It’s funny the things we identify with isn’t it? Consider national pride… such a curious belief. After all, why would we take pride in something we have no significant part in shaping? We pop out on a specific patch of land and it can seem to define our whole life. We use it to measure our experiences against, identify with, and even recoil from. A pride or shame, basking or wincing, heightened and deflated egos based on something wholly external to our being, out of our control.
Someone tells you: “Your country is beautiful!” How do you react? Does your heart swell with pride? Of course, it’s not really your heart but a part of you that identifies positively with something that is not you. Are you proud because the area of land you live on looks postcard pretty, has a fascinating history or is abundant in wealth or creativity? Again, it is not you – you should be taken neither up nor down by the accolade in relation to the value of you as a person. And yet do we not do this.
What is a border… who decided where to put it? Can your self-worth be crushed or your spirits be raised by the fate of ‘your sporting team’ from the country you have on your birth certificate, or even the region you identify with, hating those living 20 minutes the other side of a man-made boundary because an idea planted in your head calls them ‘different’? And what of the politics of your nation, the culture you get steeped in, the religions that permeate your life, the beliefs forged, the history known, the ‘achievements’ recognised? It is worth repeating – none of this is you!
‘Scotland Shame’ ran one famous headline from my country of birth regarding the blight of Sectarianism, and the violent religious prejudice that divides a great many. But is that every person in the country’s shame? Whose shame is it? And why feel shame – what is it offering? Is there within a true call to responsibility to address the issue that led to the headline? Where is the healing in this? We can so easily be undone by a man-made loathing wrapped up in a geographical location that has reverberated beyond our current lifetime.
Is it national pride that keeps us from caring about people suffering in the Mexican drug wars with its mass-scale corruption and violent soap opera culture – (a readymade Netflix series, ‘Narcos,’ for a new century re-cycling Columbia’s past – same energy, different location); or the human rights abuses in the Middle East where women can be raped and put in jail as if criminal offenders, as we in the West turn a blind eye because our comfortable pasture ranks higher in importance than the rights of women in a ‘foreign’ country? Even the madness of gun control in the self-proclaimed ‘greatest country in the world,’ USA, where some minds want to arm teachers rather than address the root causes that have normalised gun wielding security guards in their schools. It’s not our country so who cares… leave them to their mess.
Yet perhaps it is your country. And if so, do you measure up and say, “Well, we have this problem but at least we’re not in Damascus or Mogadishu or Palestine,” or you justify and defend the loveless situation because something made you proud of ‘your’ nation and its culture; the proud relief that you do something ‘better’ than someone else. We might have a problem with domestic violence or religious bigotry but we grow the best tasting peaches.
Where do such feelings of attachment lead us, such identification with an area or a race of people? It has led us to a ‘look after our own’ mentality, to disconnect us from our natural brotherhood, blocking our loving intelligence when at heart we know we are inextricably interconnected. Must we live in such a protective bubble against the ‘unknown others’ who we perceive to look and be different, and even consider dangerous, when in fact they are just as we are – only born into different circumstances?
To have pride in the culture, food or language of our geographical location strips us of knowing who we are beyond the things we do, the way we live, the illusion of individuality.
National pride is so often narrow-minded. Have appreciation for where you live for sure, feel blessed, enjoy what’s on offer, but to identify as a nationality, separate to another, better, unique, keeping others out of your heart because they occupy a different piece of land on this globe is not our truth. It is in fact a lie. This is the lie we easily believe, and this is madness. It doesn’t tell the truth of the Ageless Wisdom that binds us, the science of our interconnected past, present and future, the particles, the stars and the Universe.
Don’t believe me? So be it. But one day you’ll come to see that we are all from one source, that those particles are bound up in each other far more than our current ways of living allow us to see, with not a national flag in sight, and no one’s shame or pride to carry, no burden we need bear. Love where you grew up, love where you live, but know you are so much more than this. This current world needs you more than ever to be everything you are, not a symbol of one small patch of land but a Universal Man* living in connection, with and for Humanity.
(*denotes man or woman, not gender specific)
By Stephen Gammack, Sydney, Australia