National Souls

by Nathan Hamm on 7/19/2004 · 3 comments

While interesting and somewhat insightful, I suggest taking much of this piece on thumos (via Red State) with a grain of salt. Obviously it’s very hard to generalize on a topic like nationalize character. I agree with the author that Americans are fairly unique in their attitudes towards frontiers, but the following made me raise an eyebrow.

Russians have a very similar attitude [to the Chinese attitude that frontiers are places of hardship and little opportunity] toward frontiers. A Russian who discovered that one of these authors maintains his judicial chambers in Alaska blurted out, “Why were you sent?” The idea that there might be appeal in an assignment on America’s Alaskan frontier seemed incomprehensible to him.

Now, if I were to pick out any one group of people in the whole world that is most similar to Americans in their attitudes towards the frontier, it’d have to be the Russians. There certainly are Russians who ended up in the Far East as a result of being exiled and find their lives dreary. But, most people I know would shudder at the thought of life in Alaska.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Matt Frost July 20, 2004 at 10:38 am

You called that one, Nathan.
Perhaps even more than we still do, Russians see their wilderness as a force for moral regeneration, and the residents of the frontier as the stewards of national virtue.

Mark Hamm July 20, 2004 at 5:02 pm

As Americans we definitly have an idealized view of cowboys. When foreignors call us cowboys I doubt they have the same picture in their minds. I think of Gary Cooper in High Noon, I imagine others think of the bad cowboys down at the train station that GP was going to fight.

Matt Frost July 20, 2004 at 10:33 pm

Bush recounting a conversation with Junichiro Koizumi:

It’s amazing — he’s a great guy, by the way. Elvis Presley is one of his favorites. (Laughter.) His favorite movie was Gary Cooper in “High Noon.” One time he walked up to me and said, “You like Cooper.” (Laughter.) I said, “I’m like Cooper?” He said, “Yes.” (Laughter.) I finally figured out what he meant. (Laughter.)

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