Pride & Its Impact On The Democratic Exchange

elliot-stallion_polling-booth-unsplashPride has different faces. At times it can be blatantly obvious and at other times, sweet and subtle.

Then what can look like pride is sometimes simply just over-compensation because of deeper insecurities, or apathy towards good communication. This doesn’t dismiss the condescending or ungracious tone, but it does help to ask whether or not this might be a factor.

I see a lot of this in some online and informal academic forums. The most notorious is Facebook. More often than responding to encouragement, I’m fielding a response to someone who’s critical, which generally comes from people who only ever comment when a post is controversial. In stating this, I’m not looking for sympathy or venting some disillusionment. It’s just an observation.

Sometimes it can appear as though critics look for a ”we’ve got him” moment. Something akin to the reaction of ABC host, Kerry O’Brien, who with a mixture of exuberance and insensitivity, shouted on camera, ‘’we’ve got him’’, when the John Howard led, Liberal party, lost the 2007 Australian election to his hyped up opponent, Kevin Rudd; (“Kevin07” to his more devout supporters).

As frustrating as these reactions can be to my own contributions, I don’t see them as a personal attack against me. It’s an attack against which side of politics I’ve been squeezed into by the reader. If you’ve encountered the same situation from either side of politics and their fanatical groupies, it’s good mental health practice to keep this distinction in mind.

Such challenges aren’t always a bad thing. For starters I’m challenged to be more accurate, better informed and well sourced. The downsides, of course are that having to do this can tempt us to respond to pride with pride. It also turns something like blogging or micro-blogging into a bit of an administrative grind. (… and outside a government job, or university, who’s really got that kind of time?)

Appearance paralyses substance. For example: If you appear to agree with the Left, you’re reliable, if you appear to be of the right, you’re pushed in that direction and treated with a large amount of suspicion. The appearance of ideological alignment is given priority over content.

Keeping your bearings in these situations begins by recognising the cause. The contemporary democratic exchange has become more about competing against others, than it has about inspiring civil conversation in a giving and receiving of ideas; an exchange where both parties, whether opposed or united, still walk away having learnt something because of the benefits of humility.

As lifted up by Jean Bethke Elshtain in her brief discussion about Martin Luther King Jnr,

‘King’s dream of a new democratic community, a new social covenant, drew upon old democratic ideas forged on the anvil of his rock-bottom Christian faith. In the pragmatic yet idealistic world of practical politics that King endorsed, blacks and whites, men and women, the poor and the privileged, come together around a set of concrete concerns.
Temporary alliances are formed, though the assumption is never that things will automatically divide by racial or any other identity […] In public we learnt to work with people whom we disagree sharply and with whom we would not care to live in a situation of intimacy. But we can be citizens together; we can come to know a good in common that we cannot know alone.’ [i]

Instead of shared ground there is a competition, driven by a pride that finds its home in the quest to place seeming to know, or be doing, above actually knowing and doing.It’s more important to be seen by others to be more intelligent, more cultured, more loving; or for the Christian, more “Christian”, or tragically, more liberally Christian. I will say, though, that the current trends, if observed closely, really do tell us who is who, & what they’re really all about.

The aim of this competition is to post in order to shore up a position of popularity. Therefore, employing as many  ”likes” as possible to feed activity; “the stats”. All of which boosts one’s all important ”level of social media influence”, sense of self-importance, and/or dollars that flow through the masses, who have been attracted by deliberately chosen articles that appeal to “feel-good” trends. This is currently what we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential elections in the United States between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Truth doesn’t matter, if it hinders any increase in approval ratings.

I’m in agreement with Christina Grau, who recently wrote on pride and homeschoolers:

“We need to avoid the sin of pride. Pride prevents us from establishing good relationships and sharing Christ with others. We think our way is best and think less of those who aren’t doing the same. Apart from moral issues, we need to understand that our way of doing things is simply that; our way. It is not our job to convince people to our way of thinking, nor is our way the only way the job gets done.” [ii]

Approval ratings might sore, but the cost is compromise. Truth and love suffers; creativity is hindered. All sucked into subservience of beating the algorithm and placating human and feelings; it’s master: pride.

‘Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser”
– Proverbs 9:8-9


[i] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial, BasicBooks, Perseus Books Group (pp.60-61)

[ii] Grau, C. Playing the Comparison Game (The Art of Pride), 25th October 2016

Image credit: Elliot Stallion,


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