When George Carlin rants about the folly of pride for one’s country, one is forced to take a look at one’s own stand on such issues. George rightly says pride is something that should only be reserved for something one has personally achieved. If one is proud to be an American, one should also be proud of being (in his words) predisposed to colon cancer.
That brings one to an interesting thought. We may agree when Carlin is ranting on about Americans but what if he says the same thing about Indians? Would and should any Indian be really proud of being Indian? One’s obvious instinct would be to say “Yes, of course!” and then look suitably outraged at the very audacity of the suggestion that one should not be.
But if one thinks about it and I mean really thinks about it critically and without personal prejudices, isn’t the fact that we are born Indian merely an accident of birth? Wouldn’t we be equally (and wrongly) proud of Nigeria or East Timor if we were citizens of those countries?
Let us think about even more specific cases. Not too long ago, it was quite the fashion to be part of groups such as, “I am from Mumbai and that automatically makes me ten times cooler than you” ditto for Chennai or Delhi or Imphal. How pray did anyone have a choice as to where he or she was born? Was it not mere chance that one was born to Hindu, Muslim or Catholic parents? How can we be proud of being Marathi or Tamil?
Coming back to India, there might be extreme reactions to the very suggestion that one should not be proud of being Indian. People would say, “What about Gandhi, Bhagat Singh or Subash Chandra Bose? Did they not die so that we could be an independent nation? Aren’t you proud of that?” To them I would say, no I am not proud that they died. I am supremely grateful. Pride about someone else dying for something is misplaced.
To question the reasons for their sacrifice, did they die to see a free India? I believe the answer is no. They died to see a free people. They died so that people south of the Himalayas could mind their own affairs without the rules imposed by people who had no business in doing so. Did Gandhi not begin his work in South Africa? He certainly did not endeavour to create an Indian state there. He merely fought for equality of man. National pride has no bearing on the issue. In a few hundred years when borders are eliminated, wouldn’t we as a species together look back and laugh at statements like,” I am better than you or my nation is better than yours because I come from India and you come from Pakistan?”
To an arguement by a friend who said, “If tomorrow you win an award for best student, shouldn’t your parents be proud of you?” My answer would remain negative. My parents can be happy I won something. I and only I have the right to be proud of it, should I choose to.
The questions is about the misplaced semantics of the word “pride”. Over time it has been blurred with the word “happy” so that one is indistinguishable from the other. The root cause of this is the peculiarly human need to feel one is better than others. It doesn’t matter whether that quality or event that makes one stand out is a personal achievement or not. And it is where one should try to be impartial and draw the line. Be proud of your personal achievements and be happy about all the accidents that have occurred in life because clearly, not all of them are bad.