At the Border of Chance
Are you patriotic? Do you feel pride when you think of where you grew up? Of where you were born?
Here’s a shot of reality, something to consider anyway: Don’t be too proud of an event that was entirely random and outwith your control. Simultaneously, do not question the why or how too much – it is natural to do so, but there’s never going to be a definite answer, only more questions.
Equally, if you are sheepish of your origins, perhaps feel there is nothing to be proud of and hesitate if someone asks where you’re from – don’t be ashamed.
You didn’t choose your beginning either.
So no matter where any one is born, there is no need to be overly joyful or sad. You never chose it. It just happened. Control = 0
Now, I could make the mistake that so many writers, speakers and people of influence make here. Or the ultimate deepity: To assume that just to be born at all is an incredible event and you or any one should be ecstatically happy as a result. While true on the most basic level, it totally neglects the complexities and variations of human life.
Some people are born into environments and situations so awful that if they had known about it and had a choice in being born, would have rejected that. Which is obviously paradoxical, but points to the severity of suffering, both emotional and physical that a person can experience.
It is very easy to find the thankfulness for existence in an economically sound democratic country born to stable caring parents for example, versus sucking in the first lung full of air in an unstable society. Perhaps with a military led regime, or dictatorship, or war-zone, or any number of situations ranging from dire to deadly, whether from famine, unsanitary conditions, lack of medicine, natural disasters and so on.
Unfortunately regime, dictatorship and war-zone can also accurately describe the household someone is born into, no matter where that is geographically. Emotional and physical abuse knows no borders. The same human emotions, balanced or not, exist universally (as illustrated by Paul Ekman’s research, which if you think about it seems fairly redundant, like being surprised that a dog salivates when it expects food).
The point is, that if some one is born into a horrific situation, they can no more do anything about that than if they were born into the optimal one – and anywhere in between those extremes. It’s a rarity, in that it is one of the few things in life we have absolutely no influence over at all.
Some people have incredible starts to life and objectively fuck it all up. Some people are born into intolerable cruelty, suffering and their survival at all into adulthood is near miraculous, and sometimes these people manage to crush the odds and even thrive, becoming great successes on their life path. While championed, they are the anomalies.
But the humbling factor is that we do not decide where we’re from.
And that’s not to say don’t be proud of your origins. But be proud of them for the right reasons. For real reasons. Factual reasons. Actual reasons. Not some falsely imbued sense of pride and feelings that are foreign initially, but become the force majeur. Don’t let people brainwash you into feeling guilt for not feeling anything regarding your home town, your country, your parents even.
Patriotism can be a dangerous thing.
And usually for the people who feel the need to fill a void in their lives by clinging to the narrative of nationalistic values to give them a sense of place, of belonging. You are not your country. Your country is not you. One is land. One is your individuality.
Asked if I am Scottish*, I would agree. But beyond the fact I was born within the designated territory that is defined as belonging to Scotland, I’m not Scottish, I’m just another person lucky enough to be on a laptop typing away on a planet that’s beyond words in what it offers.
Far too much is made of where we come from.
Which then feeds into societal and cultural differences, of laws, of customs, of language, of food – of skin colour. Sometimes for the better sometimes not.
As a kid I never gave a shit if someone was a different shade of skin. I wasn’t around any racist comments and didn’t witness much discrimination as a child. It never occurred to me and it doesn’t occur to any children, until they are instructed or imitate adults, to be racist. There exists only curiosity at the difference, beyond which the other person is clearly a human being, the same kind you saw in the mirror, and is treated as one.
We’re lucky to be here.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in a lucky situation beyond that, you’re truly lucky. Gratitude can carry you for years, if you’re fortunate enough to find it sooner than others.
Gratitude for the simple things will carry you furthest. For the food and where it came from, for the clothes you wear and who made them, to the more complex, such as your phone, or broadband. We accept them as normal, but rarely think to how they came into existence.
You’re reading these words. You lucky bastards. Not because I typed them, but because you have a ticket. One meta-ticket. You have a single ticket to this weird and wonderful world and any experiences you go through and endeavour to go through. To paraphrase the great comedian Bill Hicks, life is just a ride. And I hope it’s a long and prosperous one: that you use your ticket wisely.
You were born, you have a chance. To do what you resolve to do. And even if you don’t feel lucky yet, give it a chance, and you stand a chance.
*Andy Murray is one of the most successful Scottish sports people of my generation. I support him partly because he is Scottish. Because on some dumb level that probably doesn’t really require much further examination, it means something for some reason that he was born somewhat close to where I was born and where some people I know where born.