Understanding National Character
If you go back to Army or Navy Intelligence reports from the 1930s you'll often find references to "national character" as describing impressionistically the traits easily associated with a particular society.
These reports weren't systemmatic or the product of any social science, they were merely the opinions of intelligence officers. But within intelligence work the notion of national character never left because it's vital, and just because it can be as simple as one person's opinions about the predominant traits of a society doesn't mean it can't be accurate, perhaps very accurate.
But by the time I got involved in psychological warfare and communications work for the government the tool of national character was more refined although ultimately probably no more accurate - it was still the product of personal, impressionistic observations about the traits which distinquish one society or culture from another. Outside of government work academics and the public, particularly marginally educated college degreed people, feel threatened by the term because it implies that everyone in a particular culture behaves exactly the same way. For political rather than factual reasons acedemics and media wishes to promote the view that aggregate traits don't exist because not everyone in that group may follow them. This way of thinking began, of course, in the progressive movement of the 1960s which turned the term "sterotype" into a perjorative when in fact the term "sterotype" is a totally valid athropological term describing a set of traits which predominate in a group. It doesn't have to apply to every individual in a group to be a description of what predominates.
What amazed me when I became familiar with the national characters of different cultures was how these characters carried over within ethnic groups in America, even generations after they came here from their former homelands. Particularly the impact the national characters of the British who came to America has had on the foreign policy of the United States - to it's detriment.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright once said that she, "always believed in the goodness of American power." And she was a professor of American foreign policy? What an ignorant and outrageously jingositic statement to make, but it reflected her actual opinon, obviously based on not having read anything about American history.
The people I worked with in government were a diverse lot. Some of them were poorly educated mechanics, assassins who were little more than soldiers although the held officers rank. In the U.S. military it's not unusual to have officers who have little or no education. These were men of action and they had, at least at one time, strongly held opinions. In the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. military, from which these officers were drawn, were full of people with hawkish, jingoistic beliefs which were based on what they'd read in the newspapers and other totally distorted information. The average American military officer in the post-war period was probably the most poorly informed and actually stupid creature any armed service has ever produced in the modern era.
I'll give you one example. In the 1920s and 1930s the most admired and well-known American soldier among military personnel was the legendary Marine soldier and General Smedley Darlington Butler. General Butler was the founder of the modern Marines, won the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, and was a celebrated soldier and commander. However when he began expressing dissenting views about the ways the Marines had been used in third world interventions the War Department tried to frame him by cooking up false criminal charges and he was Court Marshalled. He defended himself in that trial and he won. Thereafter he realized the depths of depravity which prevailed in the upper reaches of the War Department and the government which had used his patriotism for ill purposes. He wrote the book "War is a Racket," and thereafter spoke and lectured widely on the mercantilist and imperial nature of American foreign policy. And yet as soon as the U.S. entered the Second World War his name and legacy became completely forgotten by U.S. servicemen and officers. All of his warnings and sage advice was swept away, and thereafter a new and comforting set of myths were fabricated keeping in line with the ridiculous statement of Madeline Albright decades later.
But not all the people I worked with were mechanics or sheep-dipped military officers. The primary people I worked with were intellectuals who knew exactly who Smedley Butler was, and believed that American foreign policy, particulary it's war-making, had been the product of an imperialistic strain running through the social elites of America. The other factor was a close cultural association with Britain in which elite Americans took the British point of view on each and every matter although the British were almost always the aggressors just as much as they were on our continent in 1776 as well as 1812. Particularly horrendous was the way American policy was shaped by the British against Germany throughout, and this had desasterous effects on international events and U.S. interests.
Americans naturally think that the history of their country reflects what "Americans" have done, and assume that people of any nationality would have done the same things. But this far from the truth. The history of America is the history of particular ethnic groups which went there and behaved according to their national characters as they existed before the came to America. The correct way to view the United States is that it is the repository of different national characters, or ethnic characters, which are not consistent or co-ordinated with each other.
The primary groups which have shaped American government actions have been the English and the Scotch-Irish. It is the national characters of these two groups which vastly predominate and have been responsible for the aggression, imperialism and enslavement which has characterized American government action, policy and law.
The national character of the English is based on two competing elements - feudalism and common law. The history of England is basically that of organized crime - gangsterism and the law of the sword. The feudal social system of England wasn't even one in which Englishmen owned and abused other Englishmen. The last English king was killed in the battle of Hastings in 1066. Thereafter England was ruled by kings which didn't even speak English. The people of England have been now proven genetically to have been the simple inhabitants which have always lived there for thousands of years. The myths of history that the English are composed of the Germanic Celts or the Angles and Saxons is all myth. Those, as well as the Normans which conquered England in 1066 were merely foreign invaders which stole the land and enslaved the population. These leaders falsely claimed that their Gods had determined their legitimacy, but they were in fact nothing more than gangsters with hired muscle which stole the land and all its resources. Even the royal family there today are not English at all but are from central and eastern Europe. There real name isn't even "Windsor" as they claim.
The chief national characteristics of English life and their social system has been slavery, of vulnerable peoples such as the Irish, then Africans or others. Feudalism doesn't allow much rights if any to the surfs, and surfdom was much like slavery save the actual ownership of the enslaved by his master. In feudalism wealth is gained by owning property, land principally, rather than craftmanship, trade, or other forms of creative activities. English and even Scottish economy was based on taking land from others, forcing the inhabitants to work for you creating what you needed, trading with what was left over, etc. As England developed it defeated the rival naval powers and gained a dominance of the seas, thereby allowing it to exploit and plunder vulnerable nations they could reach by sea in a global practice of their feudalistic turned mercantilistic culture. They became traders but not by trading fairly - their form of trade was to conquer other cultures which were rich in material goods and then force them to trade in unfair conditions. The English liked to read the Roman historian Livy, and romantacized the Roman empire as one of civilization being brought to the world by the sword much as Islam saw itself as a civilizing force brought to the world by the sword. The English rationalized their plunder of their conquered cultures in this absurd manner.
As is the case with cultures, the dominating trend will often bring about a contrary influence thereby not found in other cultures. For the English this contrary trend was law. English common law is stronger than anywhere in the west, or the east for that matter, but it's not because the English are empathetic - it's because they've traditionally been less so. It's because of the harshness of English surfdom and slavery that rebellions and revolutions arose. In particular the will of the kings to abuse their own gentry and nobles caused revolutions against despotism which resulted in law to protect commoners and nobles alike from the crown. The alliance of commoners and nobles against the despotism of the king resulted in a check on the powers of the crown by force of arms which was enshrined in law from which subsequent kings couldn't trespass least their nobles and their commoner soldiers would move to remove the king and probably kill him. As in all political systems in which power is shared it came about not because the ones holding power thought it a just idea - it was brought about as a forced compromise to promote harmony and stability. It was imposed by force on the previously powerful.
The Scotch Irish
The other tremendous influence on American actions and history has been the role of the "Scotch Irish." This term is largely an Americanism, and actually refers to all protestants from Ulster who immigrated to America. The national culture of these protestants from Ireland has been fundamental in determining the aggression and exploitation with which Americans have treated each other and all others.
Here's an example. I met the Director of a credit union in Texas. He was a short man who attended methodist church regularly, often sharing his Sunday school class with George W. Bush when he was Governor. This credit union Director came to be so largely because he was the credit union's largest depositor, although he never held any high paying employment. He was merely a state bureaucrat who'd married a woman who'd inherited oil properties which provided lavish royalties which they deposited. One day he boasted to me of his business prowess, which he gave me examples of, including that when in the Navy in the 1950s that he used to loan money to other sailors for 100% interest for a few days until they'd be paid. He boasted that he worked [shuffled papers] on the ships in offices where he knew if anyone was going to be transferred, and that on pay day he always followed his creditors to the pay table so he'd be paid his 100 percent for the few days of the loan. In his mind this was being a good businessman. Then he went on to tell me how he grew up "poor" on a farm in central Texas, and that his father always had a bunch of niggers living on the farm so that he always had a driver, his mother always had a cook, a washer-woman, etc.... But of course they were poor and never had any money - BUT THE NIGGERS NEVER WENT HUNGRY. The niggers always had enough to eat. From his father he also gained the addig that "it was better to be the one collecting the interest rather than paying it." So perhaps they weren't really as short on cash as they claimed. Anyway he also explained how his family came to Texas in the nineteenth century from Tennessee, from where so many such Texans had come with their slaves, including the defenders of the Alamo, etc.
So without knowing his name I gathered that he was of Scotch Irish ancestry, and I shared this with him in the form of a question which he proudly answered affirmatively. Of course his family were originally from Scotland, but moved to Ulster in the seventeeth century whereupon they dispossessed the local Irish, taking their lands and making them into surfs........
Get the picture.
I always like to speak about the defenders of the Alamo, and the other sod-busters who came to Texas from other southern states such as Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and the like. These people were all protestants which were tossed out of either Scotland or England by the crown for their religious dissent as methodists, Preysbeterians, or other forms of anti-establishment Calvinists. Once they landed in the "Queen's Plantation of Ulster" they threw the native Ulster Catholics off their land and set themselves up as would-be gentry. Alas but they really weren't ever able to succeed at such, due to shortages of land, the ill-will of the Irish whom they tried to exploit, and a mountain of other barriers to their ambitions leading them to try the same crimes in America.
Once in America the "Scotch Irish" uniformly upheld and practiced slavery - first of Irish slaves brought to the new world and then of slaves brought over from Africa [which were more expensive to acquire than the Irish]. They fanned out across anywhere with available land, and moved with great cruelty to throw any native off entirely and without any quarter or compromise whatsoever. In this regard the names Wilson and Jackson are key names of protestants who lived in Ulster. Andrew Jackson is typical of these types of characters, and it was the other protestants of Ulster descent in America who were his frontier supporters versus the more genteel Americans of English descent who were the upper crust establishment in opposition - a social rivalry merely brought over from Britain.
Andrew Jackson was a man obcessed with proving his honor, a man obcessed with being a man of property, status and standing. Since he'd inherited none of these he attained by taking it - the land from native indians which he and his other protestant frontiersmen slaughtered by the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Having taken the land they planted cash crops with which they purchased slaves to work the land, thereby producing profit, and then competing with other monied individuals for fame and celebrity and power. Any slights to his honor by means of verbal insult were never overlooked by usually met with violence. Once in office as President he set about to remove all natives from their lands completely, by force, and in genocidal manner. Unlike all the Presidents of English ancestry such as Madison, Jefferson and Washington, Jackson willed that after his death that his slaves WOULD NOT BE EMANCIPATED. Furthermore as a Scotch Irishman Jackson admired only landed gentry and despised anyone who made their living by trade. He despised bankers, traders, or anyone involved in finance or the like. In his world only the landed gentry had honor, and strangely in his protestant Ulster culture this need not be inherited either - it and the false honor it bestowed in his criminal mind could simply be taken. In short, the Scotch Irish are criminals, pure and simple.
Most American Presidents have been of either direct of partial Scotch Irish decent. Most notably President Polk was entirely so, and it was he of course who was the architect of the Mexican war of 1845 in which much of the country was appalled that their nation had made war on Mexico purely to aggress and steal their lands by force. Other Presidents of pure decent are Grant, Wilson, Andrew Johnson, and many or most others were of partial decent such as Bill Clinton, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt for examples.
Other National Characters by Contrast
But the best way to see clearly the effects of these two groups from Britain is to witness how other nationalities behaved in contrast. For example, many Italians lived in Louisiana and the cities of the south, including Texas, in their frontier days. Did any Italians own slaves? I don't think so. I don't think they coveted land itself as a source of wealth either.
Nor did other northern European groups such as the Norwegians, Sweds or Germans. Large numbers of Germans left the Reine Valley in the 19th century and settled in the west and the south, including Texas. Yet no Germans who settled in the south or Texas owned slaves. Slavery and feudalism was foreign to them and they despised it. My favorite example of German immigrants in the west were those of Comal county just north of Texas' principle city of San Antonio in the 1850s. The architect Frederick Olmstead, who also designed Central Park in New York City, visited Comal county and wrote of the culture there. By the 1890s there were 92 different firearms or shooting clubs in the county, which possessed it's own mounted militia, the "Comal Rifles." In 1861 when President Lincoln invaded Virginia and Maryland with an armies of volunteers to prevent these states from self-determination the voters of Comal County voted 239 to 41 to seceed from the union, although none of the county's German inhabitants owned slaves.
The German example is particularly telling because despite the militaristic image Americans have of them due to pro-English propaganda, the Germans were unique among the powers of Europe in their non-aggression. In particular, while the English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Belgians and even Italians were happily practicing imperial plunder anywhere their ships and armies would take them it never occurred to Germans to do anything of the kind. The idea of sending armies abroad to conquer and plunder foreign cultures would never occur to any German, Swiss, Norwegian, Finn or Swed. That kind of cruelty and exploitation isn't in the individual temperaments of those peoples, who are individually much more possessed of empathy and altruism than their neighbors. This is the reason why there is virtually no crime in any of the northern European cultures. There is certainly no such thing as "Norwegian gangsters" or "German organized crime."
As is always the case when a culture has a strong characteristic it almost always at some point form a contrary element, and in terms of the Germans this manifested itself in the Nazi period with efforts by the state to overcome the German traits of empathy and altruism. While conducting the war Hitler and his subordinants were constantly having to exhort the Germans regarding the "necessity of being fanatic,"and the terrible "necessity of showing no mercy," etc..... When did the leaders of Poland or Russia ever give a speech telling their soldiers that they must show no mercy.....never. It wasn't necessary. Cruelty and remorseless savagery were the norm.
This of course is the opposite of the image the American public has been indoctrinated to believe, not even directly from any government propaganda but from popular media such as documentaries not to mention fictional films. However the truth about the humanity of German soldiers versus all others is well known to those aquainted with the facts. For example, in the German army there were no cases of rape of anyone during the war. In fact in the German army rape was punishable by death - immediately carried out if it ever occurred, and it never did. Contrast this with the Soviet army. In the communist army rape was encouraged, and was practiced by enlisted man and officers at all levels everywhere they went. They not only raped German women by the millions once they reached Germany but also raped Polish girls, Romanian girls, Czech women, Slovenian and Hungarian teens, and so forth. Raping of women was practiced by Stalin himself as well as many or most members of the Politbureau and certainly their intelligence Chief the Jewish Beria, who was known to drive around Moscow and kidnap girls and rape them. The Red Army was also full of female soldiers and partisans who evidently looked the other way.....
The American army certainly didn't encourage but it didn't punish it either when it occurred. American soldiers raped from time to time and it was never punished. In fact the American military has a culture of rape which persists strongly today, and each year thousands, or tens of thousands, of female soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are themselves raped by superior officers who are almost never punished. Many women are raped more than once, and this issue has remained hidden from the public for decades until in 2013 the matter finally boiled over and became an issue in Congress. The fact that this situation existed so long with no public awareness merely underlines how obscure the realities of the American military are from the public, and how simple it actually is to keep secrets there. As well in WWII American soldiers did [contrary to myth] routinely execute prisoners just as the German Waffen SS often did. American troops were actually however more known for plunder. American officers were fond of stealing anything they could not only in Germany, but in France, Holland, Italy or anywhere else they found themselves, and it was impossible for them to discipline enlisted men from doing likewise. On an individual moral level American soldiers were far less consciencious than their German counterparts, and far less disciplined when it came to the treatment of civilians.
National Characters In Europe
Much can be said and analysis applied to the various national characters of the nations of Europe. Within such a small space there is immense differences on many levels. However on only a superficial level the most striking thing is the economic performance of some cultures relative to others.
What's striking about Europe is the extreme disparity in wealth and economic conditions from one country to another, and these factors are clearly broken down by ethnic factors.
In Germany and Scandinavia economic performance is always high, even when it's low everywhere else. This despite the lack of natural resources and the need of these countries to import much of what they need. And the Scandinavian countries are not even great exporters and certainly have little heavy industry. Germany is always the strongest economy in Europe year in and year out, and unlike Scandinavia it's success is based much on export, heavy industry, and maintaining a competitive advantage versus trading partners in manufacturing.
Norway in particular is interesting in that at the present time it's the wealthiest country on earth due to their saving of oil revenues over the last three decades. Their soverign wealth fund is now one trillion dollars and climbing, larger than that of the Saudis and so forth, and they refuse to invest any of it in Norway least they over-heat their own economy. This is of course very advantageous for them, however the Norwegians enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world even before any oil was found there. By all measurable standards the Norwegians maintained a standard of living higher than America or any other country, even when their only industry was fishing for Herring and Cod. Nor has their high rate of taxation and generous welfare state hampered economic performance either.