Pride, in the name of Ilovaysk / by Dan Mayer


There are a lot of things in the world that can hurt a man's pride. A man with wounded pride is often stupid, irrational, uniformly ridiculous, and occasionally dangerous. Maybe extremely so. Look at your news feed today. See those faces locked into stacks of unmoving lines? Look at their eyes when they talk. You'll see it: exhausted yet composed, chemically stabilized, men with terribly wounded pride.

The list of threats to a man's pride is long enough to mummify the planet three times over, but there are some common ones that can sting whole regions and classes of humanity. They become more menacing as men get older, more subtle. Disturbances in the social equilibrium become more threatenomg. It is happening to me, as the meek inherit the patch of Earth I call home. I watch younger men and women develop apps that do nothing to better the lives of the people around them, that capitalize on the awkwardness of human interactions. These people drive up rents. They back zipcars into fire hydrants. It is simply not right that they should have the rewards of this era, this region, without having to work as hard as I remember myself working.

I'm a fool to trust that recollection, but I do. My pride is wounded, and deeply. They have more money than I do.

Boredom will make a man's pride feel bruised and enfeebled. A lack of options will soak a man's pride in gasoline, and a perceived slight based on cultural or ethnic differences will light it up. Repressed sexuality. The fading powers of youth. Hunger will hit a man like a fist in his teeth day in and day out, especially if he has a family he knows he is somehow failing. Even if there is no possibly way for him to not fail. The feeling that one's equals have become one's betters quickly turns into the idea that they have stolen from you, that they, whoever you imagine them to be, are disturbing the natural order of things.

These men from the news feed, the ones with the wounded pride, have always had names for the people they choose to blame for their injuries. They gravitate toward clumsy, evocative descriptors of convenience: fascist, Zionist, westerner, liberal, conspirator, hipster, whatever. I have a name for my villains. I call mine “app developers.”

The app developers are no more to blame for my unhappiness than NATO is for Vladimir Putin's. He has watched his perceived natural order of things go completely to hell. He has struggled to embrace a revised order, and found it overly complex and resource-intensive. They betrayed him. They tried to sell him out. So guess what thought pops into his head and rapidly becomes an unconscious three-word mantra? I'll show them. Ever have that thought? If you're a human, it's likely. If you're a man, it's pretty much a certainty.

They have more money than I do. They fucked up how my plan was supposed to go. They got the last order of fried chicken. I'll show them.

The problem is that when someone like me shows them, it looks like some idiot giving some other idiot the finger as the second idiot remains mostly oblivious. When Vladimir does it, he employs a massive promotional apparatus to whip millions of people into a nationalist furor. Boots hit the ground, buildings get exploded, bullets and shrapnel tear through humans. The men get their chance to take it all out on someone and get paid to believe that their victims have it coming. Their boredom and disappointment are put to murderous use. 

Kids who never did anything but eat string cheese and shit their diapers are having their homes destroyed and their parents killed. Watch it get worse. Watch the men with their wounded pride explore increasingly oblique avenues of justification. Look for parallels in history. You'll find them. Maybe even in your own life.