(Posted by PB Curtis)
“We should be proud of what makes us, us.”
“Ewes? Female sheep?”
“No, Us, upper class.”
“Your usage of us is very u; surely, you mean you, not us.”
“We beg your pardon?”
“One is merely middle class, your highnesses, for which one apologises and feels humble in your presence. I’m non-u, and thus we can’t be proud of it. You wire in, though, and knock yourself out.”
Not exactly the way the conversation went, but a legitimate mimeo thereof. The discussion was class shame – I believe (no, I bet) it was Julie Burchill who said that only the middle class are ashamed of themselves – but my high-born friend seemed to be just as stamped with the Burchill imprimatur, given her call to proud arms.
I’m pro-pride, as a rule. I truly believe that if we spent more time and effort being proud of ourselves for what we do, and what we are, we’d all need less medication and fewer therapists. We’re encouraged not to, however, and the blame for this lies squarely with Evagrius of Pontus.
He is the founding father of charts of infamy with his original list of eight nasty human passions, and argued that pride was the worst of the lot. It’s classical Greek irony, this proclamation that pride is shameful. You can’t help but wonder if he didn’t hate himself just a little, because Evagrius apparently enjoyed great acclaim as a theologian, before – HA! – getting busted having it off with a Roman Prefect’s wife. Then he has the gall to blame pride for his downfall, rather than his penis. With that sort of chicanery, if he was alive today, he’d be a former Tory cabinet minister.
Anyway, I digress. I was in the middle of talking about class structure in Britain, and I go off and get hung up on Greek cock. That is always happening to me. My point was going to be that while pride is cruelly undervalued, actually being proud because Mum and Dad were upper, middle, or working class is missing the point. Fair enough to not be ashamed – which is the noble origin of “working class and proud of it” – but plain old wrong and stupid to really be proud. If only because, as Clare illuminates, there are more sterling qualities than the retarded social construct of class to be proud of. We all know that – right? – but shame remains the more enticing emotion, because it’s become perversely legitimised as humility.
Had “Shagger” Evagrius not been such a weasel, he might have made a compelling case that it’s shame that’s an offence against God, and love, and the self; the world might have been a much better place for it. Pride is a hosannah. Sing it.