustralian. But often unAustralian things are the very things that this country does, while pretending they are against our values. So here's my list of things that are demonstratably Australian, in the present as much as the past, that are called UnAustralian. These are all things practiced by politicians, enshrined in law, and common amongst the people - but often publicly called unAustralian, or hidden behind rightious justifications.

Racism is Australian.
Sexism is Australian.
Homophobia is Australian.
In fact, discrimination of all kinds is Australian.
Jailing children is Australian.
Denying people legal representation is Australian.
Raping the environment is Australian.
Exploiting the third world is Australian.
Lying is Australian.
Banning books is Australian.
Breaking the law is Australian.
Abuse is Australian.
Denying people medical treatment is Australian.
Breaking promises is Australian.
Murder is Australian.
Hypocrasy is Australian.

Unfortunatly, the same thing seems true of the US. Denying freedom of speech, murdering people, incarcerating people without even charging them with a crime, exploiting the third world, raping the environment, discrimination, denying people the right to vote, lying, circumventing the democratic process - all these things are American. The values our countries profess to believe in are contradicted by their actions.

It seems instilling national pride starts in the US at a very young age. Our prime minister wants to instill national pride by banning the burning of the flag, and witholding funding from schools who do not raise the flag and get the students to salute it every day. This seems ridiculous to me - the flag is simply an object. Who is it hurting if I draw a picture of the flag and burn it? Does worshipping the symbol of our country make it a better, fairer country?

So, anyone who is proud of their country, can you answer me this?

Can you be proud of your country if you hate the actions of your government? Can you be proud of your country if the values it says it holds are contradicted by its actions? And if the government lies to you, and your country doesn't live up to its own self-declared values, what exactly are you proud of?

I'd really like to know.


Maegen said...

uhhh. what a complex issue. let me ask you this: are you proud to be part of your family? We do not choose to be part of our families. We are often ashamed by the "black sheep" and feel abused or mistread at some point. If we don't, we probably ought to be ashamed of the way we treat eachother. Yet there is something in us (and by us I mean me) that raises up a bit of pride to be a part of my wacky, f'd, and often disfunctional family. I feel the same way about America, and more recently, being a part of this government organization I've sworn myself to, Peace Corps.

If we must reserve pride for things that are perfect we will never have any pride. We must be proud of the good while working to fix the ugly, and be grateful that we live in situations that make this possible.

If we are only proud of things that we have done, then we will only ever think of ourselves, which is a great weakness. While I didn't lay the foundation of America, I'm proud that it was founded. I'm not a soldier, but I'm proud of what a soldier does to preserve human rights.

I am not proud of the errors my nation makes, I am proud to live in a country that offers me a system that allows improvement.

I can only mourn the injustice, corruption and evil that I readily acknowledge. But losing my pride will cause me to give up fighting to defend the rights of those who suffer from those evils. Maybe it's simply about being human and being proud of those things which cause feelings of gratefulness and hating the things that denegrate humanity.

Pride is not, however, some that can be legislated. Being unAmerican or unAustralian should not be a crime. Let the laws stand alone. People who commit crimes declare themselves un[insert nation here] by not observing the foundation of that nation. That's their choice and it may not be a bad thing. Stating that you disagree with something shouldn't be a crime. My greatest peave is when we make laws to keep people from disobeying other laws. Spying is illegal, fine - there's a law for that. So we should make a list of things spies do and make all these things illegal too, inorder to make sure no one spies. Whether it's spying or protecting the constitution... let the law stand for itself or we will diminish the value of laws.

sorry... extra long and rambly

hasarder said...

Thanks for the comment Maegan. Very thought-provoking.

Funnily enough, I'm not sure I am proud of being part of my family. But I'm not ashamed of it either. I guess I'm proud of the ways we are overcoming some of our problems, because that's something we've worked at. Maybe that's the same thing.

I was going to write more in this post about people, but I kind of got distracted. The thing with Australia, is it's so diverse that it's hard to get a sense of national identity. Some people say the thing we have in common is a lack of identity, and a yearning for culture and spirituality and connectedness to the land. We are so new as a nation and we are trying to grow in an age of globalization which doesn't help foster identity much. I think this lack is part of the problem with the pride thing.

You said 'If we are only proud of things that we have done, then we will only ever think of ourselves, which is a great weakness.' That's a really good point. I know parents are often proud of their children's achievements. I'm quite happy that some people in Australia are trying to tackle the issues that we are facing, and working towards making things better. But I don't think that's really about being Australian. I think, like you suggested, that it is more about being human. People in Iran are working to make things better. People in France and South Africa and the US too. No nation and no person is all good or all bad. I'd be more likely to say 'I'm proud to be human' than I would to say 'I'm proud to be Australian'.

CS Lewis said in one of the Narnia books, "You are a son of adam and a daughter of eve, and that's both pride enough to raise the head of the lowliest beggar and shame enough to bow the head of the highest king". (Highly paraphrased because I'm too slack to find the book.)

It's been great hearing your point of view on this issue. We only seem to get one slice of the American view in the media here, and I knew it wasn't the whole story.

And I'd still like to hear what anyone else has to say, and why other people feel proud to be [whatever].

Garfield said...

You asked about my views about India.
National pride is complex issue with everyone having his/her own views. I like to listen to views of people on every side, because views of people on both sides gives a better understanding. Mark Twain said, "Nation is an individual multiplied."
I am proud of being Indian and being Punjabi. All societies have their good and bad points. Like if we compare economy and judicial system, US is better than India (I am not saying India is not right place to live). Indian economy is growing and with time things will improve. But we need to know history of our country. It tells you lot about today.
Life is easy in US professionally (and things are improving very fast in India). But I can never relate to the culture of this country, though I can now understand them better.
That's where I love India more than anything. Biggest problem in west is individualism. People look so friendly here, but there is always a distance between them. You can't take anyone for granted. They say thanks and sorry all the time, which I like. But these words are also the one I hate sometimes. they always create a distance between two people and remind you of your limits. But this is there way of life. So one thing considered good in one culture is not right for other. Depression is another major problem here in US. Why?

Family system is the best thing I like about India. I can't live without my parents. I can't even imagine my parents living in old age home. I like the love we have for each other. I can ask my cousins or friends for any favor anytime anywhere and I don't have to say thanks, and they can depend on me for anything.
India is known for arranged marriages but divorce rate is less than 2%. USA has around 60% (not exact number). There is something that binds us together in India. And its not easy to lose those things, as this system took centuries to built.
Another thing people know about India is caste system. People asked me about it here in US. Its funny that they forgot how they discriminated against blacks and what they did to Red Indians. Every society has some sort of discrmination (religious, ethnic or racial). Caste system is now illegal in India.

There are so many good things about India that it makes me forget other bad things about it. I love it and I always will.
I hate indians who hate India. As you mentioned about an indian in your comment to me. Such people don't belong anywhere.
So I know a lot bad things are in India, but also there is room for improvement. No country was born perfect or is perfect.
So we all should be proud of our country. But we should also acknowledge the negative points, and work for them.
I like one of your point in comment given above. We all should be good human being first. That's very right. If I am not good human being, I can't be good at anything. And we need to remember this all the time.
Nice to read your blog. Leave me a comment when you write your next entry.
I believe that more than judging other cultures, we need to understand them. And no one is perfect, but we should always work to improve it.