A Matter of Pride

Throughout my life, few things have confounded me as much as modern man’s incessant tribalism. For all of our technological innovation, we may as well still be living in mud huts and chanting over fire pits to keep evil spirits away. Seriously, we divide ourselves over gender, race, nationality, politics, religion, and more. We form ourselves into groups, which of course leads to groupthink, with room for individuality only within the overlapping lines. This is partly what leads to brother against brother, and nation against nation.

It’s starts when we’re young. We’re taught to take pride in our various tribes, and see ourselves—and thus, our tribe—as the best. Or, perhaps more ideologically, as right. The best examples of this are seen in tribalism’s most insidious forms: religion and nationalism. Coupled with greed, religion and nationalism are at the root of almost every war in history.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how much further along—not to mention how much more humane—humans might actually be if we embraced logic instead of tribalism.

I’ll use myself as an example:

I don’t take pride in anything except my own accomplishments. Logically, why would I? I’m glad I was born a man, but I just as easily could’ve been born a woman, so what’s to take actual pride in? The same goes for being an American, a Nevadan, and a Renoite. I could’ve been born anywhere else. I also could’ve been born from any number of racial backgrounds, so why take particular pride in this one?
Before matters of race, gender, and nationality, I think of myself primarily as a human; a citizen of the world we have named Planet Earth. Not much different—and certainly no better—than anyone else in that respect.

But I do have a ton of pride.

I take pride in the fact that I’ve consistently made healthy, responsible choices throughout my life. I take pride in how I’ve evolved as an adult from making those choices. I’m proud that, even as a kid, peer pressure meant nothing to me, and I was never a “joiner” or “follower.” I’m proud that I’ve never felt the need to experiment with drugs. I’m proud that I’ve never once had a hangover from excessive drinking. I’m proud that I’ve always taken care of myself physically, and have never been overweight. I’m proud that I’ve never needed any type of medication to deal with depression or anxiety. I’m proud that I’ve lived most of my adult life on my own, and have never had to live paycheck to paycheck. I’m proud that I’ve never been fired from any of my various jobs. I’m proud of the contributions I made to the Seattle Clean & Safe Program when I was a Safety Supervisor for the Metropolitan Improvement District. I’m proud that, wherever I go and whatever I do, I never make trouble for other people or leave messes for them to clean up. I’m proud that I devoted most of my twenties to studying martial arts, and taught self-defense for several years. I’m proud of the novels and short stories I’ve written. I’m proud of the songs I’ve collaborated on with my garage band: Super Chief. I’m proud of all the hundreds of books I’ve read since I was old enough to read. I’m proud that, through my own course of study, I no longer hold any supernatural beliefs, and certainly don’t believe in any form of Sky Daddy. I’m proud that, due to my way of thinking, I can’t be manipulated to hate or kill through patriotism.

See the pattern here?

I’m not saying that it’s intrinsically bad to take pride in your gender, racial heritage, and place of origin, just that it’s illogical and primitive. It might come naturally, but that’s beside the point. Furthermore, it’s those very instincts which divide rather than unite us.

So. If you want to make the world a better place, you’ll start thinking of yourself first and foremost as a human amongst other humans, and instead of taking so much pride in things you had no control over, you’ll measure your own worth according to that which you create and/or accomplish throughout your life. Then, you can take pride in knowing that you’ve done your part in helping humanity evolve.

I know I do.


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2 thoughts on “A Matter of Pride

  1. I have written a response three different times, and each time it ended up being an essay. So, in short, and totally spinning what you wrote about (pride) into something else…

    How do you think we bridge the gap between our instinct towards tribalism, supported by Dunbar’s number, and a need to think globally?

    Given the situation around global resources (water, oil, viable farmlands, etc.) and changing climate, it will not be possible to just ‘live and let live.’ Someone, some *tribe*, will take what they lack at the expense of others. So like minded individuals band together. But if all we have is all these tribes banging up against one another then we stay right where we are now- dominant male monkeys slinging crap at each other.

    In tribal cultures the commons was taken care of because everyone benefited. You fed your hungry neighbor because maybe tomorrow they would have extra and you would have nothing. But you add to many people to the tribe (Dunbar’s 150 meaningful relationships) and you start abstracting people. They become the ‘other.’ So what do we do now that The Commons is our entire planet, and when our tribe has 7 billion people in it?


    • Well, my short answer is that we probably won’t ever atop being tribal as a race.

      My slightly longer answer is that education and intellect allows us to examine our tribalism and perhaps be a bit more philosophical about ourselves and the world around us.


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