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THE AMERICAN.

[By S It!. Gikakd. in the ' Adyar Bulletin. - ] There is nothing) I should say, more. wearisome, than to hear an Englishman talk about liis own country —unless it be an American enlarging on his own land! lifting an American, [ know something about thitf; knowing it, I feel that 1 can take up the same .subject with impunity, for I am aware of the danger.-. Besides. there is something to bo gained iu this case, for although we have bad a not inconsiderable number of commeuti> on the new- sub-race by outsiders, there has been, I think, no evidence offered by a. member of that race. To sweep away tho iiise of ail tho firtt person singular pronouns in this same paragraph, let me testify (in true American style, no doubt) to my fitness for this task, acquired by being born a. citiz-en o{ tVie United Statea au-d 'travelling t'.f many and far countries; abmad. It ik not .so mueh xl question as to whether the now type is forming as it is one of finding what niav lie the modus operandi of the affair. J.Vt us first of all sketch the type, however, and then tuin to tho mechanical sources of its production. 'I he' American is found in every pait of the United estates, but he tlouriidies chieilv in the West, though he may have migrated thither. 'l'lmsieally he is 'lu'g, leaning toward the Apollo, and not the Hercules: or the Mercury type. His hair tends toward biunette effects, though this is by no means certain. But sure it is that his "cmnpleximi will bo and already is a wonderfully translucent one. I italicise that word 'because it needs an explanation. The clarify of his iskin and a certain freshness of color are, as it were, laid over a kind of t.anned complexion, and the result is a fairness which is far removed from a peach-bloom complexion, and yet retains tho quality of fairness. This is. obviously an inadequate expression ; but there is no bettor way to tell what k, a fact.

In the case, of the .shape of the head and face we come to matters of the utmost certainty. The somewhat slanting brow and generous though line nose, indicate tin) keenness, which is almost the American's greatest characteristic. And this i»=- enhanced by a certain narrowness of the faeo visible from the full front. in turn from weakness by a firm, equate jaw and a full breadth of brow. The minor characteristics vary much with the person, and the type is not affected thereby. The same keounosr; is visible, in the lace of the American woman, and tho same lirm chin that redeems even her appearance from negativity.

i'he psychic characteiisticti are almost equally well known. ihe irrvoui, force, the superabundant energy. the hightension mode of working are matters familiar to anyone who knows the typical citizen of the United States. Bui the real American has in addition something that might, escape one who did not know him well. Thiis (something is a kind of superior mental lepuse. He swoops at his work and his play, this; mar... like an eagle-; but his action has, nevei tireless, the deadly certainty of the eagle's night. It is a kind of skill in action, a ciumgelessnesci in a, changing world. Then come all the minor characteristics of ihe. psychic composition : feverish abuortition of new things, marvellous capacity tc.r information varied and wido, a icrtaiu confidence that is nearly conceit, and is often spoiled by that delect, a, prodigious capacity for strenuous work at a high rate of spec!, a willingness to take remote gambling chances, of .-ucce.-s--iu short, all those things which have made tho new type known in the world whole tilings are done. Nov;, let ns ask ourselves what i,- the source of this type. What- litis produced the American!' It is my conviction that there are reasons for the appearance of the new type that most be physical. It is right to assign a hidden causm lor there must- be tsiich ; but equally there must be physical agents of that cause, and it. is these which give interest to the problem. The first part of the answer concerns, what Mr Zangwill calls the " melting pot '' --the great stir and boil of all the. races of Kuiope iu a. grand maelstrom of internationalism. But it is not iso haphazard as one might- be. led to suppose. In :!; ■ United States Germans usually marry (hrmens, and live, iu German communities; Slavs do likewise amongst their own people. But the children born there are not, Germans and imt Slavs: they are. fiom the first, maiked as Ainein.aue in some way: they go through a machine which stamps over tint foreign materia! a design wholly new. \>i(\ ihe wonder of this melting-pot method lies in the fm t that the second generation knows not the first. The power of the system of education, and ike nwciations. the newspaper:-, the mm-ai-.m.v.. the tiioving-pietuie shows, the advert:.- - ments. the ( lot ho- --all the-e and mauy more things speak in.sii>t,uitiy to the se-oml generation, and, if lie bo not n Jew. lie. growf, up to be an .\meriean, and even if lie would be otherwise be cannot, fie is stamped with the race genius. Americanism screams at him constantly, vulgarly, if you wil'. hut none the lesc. with, terfectsi!'re'is, 'lhe papers print ;i!m< st no foreign news, very little of Canadian, ami none of Mexico unle.ss the Ameri, ans are involved there. iu tii:.- nay. amongst others, the pot is made to seethe within its own circumference. A lew journals with a small circulation comment on foreign affairs: but what, inliuem e. have, they compared with the circulation of a certain single 5-cent i24d) weekly that t-.-lis, each week about two millions ot copies, and is usually American thtouchout. But the crux of tiie whole- matter cutioi. when we ask ourselves two questions: Am the intuitions being developed to an unusual degree in the American? (low are they being developed? The answer to tite first question is emphatically ye.s; anil 'ho. answer to the second is a matter <-• great interest.

ilv fellow-countrymen have been famous to the verge of notoriety for their spirit of business gambling. Nov,-, there is a sense recognised in the business world in America which has a name by itself. It is said that if a man feels that, a transaction is going to turn out in a certain way he has a "hunch " ahout it. I have more than once heard a sound and siicee.-fu! maker of money say quite serious!,.- : " ! have a hunch that 'this matter uili gu in such and such a fashion.'.! when all his reasoning was again-t this conclusion. And this primitive intuition is freoiieutly right. Indeed, the American doe-, led say "1 think": he invariably -ay, " I guess"; and guess he docs, and often rightly, too. This direct mode of arriv ing at the right conclusion sometimes gives him the appearance of being something of a -fraud, of lacking thoroughness, of being impatient of details. Hut this is often unjust, fo tlv truth is that he has guessed early in the opening of tiv transaction just wind way it uill go.

Aside from business there is another method in which the new faculty i- gradually being developed. The growth of primitive intuitions is generally related to the feverish .activity of the man, but above all it is brought to the surface by humor. Many people find what is calfe.l typical American humor somewhat crude or perhaps dull. The trouble seems to be that the Englishman (I take him as my example) feels that a tiling is not funny unless he can at least chuckle about it, and is really good only if it makes him hilarious. On the contrary. the American finds himself best suited with that continuous form of wit, which runs on and gives no time nor space for laughter of the outward sort. And he wants his jokes to be quick, sharp, and abrupt, If the narrative that leads up to the point, is not very skilfully handled his intui tions give him the clue to tho point of the joke, and it is spoiled for him. • Punch ' and ' Life' are very different indeed ; it is a supreme t«st of cosmopolitanism to really appreciate both. In th« question of tho agancie* which mould the new race how much can bo assigned to geographical rind climatic conditions it would be difficult to say. For though the sunny, land-of Southern California is wonderfully charged, yet tie true American is found in every part of the country to some extent. There are doubtless maiiy obscure forces at play, and the true tale may never bo told of how the American is produced. I would, howeverj make on-} sucttestion. It ii

surely unquestioned that th ■■ psychologieal effect of the novels of any country is very great: how profound this may bo is a cause for surmise. But whatever may be its relative importance it is interesting to note that the literature, of the country ruus to an ideal American who was in existence for years in the books, but was not easily found in life. That man who is now ap[jearing--the keen. intuitive, high-strung, racehorse fellow, has lived in tho American novel for years. And not alone there. ~ Tho advertisements of nil things, from soap to a certain kind ,of collar, all picture tho same man. The short stories of the magazine show him iu all his many phases of perfection. lie stalks about in the cinemaY screen. He cannot be escaped, go where jdii will. Xow, the effect of this upon the nation must bo great. Incessantly the men and the women were measuring themselves against, this ideal American. They were slowly moulding themselves nsnd the race into -tho, ty\W. And who. we may ask. furnished this type'.' Would he n-e such practical mid welJ-kf|ou/i and mundane agencies :m novels and adveriisements'.' The answer to these questions may be left until another time. Who-sb-' ever is the cause of it all. it is unquestioned that there has grown up in the United State- an ideal Jigure known as the American, and the residents there are -hice?-ant in tlieir effort to measure up to it.

'There remains still to be mentioned the minor of the sports. This is .-,, characteristic, of ihe nation that it de-erves the closing paragraph. A game like i rie:;el never gains a hold on the American bee oise it lacks the element of suspense which makes sport a -otiree of entertain j ment to him. Ht prefers such pastime-. as basket ball, which is a iuriuusiy swifi • game, or baseball. Unless one has seen I this latter -port played under suitable eir- . cumstanees he cannot understand the u:r I tore of the etfert it has upon the crowds , that watch. They lose completely their '■ idetititv as-, individuals. They become in- ; carnations of emotion. This, we may re- I maik in passing, is a mode of developing i ihe intuitions. I!y strong and sustained ! emotional activity this faculty comes into i expression, so long as the nature of the ; feeling is good. Now, on tho-m occasion- j you have a. crowd not fired with hate, j tlmu.irh strongly partisan, of course, swept each moment with waves of expectation as the pitcher itei ; ready to throw ihe ball." And this constant and repeated! -timuliH to ihe emotions is accompanied - in the crowd by efforts to guess the next ; move that will be made out on the held. ! No passive, critical, or judicial person ; goes to hall games, and the he-t Ameri- ! cans are there. Democratic in I'm ex- j freme, lie becomes on tbi- oiea.-iou ab.-o- j lute in hi- fraternaliYm. To retime to l talk to a neighbor, whether von know j him or not. would be considered the rank- i est bad ta-te. The crowd lhat watches ] b- a unit, wrapped in ihe same feeling, j enjoying the same thrills of pure emo- I tion. -urging like a lire with the scum thoughts, intense, livt . an I palpitation. , 'They know it not but them ' crowds of people are slowly weaving into j the fabric, of thr race a, subtle, fnuon-. j and hitheito unknown quality, ami out of the vulgar, crude, ami uncouth, irresponsible, unbalanced, and unsteady new \ westerner—fo • so he has often been de- : scribed by those who do not know- -iheie ! is slowly funning the delicate, highlystrung, and incisive, por-mi who-e keen j intuitions will redeem u- from the tyranny \ of intellect—the American that i- sen i to be.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141028.2.69

Bibliographic details

THE AMERICAN., Issue 15635, 28 October 1914

Word Count
2,112

THE AMERICAN. Issue 15635, 28 October 1914

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