Our National Perception of Ourselves.

In the Wall Street Journal today was an interesting article about world perceptions of the U. S. and China and the respective perceptions each has of itself.  Unfortunately, the most interesting part of the article, self perceptions, was in the paper copy but not included in the link.  Twenty some thousand people in many countries were interviewed.

In general, China is gaining ground in being perceived as a country which is powerful and influential.  It is not at the level of the U. S. yet.  China is already experiencing the problems the U. S. has had for a hundred years or so.  It is perceived as a country that pushes it weight around and seeks only its own self interest.

Chinese citizens see its ascendency, not as stroke of good luck, but of the natural forces which returned China to its rightful place as the greatest of nations.  This is what we hear from Arabs, recalling a time when Arabs were the world’s leaders in technology and warfare.

The Japnese, I have read, see themselves as a people who are special in the eyes of the super natural, destined to be the greatest of nations.  England was once the world’s powerhouse.  Perhaps there are English people who see their current economic troubles as only a temprary condition until they return to the greatness of old.

We in the U. S. have more than our fair share of national hubris.  Really, all of us in all courntries should get over ourselves.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324263404578611623402415576.html?mod=ITP_pageone_2

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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31 Responses to Our National Perception of Ourselves.

  1. Formerly Fargo Bob says:

    Interesting comments, Jon. But I don’t know of another country where so many of its people feel so obligated to routinely profess their “love” for their country and spend so much time and effort telling each other what a wonderful place they live in. Do bumper stickers like “God Bless Lithuania” (or some other country) exist?

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Formerly Fargo 2:07 “Do bumper stickers like ‘God Bless Lithuania’ exist?”

      I wondered that too. Do people in other countries express their sense of superiority in the same obnoxious ways as many of us do?

      I think a lot of people have this sense of their country being the center of world attention because it is so important. Then, there are those who think of their town and state as being what is on everyone else’s mind. So many times in my life someone has said to me, “—- has a national reputation as—.” I think to myself, “I’ve never heard that. I’ve seldom heard anything about that place.”

    • Jinx says:

      I have always been suspicious of those who wear shirt sleeve patriotism….makes one wonder whats really underneath.

  2. entech says:

    Perhaps there are English people who see their current economic troubles as only a temprary condition until they return to the greatness of old. There are possibly some, some even think the greatness of old is not mostly imaginary. That position is becoming increasingly hard to maintain.

    Disclosure: I was born and educated in England, I remain an emotional patriot but reality is reality. Look at Greece today compared to 2300 years ago.

  3. David says:

    At one time in the world it meant something to be English. A certain sensibility and a certain type of attitude. Most nationalities had some sort of characteristic to them. Germans were thought to be industrial and good engineers. The French were cultured. I think we are losing some of this nationalism. After WWII we certainly viewed this as probably a good thing, but people still identify with their cultures. I don’t think it is wrong to look at one’s culture and believe it is the best culture with something unique to add to the world.

    I do think the US is a bit different in that this country unlike any other that I know was founded on an ideal. What it means to be American is first and foremost a sense of liberty. We are certainly losing this notion. One only need look at Nanny Gloomberg as the shining example of what America is not. Losing a national identity is probably not a good thing. Conservative author Mark Steyn has written extensively about how Europe and now the United States have lost and are losing their culture.

    I don’t think we should get over ourselves. Rather I think we should work hard to conserve our liberal culture which rests on notions of liberty and freedom. We are sliding down a slippery slope of balkanization which is evident in the way in which people react to the George Zimmerman trial.

    I followed the Zimmerman trial a little. I was not surprised at the verdict. I was surprised the prosecutor brought such a loser of a case. When I read the reaction to the case by several Liberals I was astonished. I figured that the race hustlers like Sharpton would try to make some sort of issue of the verdict. However, I did not expect mainline journalists to claim that it was a miscarriage of justice. It was a lack of proof. The law prevails. The jury stood before the mob and said – “stop!” What an awesome outcome, which is the opposite of a lynching. They followed the evidence, followed the law and came up with a verdict – not guilty. They did not say Zimmerman was innocent. They merely said that the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. They had doubts, which almost everyone agrees.

    When I see the reactions from mainstream liberals I fear we are pushing our culture towards one of majority rule or mob rule instead of the rule of law.

    • Avatar of realist realist says:

      It is interesting that you categorize the reaction to the Zimmerman verdict of what you call “mainstream liberals” as mob rule instead of the rule of law, but I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you would consider those bent on disallowing lawful abortions as legitimate protestors. Where’s the concern about the rule of law there? I’m anticipating your response of pointing out that some laws are bad laws. Well, that’s what is happening now with the Zimmerman reaction. The stand your ground legislation is considered bad law by those protesters.

      • David says:

        You’re conflating the lack of the rule of law with advocacy for a change in the law. I have nothing against the latter and am in opposition to the former. People protesting the verdict are protesting a lawful outcome. Stand your ground was not the basis of his defense. It amazes me how this gets bandied about. If people want to change that law fine, but it has no relevance to this case. Zimmerman’s defense was based upon good old fashioned self defense. The argument of which I object is that the jury should have followed their hearts and not the law. Following one’s heart or with emotion is little more than mob rule. If someone physically stops someone from having an abortion then we abrogate the rule of law. I am all in favor of civil disobedience, but that is not that abrogation of the rule of law. I think Gandhi had it right that you take what the law gives you and you demonstrate the unjust nature of the law.

        With the Zimmerman trial we have a lack of evidence that Zimmerman confronted Martin. Had Zimmerman thrown the first punch or done something illegal AND the prosecutors could prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, I think there would have been a good manslaughter case. As it stands there was no proof. Thus an acquittal, which was the only sane verdict. Charges should never have been brought. The charges were a result of mob incitement, and thankfully the rule of law prevailed – at least this time. It really points to the value and strength of our system.

        • Avatar of realist realist says:

          When you close down abortion facilities without justification, then you are physically stopping someone from the legal activity of having an abortion. So therefore the law has been abrogated. I’m glad you agree with that, surprised, but glad nonetheless.

          • StanB says:

            Asking that abortion clinics be as well regulated as Botox clinics is arbitrary? Asking for admission privileges to hospitals for continuation of medical treatment is not a good thing?

          • David says:

            Not sure what you mean by closing down abortion clinics. If you mean a legislature regulates them out of business – well welcome to the new America.

            While a woman may have a right under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, she does not have a right for the state to pay for and provide an abortion. I think states can regulate abortion just in the manner that they regulate other procedures. Not the abrogation of law but the imposition of law.

            That said, if a group chains themselves around a clinic to prevent an abortion, I think that is civil disobedience, and those people should be willing to accept the consequences of their law breaking activity. This is much different than jury nullification. I was alarmed at how many thought Zimmerman should have been convicted where the evidence was simply lacking to convict. That is mob rule.

        • Avatar of realist realist says:

          Oh, and by the way, just because Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t bring up the stand your ground law doesn’t mean it was not the basis for the jury’s decision. Read the judge’s jury instructions; it’s clear that stand your ground was an acceptable area for jurors to determine their verdict. The juror who spoke to the media said as much.

          • StanB says:

            Hard to retreat when someone is sitting on you pounding your head into the sidewalk.

          • Avatar of realist realist says:

            You couldn’t possibly know how all of that happened. Nobody knows how it happened. Not you, not anybody.

          • StanB says:

            Broken nose, lacerations on the back of the head. How much more do you need?

          • Avatar of realist realist says:

            Superficial cuts that didn’t even need stitches, but never mind the facts when you know what happened.

          • StanB says:

            So Martin DID break Zimmermans nose then.

          • entech says:

            No I guess he broke it himself when he was turning the other cheek :roll:

            What did the eyewitnesses have to say. Didn’t get a truly full coverage here.

          • StanB says:

            Eye witness said Martin on top beating the snot out of Zimmerman.

          • Avatar of realist realist says:

            No eyewitnesses…sorry.

          • StanB says:

            Google Jonathan Good testifies.

          • entech says:

            Seems to me that it would not have happened if Zimmerman had not chased Martin in his car.

          • David says:

            It’s irrelevant. The only evidence was that Zimmerman had a broken nose and lacerations to the back of his head. This was consistent with his story to the police as well as the one witness who saw Martin on top raining down blows on Zimmerman. How do you convict someone of murder or even manslaughter in a such a situation. You need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. You may have some reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman was innocent. I do too. That’s not how the system works. The question is whether the prosecution could show beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not defending himself. They couldn’t. They knew they couldn’t and the case should never have been brought.

    • entech says:

      David, I am finding all this a little confusing.
      You talk of … our liberal culture which rests on notions of liberty and freedom. We are sliding down a slippery slope of balkanization …

      A liberal culture would be one where people were permitted to act as they pleased, with the “harm principle” being the only restriction. That is when exercising this liberty you do not impose on the frees practice by others and you do nothing that will cause harm to others. Thus a same sex union should equally valid and have the same rights and obligations as any other, if you have a legal definition of a cohabitation partnership type of agreement there should be nothing in that definition to distinguish between the sexual makeup of the individuals.
      Presumably then you differentiate between liberal culture and Liberal people?
      There is a certain redundancy in ‘liberty and freedom’, but that would be largely semantics.
      What do you understand by ‘Balkanization, or more to the point how does it refer in this context? States rights taking precedence under all circumstances? thus reducing the Federal to a very restricted role: isolated communities within the whole?

      It does seem that, based on a presumption of innocence you would have to say not guilty. This is a failing, in my view, with law in most places, I feel there should be a third verdict available. When you have two choices guilty or not guilty you must imply innocent or not innocent as well; if someone is found guilty of an offense or are saying they are not innocent and vice versa. The middle is excluded in these definitions, then should be verdict available that comes down as ‘not proven’, not beyond any doubt, beyond a reasonable doubt perhaps, but certainly not ‘not guilty’.

      I notice you talk a lot about liberty, freedom, rule of law and so on, you seem to despise the idea of majority rule (mob rule would be a bit more immediate and emotional) you never seem to use the word democracy, early on in the quote I highlighted it would have seemed more natural and more in ‘the American way’ to have spoken of a liberal democracy. How would you select these lawgivers that make the laws we need to live by? Some kind of free market anarchy perhaps, based on the old joke about anarchy being better than no government at all?

      This Zimmerman case looks quite complicated from the outside, people seem to have taken an action similar to that of creation scientists, lets decide what we think and then look at the evidence to prove our position.

      • entech says:

        PS. Nanny Gloomberg? some kind of Henryism perhaps, prelude to a descent into childish bickering which you have previously complained about.

        • David says:

          Fiddlesticks. Mayor Bloomberg is an affront to any sensible governance. By calling him Nanny Gloomberg I am making a point about his governance without the work of pointing out his policies. I think most would agree my posts are long enough.

      • David says:

        Well, liberalism and American Liberalism are two different things. Generally a liberal culture will have less government influence indicating what one can and cannot do. We have more government now cajoling this group, licensing this group of people, all in the name of protecting people. It does protect people but usually the ones with a license, or those already in positions of power. Do we really need to license cosmetologists in North Dakota or any other state? The number of people in this country who need the government’s permission to do their job has grown exponentially. This sort of nanny state politics is the antithesis of liberalism – it has become the bedrock of Liberalism.

        I think Liberals jump on the idea of same sex unions as some sort of government policy which tells people what they can and cannot do. If we could deregulate society to the 1950′s I would gladly trade this for same sex marriage, which is simply an outgrowth on the misunderstanding of what marriage is.

        The legal system does not recognize innocence in the manner of which you speak. You are innocent until proven guilty. No need to proclaim innocence. A jury does not proclaim someone innocent but merely indicates that there is reasonable doubt about someone’s guilt. So what you ask for is what we have. The jury in the Zimmerman case simple said that the prosecution failed to have enough evidence that proved Zimmerman committed a crime.

        I have no issues with lawmakers who make lousy law. That law should be enforced. That doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with a law as being good or bad, but it should carry the rule of law. For instance an abortion clinic should be able to operate under the rule of law. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think it a good idea to pass laws that stifle abortions.

        Incidentally we are not a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. Perhaps I missed your point on this or maybe I wasn’t clear.

        I don’t think the Zimmerman case was that complicated. He had a defense – that of self defense – to the crime. The state needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman or a reasonable person would not have been in fear of his life or great bodily harm. The evidence was pretty clear. Zimmerman had a guy on top of him raining down blows. I think the jury found the one eye witness credible. More importantly and I think dispositive is that the state had no proof that Zimmerman attacked Martin. How could you not find reasonable doubt? Zimmerman may have been an idiot for putting himself in a situation where he was confronted by Martin. But he does not forfeit his right of self defense. Had he gone up to Martin and started calling him names, provoking a fight or if he actually hit Martin first different story different outcome in the trial. Following someone around is not grounds for beating someone up.

        • entech says:

          Liberal, libertarian and similar do mean something different in America than they do in the rest of the world. Classical liberal economics is all about open markets and private enterprise. Social liberalism would allow personal liberty, subject to the harm principle as I said, gay rights or similar issues would not be issues we are all just people living in a society or community that needs to be organised for the equal benefit of all ( which does not mean that if by hard work someone accumulates a lot of assets that they should be shared out equally), equality of opportunity is what is required. Like Adam Smith I can see nothing wrong with a progressive taxation system, yes, the hero of free enterprise suggested that all should pay towards providing the common goods that the private system could not viably accomplish, public roads and railways, defense, etc. even law enforcement, indeed, as he said they should be prepared to pay something extra. It is a reasonable idea, after all what can be achieved by hard work need a society that rewards hard work, if this were not so no one could benefit from the system, and those that do benefit should be prepared to put something back into the system from which they do benefit.

          Democracy. OK I see the difference after some reading. But an outsider can be forgiven for being confused when so much jingoistic rhetoric is spouted around:
          In his second Inaugural Address, George W. Bush said, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” as the concept of democracy sounds good it is used to represent something good for others but not us.

          “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” from the Gettysburg address certainly sounds like a pretty good definition.

          Zimmerman, I still say that the evidence, all from the internet so subject to prejudicial interpretations, does suggest that there was a strong contributing element in Zimmerman’s actions. Martin was legally staying in the community, Zimmerman had obviously decided he was up to no good, even the police said to stay back and wait for them, Martin reportedly phoned a girl friend saying he was being followed by someone creepy, observation from a sensible distance would have seen Martin admitted to a house, the end.

          I guess I will never understand “the American way”, not right not wrong just hard to understand. I give up.

  4. Wanna B Sure says:

    We are a culture of cultures. We always have been. The different regions of the US are all different, partly from where they emigrated from, climate, primary industries, etc. Intensifying those individual cultures sometimes by tight concentrations of like peoples. Think “Little Italy”, “China Town”. Yet in the past, we all thought we were part of a larger whole. Today, that “part of a larger whole” is not necessarily the objective. Inculturation is resisted by some groups, and it appears to be quite intentional. Language is the common denominator. some say everyone should be forced to speak English immediately upon arrival. Not so easy. Language is a tool we use to self-identify. Our earlier immigrants spoke different languages at home, and gradually eased into a common language, (with brogues). Their children were encouraged, sometimes forced by parents to speak English so they could succeed in their new homeland. I observe this is not so much the trend today. I bought a small household appliance the other day. The instruction paper was in six different languages. Inculturation comes slowly under ideal conditions. (German didn’t die out as a primary language in some communities until we were at war with Hitler). Today’s defiant brand of inculturation is worrisome. On the other hand, osmosis and 2-3 generations, it may still happen. Language is our common denominator.

  5. Wolfy32 says:

    I find it interesting that we’re faced with such a yin / yang concept. The “land of the free” vs. Communism. My grandmother lived in terror that Russia would one day attack and enslave us. Today there’s not much good said about china. I’ve had debates how china could simply come over buy a bunch of property and take over the US without even lifting a finger. It would take time, but, given the enough devout chinese people, it wouldn’t take much to simply breed out the freedom culture.
    3-6 generations could probably be enough for the US to be a cultural territory of China. Maybe a vacation spot for the chinese like Hawaii is for Americans.

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