On National/Racial Pride

Below is a pretty harsh statement on the matter of national pride from the German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer:

Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before hies eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.

This is a pretty common sentiment one can encounter frequently nowadays.  It’s everywhere – be it the media, academia or just generally held as a belief in the minds of many people.  More importantly, the same argument also gets applied to other similar topics, such as pride in one’s own race or culture, just to name a few. 

This sentiment have always bothered me when I encountered it.  Something about it felt off, yet I wasn’t quite able to argue against it since the logic seemed sound.  By chance I encountered a rebuttal to this argument from a random anon on 4chan, and it helped clarify things a lot for me:

You’re wrong and here’s why: You’re not using the correct definition of ‘pride’ in this case.  Having the same pride that comes from one’s accomplishments for one’s race is of course dumb because you did not directly contribute to those, but that’s not what pride means here.

This sort of pride is equal parts gratitude and responsibility.  You can be proud of an accomplishment of your father, not because you helped in it, but because you came from that same place.  A piece of that greatness is in you, and it’s your responsibility to live up to it.  It’s not about lording over others arrogantly, it’s about living up to those who came before you and trying to meet or surpass their greatness.  You can feel the same way about your home town, your country, or the human race as a whole.  That’s the kind of pride it is, and it’s a purely healthy thing.

It seems I’ve took for granted that the word “pride” itself has multiple definitions and concepts associated with it, and never fully analyzed just what kind of pride I had when I thought of, say, the culture I came from. 

This seemingly common practice done nowadays, where the most inappropriate definition of pride gets inserted in the concepts of national, cultural and/or racial pride, and thus having the now subtly redefined concept condemned and vilified as a whole, seem to be tossing the baby out with the bath water. 

On the other hand, the two above listed quotes, one from Schopenhauer from a couple hundred years ago and another from an anonymous modern man on the internet, both serve as a reminder that even when we do choose to have pride in things we have no direct control over, such as our own nation or race, it helps that we be ever vigilant and reflective of ourselves, to make sure the type of pride we have is one that would help push ourselves further along our path in life.

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