Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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I'm Proud It's Monday
It's often intrigued - and, to an extent, bothered - me, the way people use the words "humble" and "proud" in what seems on the face of it to be an arse-about-face kind of way. Say, you've saved someone from drowning and are receiving a bravery award. More than likely, your acceptance speech will refer to the fact that it's a very humbling experience. The same goes for Oscars, and indeed most occasions when it might seem that, because you're having your personal achievements recognised, pride might be a more likely emotion.

Well, perhaps that's not so very mysterious. An expression of humility might just bespeak the person's desire to be seen as modest. Perhaps they feel they didn't really deserve the award - like when I won the fancy dress competition at my primary school and cried, because I thought it wasn't actually the best costume. I wonder how often that happens to grown-ups?

Conversely, people often say "I'm proud to be X", where X is a nationality or some other thing for which they can claim no credit at all, being merely a card dealt them in the lottery of life. While they might reasonably feel pleased or lucky to be born in X, or to have famous ancestor Y, where do they get off feeling "proud" of it? No one says, "I feel proud to have won the lottery": if they did, they would be laughed at. What's the difference?

I suppose it's that people's sense of self is partly social, and that you can feel pride in achievements of the wider group of which you are a part, even though you personally may have contributed nothing towards them - an attitude memorably mocked in this sketch. Similarly, you may feel shame in the actions of your wider group should you disapprove of them, despite personally having taken no part in them and even fought to prevent them. Hence the sight of Americans apologising on social media for the election of a man they never voted for.

On the one hand, the communitarian bonds this speaks of are admirable - but this way of thinking can obviously lead to injustice and prejudice of the "tarring with the same brush" variety.

It also explains the ease with which politicians and commentators are able to amalgamate populations with a wide variety of views and speak without qualification as if they were all of one mind. Thus Theresa May is able to talk about leaving the EU as "the will of the British people" and Nicola Sturgeon is able to say that "Scotland voted to remain", as if the millions who voted the other way were of no account - or rather, did not even exist. The fiction that "the British people" or "Scotland" are entities capable of will and decision-making, rather than groups of individuals whose individual decisions are triaged by an electoral formula, clearly has a powerful political function. You will never hear May say, for example, "Most British people voted to leave", let alone "Most British people who voted, voted to leave", still less "Most British people who had a vote and who also voted, voted to leave" - any of which would represent the case more accurately. The fiction of "the people" and its "will" legitimates the extremity of their actions. But without it, perhaps there would be no action at all?

Often it is due to an inferiority complex.

I am frequently to be heard humming:
For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is an Englishman!

Ah, back in the days when there were Prussians to rhyme conveniently with Russians...

Edited at 2016-11-21 01:55 pm (UTC)

But, given the re-emergence of such historic locations as Serbia and St Petersburg, not to mention the prominence in recent news of Wallonia, it can only be a matter of time...

Similarly, you may feel shame in the actions of your wider group should you disapprove of them, despite personally having taken no part in them and even fought to prevent them. Hence the sight of Americans apologising on social media for the election of a man they never voted for.

There is a Yiddish expression a shande far di goyim, which more or less literally means "embarrassing us in front of the Gentiles" (shande: shame/disgrace/embarrassment). It's reserved not just for Jews behaving badly, but Jews behaving badly in a way where the whole community feels the need to go around with signs reading, "Please Don't Class Us with This Shmuck, Seriously, We Also Think They're Terrible." Bernie Madoff, for example. From my perspective, Jews who voted for Trump. (You really want to ally yourselves with a guy who can count literal Nazis among his supporters? You cannot possibly be that much of a single-issue voter. I am also a single-issue voter and that issue is don't elect fascists.) I'm not sure the emotion I feel on behalf of my country is embarrassment or shame—I think it's more like fury, especially as the gap between the popular and the electoral vote widens—but I loathe the idea of Trump representing me in any degree. He is definitely embarrassing his fellow-citizens in front of the rest of the world.

Edited at 2016-11-21 11:16 pm (UTC)

I hear his latest idea is to have Nigel Farage as the UK ambassador. At least he didn't say he'd make Mexico pay for it.

I hear his latest idea is to have Nigel Farage as the UK ambassador.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I did not think it was within the powers of the President of the United States to appoint the ambassadors of foreign nations?

That's early twenty-first-century thinking! Get with the programme!

That's early twenty-first-century thinking! Get with the programme!

I'm sorry, it's been all 1933 around here lately! I got confused.

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