When one prowls the Internet, one encounters not only the raw “opinion” of the masses, but one gets it distilled into its simplest emotions, as they tap out a few lines on a forum or in chat. Thus one gets the prevalent excuses of modern society distilled into their function as support structure for a fragile ego. Under these circumstances, it’s good all we see of each other is words on a screen, or anytime humans met through the Internet, mass murder would occur. Recently I was fortunate enough to see a prevailing criticism of taking pride in one’s ancestors.
The ingenue in question saunted to a place where he knew his opinions would run contrary to the norm, and in the guise of a question, posed an attack: “How can you take pride in your tribe if you aren’t responsible for any of their accomplishments? Me, I can only take pride in things I’ve personally done.” There were a variety of replies, most confused, because this was an open-access system which means that people come there to learn as well as attack, and one way one learns is by trying out ideas on other people. But my reply to him is: “How can you take pride in something you haven’t done?”
Of course, this will baffle most people. “But — you — said…” No – what is important here is that without what your ancestors did, you wouldn’t have the abilities you do today. If they had not undertaken the task of creating fire, and hunting larger game animals, and moving north, and doing all the things that made them – and you – what they are, your intelligence, strength and appearance today would be remarkably different. Thus it’s foolish to claim pride only in what you have done, as you are a product of your ancestors; further, pride in ancestors is a separate kind of pride, much as one has pride in family and friends, and it’s a loving, positive pride.
Only someone lacking such a thing would criticize it in others.
But all of that is by way of argumentation. I want to talk about pride, specifically the question, “How can we have pride and healthy self-esteem while being human, and seeing what humans have done?” After all, we’ve cut down most of the trees, and we’ve strewn every single yard of open land and open seafloor with trash and toxic remnants of our machinery. We’ve slaughtered natural fish resources to the point where they are in decline, and we’ve eliminated more species than we can count by encroaching upon their unique, natural habitats and replacing them with generic concrete malls, hotels, shopping centers, bus stops and government buildings.
How are we supposed to have pride in a species that is so neurotic about death that it cannot see outside of its own narrow worldview? We are told we should have “pride” in how our society is now treating the handicapped, mentally ill, women, homosexuals, transvestites, drug users, criminals and minorities, but how can we have pride in something that sacrifices all else for that goal? And further, doesn’t achieve that goal – while they’re being treated better, they’re being forced into a mould of equality that defines us all according to a heavenly ideal, the bureaucratic creation of the average human, and thus denies us all below and above that state, if it can. Fails the goal, and destroys everything else – this isn’t a source of pride, but of horror.
Furthermore, let’s look at the products of this society. Every nice place, filled with a diversity of species and beautiful or even “rugged beautiful” landscapes, is rapidly replaced by concrete roads, parking lots, and square, functional buildings with no elegance or pride in their construction. Just like fast food: if it had to be graded, it’s a C- or C, but everyone seems to think it’s OK so it exists, and because it’s what’s there, it grows like a cancer. Every beautiful continent to which humans have brought “liberating” modern society is now divided, fragmented, shattered, destroyed by a network of fences and roads and settlements which are strikingly ugly in their metal and plastic, repetitive in their forms and bureaucratic indifference to anyone doing anything different than that mystical “average” we received from our God as a commandment to equality. Where are the free-roving game? The unbroken forests?
And let’s look at what we’ve replaced them with. The person of a modern time is not distinguished by caste, race, or gender, and thus is “free,” but they’ve also conformed to the average. Ugly, lumpy people, with poor constitutions – what kind of great society requires tons of Viagra and stomach acid medication and anti-depressants and laxatives just to function? These people are ill, in part because instead of preserving diversity, we’ve mixed every tribe and race and caste in people until there is no clear design to their heritage. They are literally “spart parts” people, made of whatever industry could cull from the mass and cram into an average, functional unit which will have a job, owe money on its credit cards, pay taxes and buy tons of stuff that will eventually make it into the landfills.
Some of our neighborhoods are nice-looking, and we have ceremonial museums and “historic structures” which show the kind of pride in making functional objects beautiful that clearly belongs to a long-dead time, but get out onto the main road and it is a long channel formed by shops and offices which exhibit the same basic architectural trait: average function. They’re square, with lots of heat-sealed windows, fluorescent lighting and other things abrasive to anyone with finer taste, but OK with a population raised on television and plastic-wrapped junk food. Big plastic signs promising you a new life or new identity if you just slide the card and buy something cluster above the buildings; trees are raised in nurseries and bred to take up only a certain amount of square footage and “look pleasant,” even though an unhealthy tree with no future and no past is about as attractive as our odds-and-ends genetics.
Even worse is the daily life expected of you: you’re a whore to bureaucracy. Wait in line for your food; slide the card. If it didn’t go through, please step aside, sir, there’s other people who have a need just as pressing as yours. Then you go to work, either clock in or mechanically greet coworkers who gossip about those who come in late; file papers, talk on phones, follow regulations and most of all, don’t offend anyone. Even when you do well, and become wealthier than others, this is the reward waiting for you; this is how you spend your time, which is the one irreplaceable resource you have, and it is servitude. Even when you succeed, you do it by manipulating others, and being dependent upon them; even when you are on top, you’re whoring yourself out to bureaucracy.
We could even mention law. “One size fits all” thus we cannot have both potheads and sober people, but a legally-mandated sobriety (except for those massive profit centers, alcohol and cigarettes, of course) which some people break and thus are designated “bad.” We cannot have ethnic communities, as racism might occur, thus every neighborhood and every photograph used in advertising must feature white, black and asian, and increasingly, mixed-race people who are slightly more photogenic than the rest. We cannot have some who are willing to live conservatively, and some who live liberally, thus a quasi-liberalism is enforced on all and no one is happy. Here is your speeding ticket, sir, but I’d take defensive driving if I were you – anyone with $40 and eight spare hours can do it.
Happy? Not inside. Those who do not succeed become bitter, and those who do succeed become numb yet imperious to those who haven’t succeeded; bitterness and hatred results, but since it cannot be shown openly, it is taken within. This results in more children being molested, more wives being beaten, more friends alienated by unkind words and the “lack of time” that all of us legitimately have but also serves as an excuse for simply wanting to be alone, and bitter. Alcoholism is a problem, but rehab is a huge business. So is weight loss. And nicotine patches for those who want to “quit” smoking, as if that act involved more than not smoking. What a neurotic garbage heap of a world.
The bigger issues are the grimmest. There are no strong leaders, no independent thinkers, no breathtakingly amazing art. No tradition, except what one finds in churches, that is somehow OK with the entire waste of our world as long as someone mentions Jesus every wartime. What do we have in place of Shakespeare? Endless plays about liberating women, homosexuals, minorities, drug addicts, criminals. Who is our Milton? “Fight Club”? There is no grace in art, no will toward creation and surpassing the mundane state of mankind, but an embrace of that mundane, which is fortunate since that’s where the profit lies. To love the mundane, you must have pity; to act out pity, you need priests, a bureaucratic government, and endless corporations to provide “opportunity.”
Most people are products of this system, and thus profit by it insofar as they are able to perceive, and therefore have no reason to have pride in their ancestors, in nature, in great achievement, or even in themselves.
It creeps up on you. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Lacking a goal, and thus a consensus to our society, we elected for pity instead, and yes, we did bring many of the impoverished and women and minorities and criminals to a higher state of living – at the expense of any hope or future we have of our own. Because society decided to average itself, and not reward excellence but reward profit and equality, we have effectively destroyed all that made people unique and worthy of self-esteem. Diversity? Indeed, we now have the same mixed-race population that follows every collapsed empire, from Mexico to Egypt to India to Greece. This society is not just broken, but its core values and assumptions are contrary to any meaningful or natural life.
So how can we have pride? For starters, by finding it in things other than our civilization at large; we look at our own works, usually unrewarded because the best product is not the one that appeals to most people, thus is not the biggest moneymaker; we look toward our families, who are raised well and bred well despite the onslaught of stupidity and disposable living; and we look to our ancestors, and ancient knowledge, as a source of strength from the past and a blueprint for our future, once this diseased and neurotic civilization collapses. Pride in one’s ancestors is not only a meaningful and healthy mode of thought, but the only one that is opposed to our individualistic-average society. And so I ask again, to our ingenuous assailant: how can you not take pride in your ancestors? and answer: because he is a product of this time, and not working for something better.
Vijay Prozak, 01/18/05