In last Friday's blog a conversation between commenters piqued my interest.
"I very much look forward to the day you say you're proud to come from lil' old Aotearoa, if that ever happens," one commenter wrote, directed at me.
Another reader retorted to this, "It bugs the hell out of me when people talk about being 'proud' of where they were born. I have always been glad that I was born in New Zealand ... but why should I feel proud of it? ... It was only dumb luck that I, or anyone else, was born there."
So what of this? Are we supposed to feel "pride" toward where we were born?
I agree with the second response.
I was born in Middlemore Hospital in Otahuhu, Auckland, on October 14, 1984. I had very little to do with this. I spent my first few years on Earth a small and resource-intensive, relatively non-sentient excreting blob. I could've been anywhere.
The geographic, economic and political realities we pop out into are completely arbitrary. This doesn't change how appreciative I am to have been born in New Zealand. I'll take bitter recriminations over asset sales above ethnic genocide, mass starvation and economic catastrophe.
I think New Zealand is a great place. I loved my eight years in Wellington, and if I ever return I would live there again in a heartbeat. I like visiting Auckland but never mind leaving. I had three unhappy years in Christchurch but much of my extended family lives there, so I'll always go back. I had 11 formative years kicking about Hastings and Havelock North as a lad, but I'm not sure I'd go back by choice.
We have some amazing scenery that we do a passable job of maintaining. Coromandel, Taupo, New Plymouth, Martinborough, Nelson, Kaikoura, Queenstown, Wanaka, Milford... I've had some great trips in my home country.
I'm proud of my family. I'm proud of my friends. This is what will keep bringing me home.
New Zealand has imparted unique values in me and I'm proud of the fact that we manage to maintain a relative respect for social justice and fairness.
I like very much that New Zealand is a unique place; it is geographically isolated yet has a high-ish standard of living.
But pride? Am I proud to be a New Zealander? I'm not particularly sure what that statement means when you examine it.
I'm happy to be a New Zealander. I'm often proud of New Zealanders. But I don't think I should be called upon to declare myself devout. As part of our better nature as critical thinkers, such absolute statements end up being to our detriment.
Because, let us break down pride. In its most positive light, pride is defined as a "satisfied sense of attachment" to a group of people marked by "a fulfilled feeling of belonging".
My sense of community to New Zealand comes from my family and friends.
Within the four and a bit million of us, there is a dizzying amount of diversity in cultural backgrounds and life influences. Do you think that I'd find kinship and a sense of commonality among everybody in the country? I don't.
Pride can be a negative thing, marked by an "inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments".
National pride, or patriotism, has always struck me as a display of blind affection toward an idea that a place, and all of the people within it, is one tangible mass. It causes us to put blinkers on our own failures. New Zealand is not perfect, nor will it ever be. This is okay. But I am always suspicious that an unthinking belief in our own exceptionalism can work against an ambition to improve.
Never forget how we respond to crass displays of national pride that aren't our own. I've heard countless people pillory America for its sometimes saccharine and overly forceful expressions of national pride.
Remember the crowds gathering outside the White House to chant and celebrate after the death of Osama Bin Laden a year ago? How did that make you feel?
It made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
The underlying issue here for me comes down to whether there is a set way we are supposed to feel about our home country. Is this pride something I owe New Zealand?
Me, I think that our relationship to our own country is personal. It is something that we should consider and examine as we grow as people.
New Zealand gets my thoughts, attention, parts of my heart, and love. But pride I save for special occasions.
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