5 September 2012

I am not proud

"I saw a slogan on a guy’s car. It said, “Proud to be an American” and I thought, well what the fuck does that mean? Proud to be an American? You see, (...) I could never understand ethnic or national pride because to me pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own. Not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn’t a skill, it’s a fucking genetic accident. You wouldn’t say I’m proud to be 5’11” or I’m proud to have a predisposition for colon cancer. So why the fuck would you be proud to be Irish or proud to be Italian or American or anything. Hey, if you’re happy with it that’s fine. Do that, put that on your car “Happy to be an American.” Be happy, don’t be proud.” – George Carlin

Photo credit: Citizenship, by Rafael Lopez

I think this quote illustrates perfectly how I feel whenever I hear "I'm proud to be [insert citizenship]". So you can imagine how I cringe when I read such comments during the Olympics or comments regarding the celebration of historical figures.

I'm sure having lived and worked, and continuing to live and work, abroad and in an international environment has helped (my own direct reports at Google represent 10 countries), just as the chance I have to travel everywhere, to make me feel a "citizen of the world".

"Bion [a Greek philosopher] once asked a king, who was questioning his origins: "Sire, when you need archers, you are perfectly right not to inquire about their origins; you instead assign a target to them and select the best archers. Likewise, the philosopher's task is the quest of wisdom, no matter where he is from or whether he can provide a valid certificate of citizenship. Identity is less a certificate than a quality. Citizenship is a game for small-minded people, proud of superficial prerogatives. In addition, they have a superiority complex which makes them think they have been chosen by fate as better people. Excellency is for them a question of chance. But the motherland is a chimera, citizenship a deception.


To the question "where are you from?", Diogenes [another Greek philosopher] answered by: "I am a citizen of the world because the only true citizenship is the one that extends to the whole world."" – Michel Onfray, in Cynismes, page 148 (translated from French)