|Part 1||World of Things|
Few contrasts are more marked than the attitudes of the American man toward things and toward people. In their dealings with other people, most American men (though not most American women) would appear to be troubled by a feeling of basic insecurity, which is inadequately disguised by the overcompensation of brashness and boasting; their insatiable need for reassurance has already been described.
|The American completely dominates his material.
In contrast, their attitude toward things is untroubled
by ambiguity, serene and confident, audacious and
creative to an extent that no other society in the world
has seen or imagined. In personal relations, the American
woman is generally dominant, whether she be physically
present or not; the world of thins is the kingdom of the
The search for its natural qualities and stresses, the cunning study of its nature and tendencies, which have been the distinguishing mark of the craftsman in most societies, have little place in the American approach to things. It is an attitude which is not, as far as I know, shared by any other society. It can perhaps best be expressed negatively.
It is completely opposite to the traditional attitude of peasants, for whom the land and its products are, as it were, part of themselves, of their ancestors and descendants, so that their histories and fortunes are conceived of as intertwined, so that there is at least a measure of identification between man and material. This complex attitude is completely alien to most Americans; man is superior and apart, imposing his will on the inhuman universe.
|The number of basic inventions made by native-born Americans is surprisingly small; but once the basic invention is made, from railroads and automobiles to radar and penicillin, Americans are unsurpassed in their improvement, industrial adaptation, and above all diffusion. One of the chief illusions which Americans cherish about themselves, and which they have succeeded in imposing on much of the rest of the world, is that Americans are the originators of most of the basic inventions. This concept is developed by fairly consistent SUPPRESIO VERI and SUGGESTIO FALSI; the foreign origin of major inventions is passed over in silence; and American adaptations or even the first American model are celebrated with the greatest pomp and circumstance.|
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE,|
a study in national character, by Geoffrey Gorer,
W.W.Norton & Company, NY
Copyright © 1948 and 1964