Another Saint’s Day is around the corner and I will yet again seem many people posting that they are proud to be soemwhere-ish – Scottish, Welsh, Irish, English or whatever. Most of these people will not be immigrants, indeed many will tend to harbour hostile feelings to newcomers to their country. However, surely it is only migrants who have the right to proclaim themsleves proud to be Welsh, French, American or whatever.
I am not proud of where I was born. I had no say in the matter and played no part in the choice. There was not one ounce of effort on my part in this acheivement, nor was it any evidence of any special skill or knowledge I had acquired.
Being proud of where you were born is just one step up from being proud in having been born. Being proud simply because you exist, a smugness and fuzzy warm glow of knowing, just like everyone else knows, you are not dead. A positive feeling born out of nothing whatsoever. A life’s acheivements must be exteremly meagre, and success paltry, if this is something to shout about.
Someone who navigated the globe, uprooted themselves and their family,moved and mastered a new culture and life, has something of which to be proud. They could honestly proclaim their nationality as a badge of some success. Those of us that never moved might correctly feel content and happy, possibly even feel lucky at our stroke of fate, but surely not proud. Indeed, if we face difficulties perhaps we should feel a degree of shame that we never tried to escape and make a better life elsewhere.
In the days of kings and commoners there was a use for this phoney, national sentiment – it helped the common herd rally behind the flag and give their lives for the wealth of the aristocracy. It still can be the source of violence and can still be used to dupe the population. It allows our leaders to fool us that our interests are best served by allegiance to a flag rather than looking at our present situation. It is an idea which should be discarded as out-dated and odious.
So, while we have borders, let the new arrivals celebrate their mastery of a new culture and life. Those of us who were just born lucky will have to find some other way to boast. Those with no acheivements, the really needy and insecure can be proud of their hair colour, or the number of their fingers, if it helps. We will try not so show our disdain.