Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Pride goeth...

A little quiz:

Question: What is pride?
Answer: What do YOU think of when you hear the word "pride"? (Sorry, a little Socratic method slipping in!)

I will be back soon with my definition and an explanation.

Update: I was cruising by The Daily Demarche yesterday and Smiley posted some very interesting thoughts about foreign aid. So what does the word “pride” have in common with foreign aid? Let me try to explain.

First, I want you to envision “pride” in your mind. That can be a little tough because pride comes in two distinctly different varieties. There is “good” pride, which is the pride a father feels when his child accomplishes something. The there is the “evil” pride, which is the Marie Antoinette pride that caused her to say, “Let them eat cake” when asked about giving bread to the poor. For this exercise, I want you to envision an “evil” pride; the type of pride that we are cautioned against. So, have you got a picture of “evil pride” in your mind? Now try to name some of the characteristics of a person that suffers from this type of pride. How do they talk? What do they wear? What kind of profession are they in?

If you are good, your mental picture doesn’t fit a stereotype. People with “evil pride” can be rich or poor; shabbily dressed or neat and clean; well spoken or given to street slang. But I would submit that in order to fit the “evil pride” mould, each example would have one characteristic in common. That characteristic is a true disdain for others. This is the type of disdain that really eats at one’s soul and colors one’s actions. And it is a disdain that is not confined to one group or class of people. Before you dismiss this definition, think about it. What is the difference between “why can’t they just eat cake” and “they have plenty of money, why do they need more.” The perspective is opposite but the disdain is the same. “Evil pride” can be rich to poor or poor to rich; high to low or low to high; even peer to peer.

BTW, before you think that I came up with this notion, I did not. I heard it several years ago and the word “enmity” was used in place of disdain. Either way, I think that the most important characteristic of the “evil pride” is disdain or enmity towards other people.

With this new found understanding of pride, I would like to quote some of Smiley’s post that triggered this thought process.

Unfortunately, many leaders in the developing world prefer the big, showy kind of aid over the one that has a chance at working. Let me illustrate with an example… My experience in the developing world has been that leaders are all too happy to publicly castigate the United States for all the country's problems while happily pressing us for more money, assistance, whatever. On this day, our meeting followed suit.

[For] the PM and his PS…, the first order of business… was for our hosts to decry the lack of aid the US gave them… [We] pointed out that the amount of money the US gave to this particular country and the region made it one of our highest recipients of aid on a per capita basis. Yes, they said, but the problem was with the kind [emphasis added] of aid we gave. You see, our hosts continued, no one could tell we were giving aid, and the PM was getting ransacked by the opposition for not getting more aid from the US.

Afterwards… it hit me. They wanted aid not for the development of their country, but for the political gain they could get from telling everyone that they got something tangible from the US government. Basically, foreign aid was kind of like crack for them: they wanted it bad, they had to have it, and once they got it, they needed more, more, more. (I sliced and diced this quote to help make my point. Please read Smiley’s original post. And Smiley, please let me know if you object to this.)
Can you see the “evil pride” showing through? The statements “leaders… prefer the big, showy kind of aid over the one that has a chance at working” and “no one could tell we were giving aid, and the PM was getting ransacked by the opposition for not getting more aid from the US” practically ooze disdain for the each other and the US.

Please note, that Smiley's "evil pride" riddled experience happens everyday. We can even compare examples.
  • The fact that aid is only good if it is visible is similar to “Couldn’t you get a bigger diamond? My friends can hardly see this one.”
  • When the aid is not grand enough then the true facts must be ignored. This is similar to “I know union drivers get paid well but the company still could share more!”
  • All sides can engage in “evil pride” over the same issue. (A similar example “They can’t attend because they will ‘dirty up’ the event” is met with “Well, fine! We didn’t want to come anyway.”)
Aren’t these examples really what we think of when we envision “evil pride”?

All right, you have seen my perspective. Can you name some current examples of this disdainful “evil pride” in current events? How about “No blood for oil!” or “GWB is an incompetent fool!” or even “We must kill the Americans for what they have done to us!” What other examples can you cite?