Pride or Love?
- 12 Posts
- Age 20
I've always had a bit of a problem with national pride.
In Cambodia - where we refer to each other as ‘Khmer’ - when I hear sentiments like, 'Khmer love Khmer' or 'Khmer must help other Khmer', something feels off. The way they are spoken give the impression that we should love and help people only if they are Khmer.
This subtle breeding of an 'us vs. them' mentality is what worries me. It is the basis of discrimination, especially racism.
From a scientific point of view, everyone is 'us'. This isn't limited to humans, but other species as well. We are all cousins and distant cousins, descendants from an ancient ancestor far up our family tree. But perhaps such an astoundingly big family can only be appreciated from time to time. When it comes down to everyday living, 'us' and 'them' is a natural divide.
That's why there are borders and countries. And why we're usually not called 'Earthians'. And why national pride exists.
But is it 'pride' we should be indulging in?
Of course, there’s the pride after an achievement. But when you are told to be constantly proud of your nation, what does that mean?
Picture a proud person, to start. What are they like? Self-righteous? Self-indulgent? Thinking they're better than everyone?
So when we are constantly proud of our nation, are we falling into these pitfalls?
Are we swimming in blind affection, like a fiercely loving mother who insists that her child is always right? Are we so boastful that we would belittle anyone who dares to taint the shiny image of our country we've presented to others? Do we feel superior, like we deserve so much more than other countries?
Some may argue that without national pride, it can lead to the loss of one’s cultural identity. Somehow not being proud has come to mean not loving one’s country and culture. But I don't think you necessarily have to be proud to know and appreciate your culture.
Love and pride shouldn’t be mashed up together. Let’s raise up a simple case: our family. Do we go around boasting of how proud we are to be a member of it? Or do we just hold intimately the love that we feel? And imagine for a moment if someone does boast about their family, and looks down on yours. How would you feel?
I think love is more associated with humbleness, the quality that lets us appreciate all that we are and all that others are. Maybe what we should be practicing instead is national humbleness.
Because loving your country, to me, is simply to appreciate the fact that its culture has colored you a different shade than others growing up elsewhere. It is to appreciate the unique experiences that you've had in it, the people you have known and the places you have been to. It is to realize that you have a special, near-at-hand opportunity to learn as much as you can about the land, the culture and history so that you can share with others who didn't have the opportunity. It is to acknowledge the beauty and the ugliness of your country, and be brave enough to talk about both equally.
I am a Cambodian, and because of this, I grew up learning in yellow, sometimes mouldy buildings. I know what it was like to wipe the dust off my desk and sweep it off the floor before every class. I know the sound of the noodle cart as it strolled into my neighborhood, the joy I got from the ringing clop-clop-clop like that of early recess. I know days sitting with my relatives playing cards, rejoicing one minute and groaning the next. I know the stuffy markets I go to with my mom, and the cheap street food my friends and I can eat whenever we want. I know many things from living in this country, and I have so many more to learn.
I think our country is so special to us because we have spent so much time in it. It contains both, our fond and painful memories - it is a part of who we are. It is home.
But it shouldn’t be a blindfold that keeps us from exploring other parts of the world, learning about the people and cultures in them. It shouldn’t be, ‘I love my country and only my country.’
Instead, it should be, ‘I love other countries, but my home country will always hold a special place in my heart.’
Love and humbleness allow us to think the latter. Not pride.