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July 15th, 2007 by Edward Miller

Excessive pride is one the major causes of problems in the world. It manifests itself as simple arrogance, vanity, or hubris and on a macro scale as nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and all manner of intolerance.

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” – Albert Einstein

Nationalism is a deeply ingrained value of virtually every society. Nations, by their structure, have a direct interest in promoting nationalism. In extreme circumstances such as World War II, it made sense for the US to promote nationalism because desperate times call for desperate measures, and nationalism is a powerful tool. The fate of the world was at stake. Yet even then, nationalism itself is not logical.

One of the popular memes that is floating around is the concept that people must “Embrace Diversity.” I think this is one of the more harmful memes around today. Embracing diversity means seeking out and focusing on what makes everyone different. When people say “Embrace Diversity,” they are not just referring to being kind to your immigrant neighbors; they mean that it is important to maintain separate ethnic identities.

This idea originally came from well-intentioned people seeking to promote tolerance, and while this is a step up from plain old racism and nationalism, it seems that it has the unintended effect of strengthening ethnocentric and nation-centric thinking. This thinking implies that life is not as rich without affiliation with a particular ethnicity, nation, religion, etc. This is obviously not true. One could have just as fulfilling or more fulfilling a life while considering oneself as simply a citizen of the world, nonreligious, and a member of humanity(as opposed to any specific ethnicity).

I would counter the statement, “Embrace Diversity,” with a statement of my own: Embrace Unity. Instead of seeking out and focusing on what is different about each group of people, we should instead be focusing on what we all share as human beings. This is one of my core principles as a Humanist. We should not maintain separate identities based on our parent’s geographical location and/or skin melanin content, we should just identify ourselves as members of humanity. The artificial constructs known as ethnicity, religion, and national identity should ideally become as trivial as eye color.

Sadly though, in the real world people place a large emphasis on such things. Even on my campus elements of nationalism and racism can be seen. La Raza, the Latino ethnic pride group, is a prime example of this. La Raza literally translates in English to “The Race.” Imagine for a moment if a white student wanted to start a chapter for a white ethnic pride group called “The Race.” I don’t think that would go over so well. Why is there this double standard? We probably wouldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, allow a white student to do this, so we should not encourage Latino students to do this either.

The national organization of La Raza officially claims to be fighting for civil rights for Latinos, and that is fine; however, when it comes to promoting Latino ethnic pride, which is the primary function of their college chapters, for what reason are they more acceptable than white pride groups? The answer is: They are not better and are equally racist.

The same thing could also be said of the Black Panthers or any other nationalist groups of demographics that I have left out. Practically every demographic group is guilty of such nationalism, including my ethnic group. There is certainly a current of Jewish nationalism, as exemplified by the so-called “Jewish Defense League,” which has committed terrorist attacks upon Muslims.

What constitutes excessive pride? A healthy admiration or gratitude toward oneself, one’s family, or society is usually harmless. Self-respect and self-esteem are components of a well-adjusted individual. Similarly, a healthy respect towards one’s heritage is not always a negative trait.

For instance, I would not call an Irish-American who roots for Ireland in the world cup a nationalist, but I would call supporters of the IRA nationalists. Similarly, I have some gratitude for the United States, especially towards our policies of freedom of speech and separation of church and state. I have admiration for some of our founding fathers and a handful of our presidents. Nonetheless, I am fully cognizant of all of all the atrocities committed by the United States.

Once one’s pride blinds one to the faults of whatever one is prideful about, then it is excessive. Once peoples’ pride about trivial things such as their parents geographical location sparks them to create pride organizations, then it is excessive. Nobody should ever join a North American pride organization, and it is equally foolish to join a Latin American pride organization.

Pride is something that should be constantly scrutinized. Even small doses of pride can illogically cause people to find members of other groups to be inferior. Then because of Confirmation Bias, ones’ prejudices caused by pride can become exacerbated and infect others. One must question anything one is prideful about. An unquestioned belief is not worth having.

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One Response to “Embrace Unity”

  1. Here is a gut reaction, as a (former) New Yorker with a strong ethnic identity. Diversity and unity, as I define them, are not only compatible but complementary. Thus, I feel comfortable embracing both. In fact, looked at closely, your essay also seems to value diversity up to the point where it feeds to fires of conflict.

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