What gets to me is not that certain people wouldn't want to live here; everybody could name a hundred things that their country has and mine doesn't. I could do the same, but what would that prove? That every country in the world has it's own unique good qualities, so it will be fun to visit them all. What really gets on my nerves is when somebody goes on about how his or her home nation is the best in the world as if it were as absolute a fact as the sky being blue. It isn't.
I could name names, but I refuse to come down to the level of personal attack. You all know who you are, and I hope you're reading this, because this is aimed at you.
Let me give you an example. I read one essay extolling the virtues of, as it happens, the USA. It struck me as rather jingoistic and not terribly well thought out, but I figured that if the USA was this individual's favourite country then fair enough. However, the opening sentence was rather inflammatory -the author expressed annoyance that he should be refuting arguments against an opinion, which they referred to as an indisputable fact, the truth of which they thought should have been obvious to everybody- and I emailed the writer to ask if they'd been to many other countries.
They hadn't been to ANY. Not even Canada or the Caribbean. Now, I appreciate that I have an advantage in that I live a mere hour's ferry crossing from the culturally and socially diverse Eurasian continent, and I can be on the fringes of the Middle East or on the coast of the Black Sea in less time than the person to which I refer would need to get to Disneyland. However, the ridiculousness of this essay assailled me. The number of people signing in to agree with it also set me thinking; have they spent their entire lives without getting their passports stamped as well?
I hope they have. How the hell can anybody insist that their country is the best in the world, and offhandedly dismiss the merits of everywhere else, if they haven't seen any other country for themselves? What right do they have to do that?
Myself, I've visited six countries. All of them are in continental Europe, and all but one are inside the EU, but there's plenty of time yet. I'm 17. Next year's election will be the first time I cast my vote. I still live with my parents, and I haven't yet completed my education. I haven't even got LAID yet. And yet here I am left with the feeling that people ten years older than I am, who live in their own homes and have proper grown-up jobs, have less firsthand experience of a quite important aspect of the real world than I do. That just CAN'T be right.
I hate feeling that I have to say what I just wrote. I hate even THINKING it, really I do. But here it is, staring me in the face. Allow me to demonstrate.
It isn't worth quoting the short piece 'American Pride at great length here, but I'll give you an example of the mindset. The author wrote the words 'we know we are the best!' The bulk of the piece was a perfectly reasonable if unduly brief piece of writing on why the author liked living in the USA, and this was the only part of the essay I could really object to. Apart from that brief sentence I could apply it to my own country, and I used as much tact as I could when remarking upon the sentence in question.
My exact words were this:
'By all means be proud of your country, for there is no shame in that. I'm proud of mine; Britain might well be a very disorganised and incompetently led country, but it's MY disorganised and badly led country.
'But please, do not insist that 'we know we are the best!'. There is NO 'best' country, not in an absolute sense. Every country has its good and bad points, and which points are good and bad are in themselves dependent on one's own point of view.'
Do you want to see what somebody said in reply?
'...not everybody knows "we're the best" (hence James Jago's review). That's why some of us are so vocal about it.'
That's pretty much what compelled me to write this. The problem of confusing opinion -especially YOUR opinion- with fact isn't confined to politics, of course, but it's something that everybody needs to look out for in themselves. If you catch yourself doing it when putting forth your views in writing or in convesation, try to stop yourself, rephrasing your words to acknowledge the possibility that other people who don't agree with you aren't stupid or misguided. Because that is what you will be doing, and it won't win you any friends.
And PLEASE, don't dismiss or criticise the appeal of living somewhere that you've never visited. 'Never been there, but it doesn't sound like my kind of place' is pretty much okay; it isn't an informed opinion, but it doesn't claim to be. 'Why'd I want to go there? [Insert name of country] is a much better place to live' is arrogant, presumptive and narrow minded, and the world has more than enough opinions like that already.