The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

What is the point of Pride?

31/08/2015

Pride expressedWhat is the point of Pride? An unusual topic to pick surely? Well bear with me and hopefully the seasonality  of this particular question will become apparent.

Pride is one of those human conditions that we know when we see it in others and when we experience it ourselves. The picture to the right screams pride to me, yet others see other meaning in the facial expression. In my purely personal and unscientific experiment, responses to the question ‘Describe the feeling within this picture’ have included Pride; in fact it was the most popular response – around 40% of those replying. However, I also received replies such as smug, sanctimonious, disdainful, condescending, sneering, conquering and superior. Interestingly, although it was the strongest reply, less than half of those who answered me associated the image with pride. Perhaps it’s a particularly difficult thing to recognise, or I was dealing with people who had difficulty reading expressions, or it was a poor choice of photograph.

angryAlthough unscientific, I had tried to consider some of those points. The photograph is of a model with the brief of expressing ‘pride’ -one of a range of similar photographs.

The same group had little difficulty in associating the second photograph with anger, rage or fury. In fact 24 out of 25 read the face in that way. So is there something special about pride?

In fact, the more I read and examined this area, the more doubt I uncovered. Some psychologists considered pride to be an emotion in its own right. Others argued it wasn’t an emotion at all, but was a considered response to other behaviours. In any event, pride is an area which has very little in the way of serious academic research and the value it brings to an individual or society seems unsettled.

Pride Model

Emotional Generation Model

Most of the serious models use a model similar to that shown here. It argues that there are complex (hybrid) emotions and more primal (true) emotions. When considering pride, it argues that this follows an appraisal of how a person has responded to a concern and/or stimulus. That stimulus could itself be one of the more basic primal emotions such as fear or rage.

This model could also explain why we find these less complex, more primal feelings more easy to identify in the facial expressions of others.

However, the question of what purpose pride has, what it contributes remains in debate. The usefulness of fear and anger can be easily seen as part of the self preservation instinct, necessary in evolutionary terms for life itself. However, pride seems an almost self-indulgent nive to have. The nearest I could find to any form of credible theory was that it was a pseudo reward mechanism which may have been an early trigger for self-reflection. It may not give anything in itself other than a warm glow, but could reinforce reflective practice and potentially some of the underlying positive behaviours. Hold that thought for a moment!

Of course, in recent years Pride has taken on an altogether different meaning, particularly for the younger, gay or festival generations. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a series of event championing equal rights for what was then called the ‘queer’ or homosexual population (there was no community recognised at that point) started to appear in major cities of the UK, most notably, London and Manchester.

Stonewall March

Stonewall March

Initially, these were  organised by Stonewall and they amounted to little more than an organised march with people dressed much as they would be if they were going to the cinema or theatre but with the occasional stonewall banner.

The purpose of the marches at that time was clear, equality in terms of rights, acceptance and integration into the wider community. As the 1980’s matured, the scourge of AIDS rose bringing a double challenge to the emerging gay community. Firstly, the emerging community was decimated by the arrival of HIV. Secondly and more challengingly, the natural fear of such a threatening virus seen as being born of the gay community brought a sense of ‘blame’ to that community further marginalising it in some quarters.

Manchester Mardi Gras 1996

Manchester Mardi Gras 1996

The Stonewall marches adapted as the eighties matured, these became more defiant and in some cases defiance veered towards the confrontational. However, these settled into a more educational and celebratory phase with accompanying name changes in most of the major events.

Manchester re-branded it’s celebrations as Mardi Gras with an increasing number of events emerging across the remainder of the country. Again, during this period the events had a clear purpose based around the battle against HIV/AIDS, the removal of clause 28 (perceived as homophobic legislation) and the promotion of ‘safe sex’. This continued through most of the naughties.

At that point my problems with these type of events started to grow. Arguably, the introduction of combination therapies leading to the effective management of HIV, the growing acceptance of homosexuality as part of mainstream society and the repeal of legislation such as Section 28 has removed the natural causes traditionally supported by such events.

Perhaps sensing this, Mardi-Gras and similar events started to diverge either competing with the growing festival scenes or becoming more of a celebration of an increasingly accepted homosexual lifestyle.  Mardi-Gras (along with most others) followed London by rebranding itself to first ‘Gay Pride’ and the simply ‘Pride’.

However, that acceptance and increased integration into mainstream lifestyle has at least for me sounded the first ringing of the death knell of Pride in its current form. In simple terms, they have lost their purpose and relevance for me.

Increasingly, these events have become more about being seen in gear, walking on the march (for reasons that are unclear to me) and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. They have also moved from the largely free events of the 1970’s to events in their own right often charging between £15 and £30 to gain entry.

Whist I have nothing against walking in the street, wearing gear or copious amounts of alcohol, I can do that in many places and don’t need to pay for the privilege of so doing. If the money raised during these events went to counter some of the modern battles facing the gay community I would have less of an issue. However, typically the collection funds the running costs of the events with just 3-5% going to related charities and good causes.

gmpprideFrom my perspective, the development of Pride events as a commercial event now has very little to do with its original purpose. Now, its much more about bringing in the cash (the cynics might say milking the pink pound).

The worst example I can think of would be Manchester Pride 2014 sad for a city that has contributed so much to equality. In that example, a large area of the city (the gay village) was blocked off with the right to enter, pass and re-pass without hindrance suspended – unless of course you purchased a wrist band grating you access. Residents were granted ‘permits’ to reach their own homes but everyone else was prevented from gaining access.

I would have no issue if this was a private place or related exclusively to venues taking part in the ‘event’. However this wasn’t the case and people were effectively being charged to access public roads as a pedestrian. The actions of the Council in 2014 in relation to the implementation of the road closure have since been found to have been unlawful by the local government ombudsman (details of the issue can be found here). By extension, the security contractors and Greater Manchester Police who enforced the orders found themselves in a difficult position one nobody wanted to repeat this year. How far from the original ambitions of those who first marched.

Loss of Direction?

Loss of Direction?

So, what’s my point? What have I got against Pride? To answer that we need to go back to the purpose of pride in psychological terms. Pride allows us to reflect on concerns and stimulus, assess and feel we have/are making improvements or contributing to their being improved.

Has Pride simply become just another reason to drink until you fall over and be seen in your best leather, rubber or just show off your perfect abs?

The historic educational component is largely gone, the supportive and community aspects have in my view started to go the same way. Are there no  longer any issues for the gay community to address and raise in the public consciousness? I haven’t seen anything, for example, to support those struggling with the emergence of ‘chem sex’ within the gay community. An increasing dependence on chrystal meth and similar chemicals can be life shattering for some and there is precious little support for anyone wanting to give up outside London. Similarly, there is barely any educational or community support visible at any modern pride.

Isis throw men from tall buildings for being gay

Isis throw men from tall buildings for being gay

So is it just the case that the political scene for LGBT communities is now so settled that there is nothing left to fix?

Whilst it may be the case that things have improved incredibly over the past couple of decades in the UK, that is far from true in the rest of the world.

In the most extreme examples, ISIS are executing men by throwing them off multi storey buildings just for being gay. So far in 2015 there have been over 200 documented cases.

In less extreme examples, there are still significant issues of equality to be tackled both within the UK and internationally. These include the failure to recognise same sex partners as next of kin in many jurisdictions, the inability to marry or enter into civil partnerships in countries including Australia and unfair dismissal due to sexual orientation.  These would seem to indicate that the battle isn’t quite yet won. Yet on these points, Pride is typically silent in favour of stalls selling often over-priced  tat.

If the human state of pride is a psychological mechanism allowing reflection and improvement then I hope organisers of the various Pride events might take a lead from that example. Surely we can do better than what has been described as ‘just another piss-up in the park’. For my money until the modern day Pride events offer more than just another booze-up then it’s legitimate to ask exactly what is the point of pride?

Adults must be escorted at all times.

07/11/2014

I would be the first person to acknowledge that some adults carry out terrible acts against children. I also strongly believe that any civilised society should seek to protect the most vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.

However, I am starting to have a problem with a growing tendency to blanket ban single people without first trying more targeted or proportionate measures.

No singles please.

No singles please.

In the United States it isn’t unusual for some parks (or parts of parks) to be restricted as zones where adults can only enter if accompanied  by a child.

Whilst I do have a problem with this at an intellectual level, I can accept that a toddlers play area (where that is the only use) could legitimately be restricted in this way. However, I do struggle to accept being excluded from a public area maintained at public expense merely because genetically, through sexual orientation or just luck, I am not the parent or guardian of a child.

In the United Kingdom, the restriction has been relatively limited. Possibly the largest organisation to impose the restriction is the Legoland group of companies. Even here I can accept their business choice (although it isn’t one I would make in the same way myself).  With no disrespect to Legoland, I can’t imagine there are many single adults queuing to see the Castaway Camp or ride on the Duplo Viking River splash. In short, the venue is not merely primarily aimed at children but is exclusively designed for their entertainment.

However, recently, several establishments with a much more mixed environment have moved to impose a broad brush ban on single adults. One example (although not the only example by any means) is Puxton Park near Minehead in Somerset (UK).

A somerset grandfather who had previously attended the park with his grandchildren is reported to have returned at a later date on his own to see an advertised falconry display only to be turned away as a single male over fears of pedophilia risk to children.

In a rather clumsy statement from the park’s managing director, this exclusion was defended on the following grounds:

“This has been blown out of all proportion. The main aspect not being reported is that Puxton Park is predominantly an attraction for children aged 0 years to 7 years with 90% of the park dedicated fully to child’s play, which is not suitable for lone adults.”

“Some adults may be interested in our falconry department and we offer falconry experience days which are open to all. We have not set out to discriminate against single adults but we take child protection extremely seriously.”

“We would rather be over zealous when unaccompanied adults visit us armed with cameras than put children at any potential risk. Even schools follow similar policies with regards to the photography of children.

Our members fully support our decisions and we have received nothing but praise for our policy including positive feedback from a Child Protection Specialist, who commended us for our child protection principals.

Within seven years we have only had one complaint about this policy from the gentlemen last week.

At the time of setting the policy the other parks within the area had a similar stance to us. I have spoken to two or three similar client-based parks this morning and they still have the same policy as we do. I’m not going to name names as it’s unprofessional of me to do so.

In light of this coverage we will look at what other parks are doing with their admissions policy, speak to our customers and review.”

– ALISTAIR MEAD MANAGING DIRECTOR OF PUXTON PARK
An interesting perspective, however am I the only person to be uncomfortable with the apparent alignment of being a single male with being a higher than average pedophile risk?
I am at least reassured that Mr Mead recongnises his actions are over zealous but regret that he feels a blanket ban on all singles would be more appropriate than (for example) a ban of photography in or near the children’s play area(s). If you wish to implement a ban at least make it evidence based, proportionate and fair to the individual. This blanket ban fails on all three fronts in my view.
Whilst not doubting the sincerity of this apology, it does seem half-hearted at best. Although 90% of the park may be child centric clearly not all of it is. I wonder how many 3- 10 year olds will be queuing to sample the local cheeses in the farm shop or attending the £340 falconry exhibits. The assurance that these are open to everyone certainly runs contrary to the reported facts and seems arbitrary – some might even say discriminatory.
I certainly wouldn’t hold this establishment up as the sole poor implementation of this policy, but it appears to be one of the least well nuanced.
Have we really reached a point where anyone over 30 who for what ever reason is childless is not only to be pitied but also treated as a probably criminal? Puxton Park and those who follow this rationale we all deserve better !

A solo on the homophobe

20/08/2014

No Pity

No Pity

I had a very interesting conversation with a former colleague today. Unfortunately, it made me realise that fear of homosexuality and misunderstanding around what for me is a natural state of affairs has still some way to go before it is a thing of the past.

I  was aware that he wanted to talk to me as he was hanging around the reception area for the office I was visiting for no apparent reason. A few perfunctory exchanges about this weekend, last weekend and ‘what I’d been up to’ followed before I was challenged (most politely) about who this new chap in my life was?

I explained he was the most important person to me and I was extremely happy to be in a relationship with him. The look of patronising pity which crossed his face was overwhelming. Actually, it was me who probably felt most pity – that he couldn’t accept I may have found happiness with someone who just happened to be of the same gender.

The final blow was the passing comment, meant to reassure me that my best interests were at the forefront of his mind. ‘I just feel so sorry for you both knowing that you’ll never know the sort of love I share with my wife.’

To say my gob had rarely been so smacked is something of an understatement. Why the gender of his partner should define the nature and intensity of the love he feels as opposed to that I feel for mine – well I can’t quite understand the logic.

I had hoped this kind of narrow minded characterisation was a thing of the past. Clearly I was a little too hopeful in that regard.

For what it’s worth I couldn’t be happier than I am with my partner. His gender is not the issue, his humanity, compassion, love and respect are. I don’t require anyone’s pity and we’re doing just fine thank you very much.  If you can’t accept that then it’s better you write me off as a lost cause – because I have no intention of changing to ease your sensitivities.

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