The Shameless Nature Of Pride

As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.

I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much. 

The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride

We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there. 

We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos. 

As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing. 

The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly. 

4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.

And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.

Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person. 

Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well. 

Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.

***

You can see more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

Tuesday’s Top Tip

Vote.

If you value democracy and freedom, vote. 

If you value the rights that millions have died for, vote. 

If you value the planet that we live on, vote. 

If you believe in living a life of greater purpose and meaning, vote. 

If you believe in securing a better future for your children, vote. 

If you believe in looking after one another, vote. 

If you care for those who have lost their lives this year, vote. 

If you believe in honesty, compassion, kindness, responsibility, love… vote. 

Look your children in the eyes and ask yourself, what’s in their best interest – really dig deep. Ask yourself what is best for them, for your fellow Americans, for your fellow humans. 

Really ask yourself the question. 

Because if you really love them you cannot, in good conscious, vote for the person that will hurt them. Don’t let pride form your narrative. Forgive yourself for any and all past mistakes. Make amends by putting yourself on the right side of history. It is never too late to do what’s right.

The choice has never been clearer. 

The choice has never been more important. 

You must get out there and vote.

Previous Top Tip

Why Freedom Demands Responsibility

“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.” 

Herbert DouglassSourCE:The Cost Of Freedom

True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations of our choices.

We will always have to live with some sort of, ‘what if I had…’ We will always have to mourn the limitless possibilities we didn’t pursue. If we had no choice about our life we’d simply get on with it, but because we do, we live in constant fear of making the wrong one.

That’s the price we pay for the freedom of choice. 

We have to live with the consequences of our actions. We have to live in the knowledge we could have done things differently. To know we could have done things better.

I wonder if many of us don’t actually want the level of responsibility that comes with having to choose our own fate? Perhaps this is why so many of us prefer to be told what to do? Perhaps this is why so many of us choose not to think for ourselves? 

It’s too uncomfortable.

We don’t want to take responsibility for our life. We didn’t have to as children so why should we now?

Many recent decisions we’ve made in the “free” parts of this world demonstrate an unwillingness to take on this fundamental aspect of freedom. We follow the herd because it’s easier. We follow the herd because that’s what our parents taught us to do.

I imagine that living in a society where your thoughts and actions are decided for you is in some ways easier. You don’t have to think about what to do. When your survival depends on the actions that the state has demanded, you just do. So you become another brain washed cog in the totalitarian machine. Just as your dictator ordered. There’s a nice little cog.

The sad truth about such a life is you still have responsibilities. They’re just not your own.

You cannot escape responsibility.

Many of us falsely belief that freedom comes with the freedom not to have any responsibilities. How we love to have our cake and eat it too! We say, ‘if only I choose the right leader then I’ll be able to achieve financial independence free from having to try at anything.’

Delusion is a word.

Delusion is what’s sold to you by populists who promise the world free of charge. They promise you the things that only you can deliver for yourself. 

There’s a huge price that comes with freedom, incalculable in fact – millions have died for it – but I believe the rewards justify it. Yes the possibility of failure is real, but so is the possibility of achieving greatness. We should remember that humans don’t flourish under the conditions of compulsion – we flourish under the conditions of free co-operation.

It’s hard to shift through the noise of course. It’s extremely hard in fact. To do the research required to figure out what your own opinions are on matters that affect us all. The rewards are not that you’ll have a leader you want or a country that reflects the values you hold either.

You probably won’t.

The reward is actually greater than that. The reward is that you get to know who you truly are. This is something your country and the world needs more than your vote. What we need is a diversity of unique voices speaking for themselves. What we don’t need is a tribe of mindless people echoing only the thoughts of one man.

Don’t be so quick to throw your freedom under the bus for someone else. 

It’s important to remember that no two voices are the same. Freedom respects that fact. We should be extremely wary of those who seek to limit the voices of others. We should take the time to listen to what our own heart has to say. We should put in the effort to form our own opinions. We should honour them with the choices we get to make.

I read a quote recently by Niklas Göke from his excellent article Responsibility Is Freedom that said,

“Freedom is not about shedding your responsibilities, it’s about choosing them.”

I would go a step further and say that freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens, you’ve lost your freedom.


Thank you all for taking the time to read. As always I’m interested to get your thoughts. What do you think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility? Have we taken our freedoms for granted in the Western world? Is this why we find it under threat? Do you even believe it is under threat? Do you think that freedom has nothing to do with responsibility? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. This is very much a free state. 

Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only newsletter to rub your belly and pat your head at the very same time.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens you’ve lost your freedom.

It’s not a matter of quality over quantity. I believe that quantity produces quality amongst a sea of mediocrity. The greatest artists produce far more average work than they do masterpieces. The point is though, they produce far more work.

It’s far easier to help those who actually ask for it. Very rarely can we help those that don’t. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask.

When you’ve only suffered enough to know what misery is, but not enough to know what for, then you must endure a while longer. Keep searching for the meaning and you will find your salvation.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” – Thucydides (Source: MAYALAND – ABSTINENCE)

 “How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to mind the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time.” – Anne Frank

“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl (Source: Vrunda Chauk – Taking Responsibility)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This interesting No Stupid Questions podcast episode – Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer? with Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth. In this episode Steven and Angela discuss whether it is better to be a Maximizer or a Satisficer and what is the best interview question to ask. Notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Question #1: Is it better to be a maximizer or a satisficer?
  • Maximiser – when it comes to work a maximiser is someone who tries to become better and better. Someone who tries make the best of every decision. You’re looking for the absolute best outcome everytime.
  • Satisficer – someone who is happy to settle for good enough.  You’re looking to save time and energy.
  • Often being a Maximiser in a professional sense is a good thing but maybe satisfising for others things Satisficing might be a better approach? ie. when going for lunch. What is the opportunity cost for spending so much time researching the perfect place to eat, when you could just grab a bite and get back to work?
  • If you’re talking about your vocation or life partner? Sure let’s maximise. Choosing lunch? Maybe best to satisfise. 
  • Useful terminology for thinking clearly about what you want to settle for, versus what you want the best out of in life.
  • Studies found that in general Satisficers are happier. They are willing to settle for less. Maximisers perhaps never happy enough because it’s not possibly to maximise every decision all the time?
  • We become more of a Satisfiser the older we get. Is it because we let our standards slip? No – has more to do with choosing what to care about. Deliberating not caring about the rest.
  • Often maximising doesn’t lead to happier outcomes. Think about choosing from 24 different types of jam at the supermarket versus 3 different types. Sometimes it’s simply not worth trying to maximise all your decisions.
  • Question #2: What is the best interview question?
  • What do you hope to have achieved in 5 years and 10 years time?
  • Fermi question? Is a question where one is asked to make a quick estimate for something that is very difficult to measure accurately. Tests the ability to quickly approximate difficult calculations. 
  • Unstructured – where you basically have an informal conversation with someone. Danger of harming the interview process. Basing decision on personality versus actual credentials for the job.
  • Work sample. Where you give them a problem to solve. Asking a potential editor to go away and edit a manuscript for example. This is better
  • Meta question – Tell me the question I should ask you that’s going to make me hire you? 
  • It’s important to remember the interviewer wants the interviewee to succeed. 

2 – This fascinating article – The Truth About Clickbait, by George J. Ziogas. In it George explores the science behind how it works and what we can learn from it. This is well worth clicking on! Quote from the article below.

“If you think you’re above clickbait, think again... If you believe in your content, if you believe in what you do, then you have a responsibility to create clever headlines that will encourage people to read that information.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My wife came into our office this morning and asked if I would like her to make me a cup of oolong tea.

I looked up at her with a stupid grin on my face.

I said nothing.

“Is that a yes? No? Would you like a different kind of tea..?,” she continued.

My grin widened. I remained silent.

“Are you going to answer me or not!?,” she pressed, clearly sensing that something was up.

“I’m thinking,” I finally replied breaking my silence.

“This is going to take oolong time…”

My wife rolled her eyes before leaving the room.

I maintain this was a brilliant joke.

I received no cup of tea…


Till next week…

Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What’s your favourite kind of tea?

(Please take your time deciding)


(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)

PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20