Can you believe it’s summer already? I mean it was snowing last week and might snow again next week but that’s just how summers work here. It seems like the year is just flying by. Maybe it’s because I have all these great posts to read and as always my OWLS companions are contributing their fair share of those.
For June, it was decided that the topic would be:
In honor of “Pride Month,” we will be discussing the word, “Pride” and its meaning. We will be exploring pop culture characters’ most satisfying and joyful achievements or skills that they possessed and whether or not these qualities could be seen as a positive or negative aspect in their personal lives and/or society.
Nanatsu no Taizai
I’ll be honest with you guys, I really struggled with this month’s theme. To the point that I had to ask the help and guidance of the rest of the OWLS members. The topic is great, truly inspiring as usual but it’s also very delicate.
You see Pride in the context of Pride month already means something very specific. Something important and powerful to my community that deserves respect and careful consideration. A lot of people have and continue to suffer in a very real way for something that is completely beyond their control, not to mention not a fault in any way, and to them this Pride might as well be Hope. A safe harbour in an often unfair and scary world.
Of course that’s not all Pride means. Animes and really tales of all kinds usually concern themselves with the dangers of an overabundance of pride. There are certainly downside, it is a deadly sin after all. But I didn’t want to linger on the negatives, not this month, not in this context.
Besides, I had the perfect show in mind: Assassination Classroom.
Auri wrote a fantastic post about the manga for last month’s tour, please go read it if you haven’t had the chance yet. At the time I hadn’t yet seen the series but it got me curious. I have now and I realized that the trials of the class 3E students are a perfect metaphor for what I want to say.
You see, in Assassination Classroom, a child’s entire future can be decided for them based on some rather flimsy data that’s usually way beyond that child’s control. If a kid at Kunugigaoka Junior High School let’s their grades slip in the lower percentile they see themselves placed in remedial class 3E. But beyond a stilted curriculum, these students are now segregated, swept away to the old school building where no one can see them so and they don’t bother the “normal” students.
They are stripped of their privileges, and comforts while given no tools to better their situation. They are treated as inferior and mild bullying towards them is not only accepted, it’s pretty much expected. They are understood by all to be lesser.
The rub here is that this is through no fault of their own. Most of these students are shown to be courteous and hard working. They may in fact excel in certain fields but have difficulties in others due to personal issues. Some of them are visibly and demonstrably smart children that simply do not do well in standardized testing. And let’s not forget that the grades are on a curve. Even an objectively good showing, for instance an 80% on a test, can land you at the bottom of the class if you happen to be unlucky enough to be surrounded by prodigies or cheaters.
And so, a somewhat arbitrary assortment of students, finds themselves ushered together and constantly put down for reasons completely beyond their control.
And I’m not even at the worst part yet. The worst part is that there always needs to be a class 3E. They are effigies and sacrificial lambs meant to serve as both warning and motivation to the rest of the students. Fear of ending up in class 3E is what makes everyone work so desperately hard. And having worked so hard, they believed to have earned the right to impose their superiority and mistreat those unfortunate students as a matter of course.
However, for any threat to work, it has to be properly frightening. Those students can’t be enjoying themselves and they shouldn’t be able to simply shrug off their oppressions and rejoin the “proper” students after a few lucky tests. It has to be a truly daunting fate, one from which you do not return.
The entire institution in which they exist has a vested interest in keeping the students of class 3E exactly where they are, miserable and hopeless. For the status quo to be maintained, while some rise to the top others must be held firmly at the bottom. It’s not even personal you see. And that’s what really hurts.
After years of this practice, it’s seeped into the general consciousness as a natural state. This is how it should be and too bad for those students that didn’t make it. It’s so ingrained that the class of 3E themselves believes this. That is until someone tells them otherwise.
After having had everything taken away from them. After being treated as worthless and ignored as hopeless, having someone acknowledge you, someone who believes that you are worth their time, can be a life saver. What KuroSensei really gave his students isn’t mysterious secret knowledge that will help them overcome all principles,. it isn’t even some deep discipline that will serve them for the rest of their lives. All he did was return something that had been unfairly ripped away from them, their basic human pride.
You see, before it goes all haywire and out of control, pride is simply that peculiar happiness you feel at not being ashamed of yourself. At believing that you have the right to enjoy the most basic pleasure such as sunshine or a good meal or love. It’s the simple notion that you matter. And that my friends, isn’t a privilege, it’s a right.
So in a month where Pride means love and acceptance, let me share with you a simple lesson I learned from Assassination Classroom. Figure out what good means to you, and try to be that. Celebrate your strengths and be forgiving of your weaknesses. Fail and then try again. Everyday strive to be someone you wouldn’t mind having a drink with or setting up your best friend with. And be proud of yourself, because you deserve it. Because who you are is what matters, not what you look like. And who you love matters, not what they look like. Don’t let anybody take that pride away – it’s yours to keep. And if they try to take it, send them my way, there are a few other lessons I learned from Assassination Classroom I would like to teach them.
Let me say again thank you to Marth Aurion for all the precious help with this post. Those notes were perfect and very appreciated.
And do me a big favor, go read all the OWLS posts this month. They’re good people and their posts will make you happy. Karandi just published a beautiful post on Pride & Protagonists yesterday which you can read HERE.
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I hope you come enjoy the rest of the tour with me!