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belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men. or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and contemplate the mystery of conscious life
punishes the objects of his creation, whose perpetuating itself through all eternity, to
purposes are modeled after our own — a God, reflect upon the marvelous structure of the
in short, who is but a reflection of human universe which we can dimly perceive, and to
frailty. Neither can I believe that the individ- try humbly to comprehend an infinitesi-
ual survives the death of his body, although mal part of the intelligence manifested in
feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear nature.

Your Negroid and Indian


Cuts from Negro Drawings, by Courtesy of Miguel Covarruhias and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

April, igso

M.T WOULD NEVER occur to the naive capped by what certain English magazines call
European to regard the psychology of the av- "Americana" — something on the borderline
erage American as particularly complicated or of a mild insanity: "Colonial people are likely
sophisticated. On the contrary, he is rather to be a bit odd, don't you know, like our South
impressed by the simplicity and straight- African cousins."
forwardness of American thought and man- Thus, when I have something serious to say
ners. He likes to think of Americans as being a about Americans and their particular psychol-
very active, businesslike, and astonishingly ogy, my European audience, while not exactly
efficient people, concentrated upon a single shocked, is at all events somewhat puzzled
goal — the Yellow God — and a bit handi- and inclined to disapprove. What Americans


will think about my ideas remains to be seen. suppose it was the solemnity of great virtue or
In 1909 I paid my first short visit to the something like that. At all events, nobody
United States. This was my first impression of laughed. Everyone was just too nice and too
the American people as a whole; before that I polite.
had known individuals only. I remember walk- At last I could stand it no longer, and for
ing through the streets of Buffalo and seeing better or worse I began to crack jokes. Though
hundreds of workmen leaving a factory. Being these were greeted with condescending smiles,
a naive European, I could not help remarking I could not arouse that hearty and generous
to my American companion: " I really had no American laugh which I love and admire.
idea there was such an amazing amount of In- "Well," I thought, "Indian blood, wooden
dian blood in your people." faces, camouflaged Mongols. Why not try
"What!" said he. "Indian blood.? I bet there some Chinese on them?" So I came to my last
is not one drop of it in this whole crowd." story — really a good one — and no sooner
I replied: "But don't you see their faces? had I finished than right behind my chair an
They are more Indian than European." Where- enormous avalanche of laughter broke loose.
upon I was informed that most of these work- It was the Negro servant, and it was the real
men were of Irish, Scotch, and German ex- American laughter — that grand, unrestrained,
traction. I was puzzled and half incredulous, unsophisticated laughter revealing rows of
but later I came to see how ridiculous my teeth, tongue, palate, everything.
hypothesis had been. Nevertheless, my im- I loved that African brother!
pression remained firm, and the years have
only strengthened it. II
When I returned from America, I carried JIHE AMERICAN laugh is most impressive.
away with me that peculiarly dissatisfied feel- Laughing is a very important emotional ex-
ing of one who has somehow missed the point. pression and one learns a lot about character
I had to confess that I was unable to "size through careful observation of the way people
them up." I only knew that a subtle difference laugh. There are some folk who suffer from a
existed between the American and the Euro- crippled laughter. It is just painful to see them
pean — a difference like that between the laugh, and the sound of that shrill, evil, com-
Australian and South African. It is not so pressed rattle almost makes you sick. America
much in the anatomical features as in the as a nation can laugh. This means a lot: it
general behavior, both physical and mental. means that there is still childlikeness, a sound-
One finds it in the language, the gestures, the ness of emotion, an immediate rapport with
mentality, in the movements of the body, and fellow beings.
in certain things even more nebulous than This laughter goes hand in hand with a re-
these. You can say many witty and clever markable vivacity and great ease of expres-
things about that difference and still be un- sion. Americans are great talkers. Gossip even
able to analyze it. extends into monstrously big newspapers, so
But another impression also stuck in my that the talking goes on even when you are
mind. I had not noticed it at first, but it kept reading. The style of "good" American writing
coming back as things will when they possess a is a talking style. When it is not too flat, it is
certain importance and yet have not been just as refreshing and exhilarating to us Euro-
understood. I was once the guest of a stiff and peans as your laughter. But often alas, it is
solemn New England family whose respecta- just chattering — the noise of the big ant heap.
bility was almost terrifying. It felt almost like One of the greatest advantages of the Ameri-
home, for there are very conservative and can language is its slang. I am far from sniffing
highly respectable folk in Switzerland too. But at American slang; on the contrary, I like it
there were Negro servants waiting on the profoundly. Slang means a language in the
table, and they made me feel as if I were eating making, a thing fully alive. Its pictures are not
lunch in a circus. I found myself cautiously worm-eaten metaphors, pale images hallowed
scrutinizing the dishes, looking for imprints of by immemorial age, smooth, correct, and con-
those black fingers. A solemnity brooded over cise conventions; they are figures full of life,
the meal for which I could see no reason; but I carrying all the stamina of their earthly origin


and the incomparable flavor of a strange new fore never develops, the values of character,
current of a strange life in the flow of the old because it forestalls any deep mutual under-
English language, and Englishmen often won- standing. Such an understanding, without
der where it comes from. Is it the new country which no real love can exist, can only be
only? I doubt it, and will shortly give my reached by overcoming all the difficulties that
reason. arise from the psychological difference be-
The way the American moves shows a tween the sexes. Promiscuity paralyzes all
strong tendency toward nonchalance. It is evi- these efforts so that individual rapport seems
dent in the way he walks, how he wears his hat, quite superfluous. Thus, the more so-called
how he holds his cigar, and how he speaks. unprejudiced freedom and easy promiscuity
Americans move with loose joints and swaying prevail, the more love becomes flat; it degener-
hips. This characteristic of primitive Negro ates into transitory sex interludes.
women is frequently seen in American women, All American life seems to be the life of the
while the swinging gait of the men is fairly big settlement — real town life. Even the
usual. smallest community denies to itself the char-
The most amazing feature of American life acter of a village and tends to become a city.
is its boundless publicity. Everybody has to It seems as though everything were collective
meet everybody else, and they seem to enjoy and standardized, for the town rules the whole
doing it. To a Central European like myself the style of living, even in the country. Once, on a
lack of distance between people, the absence of visit to a so-called camp with so-called country
hedges and fences round the gardens, the be- life, a European friend who was traveling with
lief in popularity, the gossip columns in the me whispered: " I bet they even have a text-
newspapers, the open doors in the houses (from book on how to camp." And lo! — there it was,
the street one can look right through the sitting glistening in red and gold on the shelf,
room and the adjoining bedroom into the back-
yard) — all this is more than disgusting; it is
directly terrifying. You are immediately swal- M. KNOW the mother nations of North
lowed up by a hot and all-engulfing wave of America pretty well, but if I relied solely on
emotional incontinence which knows no re- the theory of heredity, I should be completely
straint. You see it in the eagerness and the at a loss to explain how the Americans descend-
hustling of everyday life, in all sorts of en- ing from European stock have arrived at their
thusiasms such as orgiastic sectarian outbursts, striking peculiarities. One might suppose that
and in the violence of public admiration. some of these characteristics are survivals of
This overwhelming influence of collective the old pioneer attitude, but I fail to see any
emotions spreads into everything. connection between the particular
It easily goes too far and leads qualities I have mentioned and the
people into situations which indi- character of the early farmer-colo-
vidual deliberation would hardly nists. There is, indeed, a much
ever have chosen. It has a de- better hypothesis to explain the
cidedly flattening influence upon American temperament, and it lies
American Psychology. You see this in the fact that the United States
particularly in the sex problem as are pervaded by that most strik-
it has developed since the war. ing and suggestive figure — the
There is a marked tendency to Negro. Some states are more than
promiscuity, which not only shows half black — a fact that may as-
itself in the frequency of divorces, tonish the naive European who
but more especially still in the thinks of America as a white
younger generation's peculiar free- nation. It is not wholly white, if
dom from sex prejudices. you please; it is partly colored.
As an inevitable consequence It cannot be helped; it is so.
the individual rapport between the Now what is more contagious
sexes will suffer from it. Easy ac- than to live side by side with a
cess never calls forth, and there- rather primitive people? Go to

Africa and see what happens.
When the effect is so very obvious
that you stumble over it, then
you call it "going black." But
if it is not so obvious, then it is
explained as "the sun." (In India
it is always the sun.) In reality
it is a partial going black, coun-
terbalanced by a particularly
stiff-necked conventionality
(with its subdivisions of right-
eousness and conspicuous re-
spectability). With such conven-
tionality people simply dry up,
though they may make the sun
responsible for it.
It is much easier for us Euro-
peans to be a trifle immoral, or
at least a bit lax, because we do not have ure in movement and in stunts of all sorts ? The
to hold the moral standard against the heavy loose-jointed walk, the Negroid dance and
downward pull of primitive life. The inferior music? (Incidentally the rhythm of jazz is the
man exercises a tremendous pull upon civil- same as the n'goma — the African dance. To
ized beings who are forced to live with him, an accompaniment of jazz music you can dance
because he fascinates the inferior layers of the n'goma perfectly, with all its jumping and
our psyche, which has lived through untold rocking and its swinging of shoulders and hips.
ages of similar conditions. On revient toujours ^ American music is most obviously pervaded by
ses premiers amours. To our subconscious mind the African rhythm and the African melody.)
contact with primitives recalls not only our It would be difficult not to see that the Ne-
childhood, but also our prehistory; and with gro, with his primitive motility, his expressive
the Germanic races this means a harking back emotionality, his childlike immediacy, his
of only about twelve hundred years. The bar- sense of music and rhythm, his funny and pic-
barous man in us is still wonderfully strong and turesque language, has infected American be-
he easily yields to the lure of his youthful havior. As every psychologist and every doctor
memories. Therefore he needs very definite knows, nothing is more contagious than tics,
defenses. The Latin peoples, being older, don't stammering, choreic movements, and signs of
need to be so much on their guard; hence their emotion — particularly laughing and peculi-
attitude toward the Negro is different from arities of speech. Even if you don't understand
that of the Nordics. a joke in a foreign language, you can't help
But the defenses of the Germanic man reach smiling when everybody else smiles. Stammer-
only as far as consciousness reaches. Below the ing, too, can be of the most infectious quality,
threshold of consciousness the contagion meets so that one can hardly refrain from imitating it
little resistance. Since the Negro lives within involuntarily. Melody and rhythm are also
your cities and even within your houses, he also most insinuating; they can obsess you for days.
lives within your skin, subconsciously. Natu- And as for language, it is always disturbing
rally it works both ways. Just as every Jew has how its pronunciation and metaphors affect
a Christ complex, so every Negro has a white you; you begin with an apologetic quotation,
complex, and every white American a Negro "as they say," and soon you find yourself un-
complex. The Negro, generally speaking, would consciously adopting the new pronunciation or
give anything to change his skin; so, too, the the new metaphor because you can't help it.
white man hates to admit that he has been The white man is a terrific problem to the
touched by the black. Negro, and whenever you affect somebody
What, then, about American laughter? What profoundly, then in a mysterious way some-
about the boundless, noisy sociality? The pleas- thing comes back from him to yourself. The

Negro, by his mere presence in America, is a measurements is, I admit, extremely difficult.
source of temperamental and mimetic infec- Yet there are many things that escape all our
tion which the European can't help noticing, means of exact scientific verification despite
for he sees the hopeless gap between the Amer- their most obvious and indubitable character.
ican and the African Negro. For example, think of the subtleties of expres-
Such racial infection is a very serious mental sion in eyes, gesture, and intonation. In prac-
and moral problem wherever a primitive race tice everybody goes by them and no idiot could
outnumbers the white man. America has this misunderstand them, yet to prepare an abso-
problem only in a relative degree, since, lutely scientific description of them would be a
throughout the country as a whole, the whites most ticklish task.
far outnumber the blacks. The Let us, then, accept the fact that
whites, apparently, can assimilate there are these subtle indications
the primitive influence with little in man. Sometimes they lurk in
risk to themselves. Still, even a the lines of his face, sometimes in
casual visitor soon learns that there his gestures or the look of his eyes,
is such a thing as "the Negro ques- and sometimes in his soul that
tion" in the States. shines forth through the transparent
I am quite convinced, therefore, veil of his body. From such indi-
that some American peculiarities cations it is often possible to tell in
can be traced to the Negro directly, what country a man has been born.
while others result from the com- I know quite a number of instances
pensatory defense against his laxity. where children of purely European
But these things remain mere ex- parents were born in exotic coun-
ternals, leaving the inner quick of tries and exhibited the marks of
American character untouched — their birthplaces, either in the im-
which would not be true if America represented ponderabilia of their appearance or in their
a full-fledged example of "going black." mental make-up, or in both; and to such a
degree that not only I myself, but other people
who were entirely ignorant of the circum-
J^iNCE I am not a behaviorist, I allow stances, could make the diagnosis. I remember
myself to suppose that you are still far off from particularly seeing in New York a family of
the real man when you merely observe his be- German immigrants. Three of the children had
havior. I regard behavior as nothing more than been born in Germany and four in America. The
a shell which conceals the really living sub- first three were clearly Germans, while the
stance within. Thus, under the slightly Ne- others were unmistakable Americans.
groid mannerisms of the American, I discern Somehow a foreign country gets under the
pretty clearly the essential white man within, skin of those born in it. Certain very primitive
and my question is: Is this American white tribes are convinced that it is not feasible to
man just a simple white, or is he in any way usurp foreign territory, because the children
difi^erent from the European representatives of born there would inherit the wrong ancestor
the species? I believe there is a marked differ- spirits dwelling in the trees, rocks, and water of
ence between them within as well as without; the strange country. There seems to be a subtle
and this brings us to the second part of my truth in this primitive intuition. It would
theory. mean that the spirit of the Indian gets at the
It may seem mysterious and unbelievable, American within and without. Indeed, there is
yet it is a fact observable throughout history, often an astonishing likeness between the cast
that man can be assimilated by a country. of the American face and that of the red In-
In the air and soil of a country there is an x dian — more, I think, in the men's faces than
and a y which slowly permeate man and mold in the women's. But women are always the
him to the type of the aboriginal inhabitant, more conservative element, in spite of their
even to the point of slightly remodeling his conspicuous affectation of modernity. This is a
physical features. To state such an over- paradox, certainly — one of the many para-
whelmingly obvious fact in terms of exact doxes of human nature.

The external assimilation of man to the assets of the human family, is the Gentleman.
peculiarities of a country is a thing one could Rescued from the dusty knighthood of the
almost expect. There is nothing astonishing in early Middle Ages, the code of the gentleman
it. But the external influence is feeble in com- now reaches down into the smallest corner of
parison with the less visible, but all the more modern English life. It is an ultimate principle,
intense, influence on the mind. It is probable never failing in its convincing weight — at
that long before the body reacts, the mind has once the shining armor of the perfect knight in
undergone considerable changes — changes soul and body, and the miserable cofiin of poor
that are not obvious to the individual himself and natural feelings.
or to his immediate circle, though they may be But can you "size up" other countries like
apparent to an outsider. Thus, I would not Italy, Austria, Spain, Holland, Switzerland
expect the average American, who has not just as easily? They are all very characteristic
lived for a couple of years in Europe, to realize countries, yet their spirit is more difiicult to
how different his mental attitude is from the catch. You cannot seize it in one word; it re-
European's; nor would I expect the average quires at least a couple of sentences. America is
European to discern his difference from the also one of those countries whose heart cannot
American. That is the reason why so many be pierced by one shot. European prejudice
things that are really characteristic of a for- would say Money; but the only people who can
eign country seem to be merely odd or ridicu- think like that are those who have no idea what
lous: the conditions from which they spring money means to Americans. Yes, if they them-
are either not known or not understood. They selves were Americans, it would be money; but
would not seem odd or ridiculous if one could America is not as simple as that.
feel the local atmosphere to which they be- Of course there is any amount of ordinary
long, and which makes them perfectly compre- materialism in America, just as elsewhere; but
hensible and logical. there is also an admirable idealism which hardly
Almost every great country has its collective finds its equal anywhere else. To us Europeans,
attitude, which one might call its genius, or money still carries with it something of the old
spiritus loci. Sometimes you can catch it in a taboo dating from the times when every busi-
formula; again it is more evasive; yet always ness was dishonest without exception. That is
it is indescribably present as a sort of air that why it is still good form with us to hush up
permeates everything — the aspect of people, money matters. The American, unhampered
their speech, gestures, clothing, interests, by the burden of historical conditions, can
ideals, politics, philosophy, art, and even re- take and spend money for what it is worth.
ligion. In a well-defined civilization with a For this reason America is peculiarly free from
solid historical background, such as French the spell of money, although she makes a lot
civilization, you can easily find the keynote of of it.
the national spirit. In France it is la gloire,
which is a marked prestige psychology in its
noblest as well as its most ridiculous forms. xmMERicA, then, has a principle or ideal
You notice it in the speech, gestures, convic- or attitude, but it is surely not money. Often,
tions, in the style of everything, in politics and in searching through the conscious and the un-
even in science. conscious minds of my American patients and
In Germany it is the Idea, and it is imper-
sonated by everybody. There are no ordinary
human beings; you are either Herr Professor or
Herr Geheimrath, Herr Oberrechnungsrat, and
even longer things than that. Sometimes the
German Idea is right, and sometimes it is
wrong; but it never ceases to be an idea,
whether it belongs to the highest philosophy or
is merely a foolish bias.
England's innermost truth, and at the same
time her most valuable contribution to the


pupils, I have found something which I can peared from them. Your sport demands a
only describe as a sort of heroic ideal. Your training that is almost cruel and an application
most idealistic effort is concerned in bringing that is almost inhuman. Your sportsmen are
out the best in every man. When you find a gladiators, every inch of them; and the excite-
good man, you naturally support him and ment of the spectators derives from ancient
push him on, until at last he is liable to collapse instincts that are akin to bloodthirst.
from sheer exertion, success, and triumph. It is Your students go through initiations and
done in every family, where ambitious mothers form secret societies like the best among bar-
lead boys on with the idea that they must be barous tribes. In fact, secret societies of every
heroes of some sort. You find it in the factory, description abound all over the country, from
where the whole system is designed to get the the Ku Klux IClan to the Knights of Columbus,
best man into the best place. And again in the and their rites are analogous to those of all
schools, where every child is trained to be primitive, mystery religions. America has re-
brave, courageous, efficient, and "a good suscitated the ghosts of Spiritualism, of which
sport" — in short, a hero. she is the original home, and cures diseases by
In America there is no record that people Christian Science, which has more to do with
will not kill themselves to break. The moving the shaman's mental healing than with any
pictures abound with heroes of every descrip- kind of science. Moreover, it is proving fairly
tion. Anjerican applause holds the world's rec- effectual — as, indeed, were the shaman's
ord. The " g r e a t " and "famous" man, no cures.
matter what he may be "great" in, gets And have you ever compared the skyline of
drowned in enthusiastic crowds. In Germany New York or any other great American City
you are great if your titles are two yards long; with that of a pueblo like Taos? Have you
in England if you are a gentleman; in France if noticed how the houses pile up in towers to-
your prestige coincides with that of the coun- ward the center? Without conscious imitation
try. In small countries, as a rule, there is no America instinctively molds herself to the
greatness alive because things need to be small; spectral outline of the Red Man's temperament.
therefore greatness is usually posthumous. There is nothing miraculous about it. It has
America is perhaps the only country where always been so. The conqueror overcomes the
"greatness" is unrestricted, because this limit- old inhabitant in the body, and succumbs to
less concept of greatness expresses the most fun- his spirit. Rome at the zenith of her power con-
damental hopes and convictions of the nation. tained within her walls all the mystery cults of
To an American all this seems to be part of the East, and the spirit of the humblest among
the nature of things. Not so, however, to a them — a Jewish mystery society — trans-
European. Many Europeans are infected with formed the greatest of all cities from top to
a feeling of inferiority when they come into bottom. The conqueror gets the wrong ances-
contact with America and her heroic ideal. As tor spirits, the primitives would say.
a rule they don't admit it, so they boast of People rarely want to know what a thing is in
Europe all the louder and ridicule the many itself; they want to know whether it is favor-
things in America which are open to criticism, able or unfavorable, advisable or inadvisable —
such as her roughness, brutality, and primi- as if there were indubitably good or bad things.
tivity. Often they get their first and decisive They are as we take them. Moreover, anything
shock at the customs house, so that their appe- that moves is a risk. Thus a nation in the mak-
tite is ruined at the start. It is inevitable, of ing is naturally a big risk — to itself as well as
course, that the heroic attitude should be to other nations. It is surely not my task to
coupled with a sort of primitiveness; it always play the role of a prophet or that of a ridiculous
has been the ideal of a somewhat sporty and adviser of nations; for there is nothing to give
primitive society. And this is where the real advice about. Facts are neither favorable nor
historical spirit of the Red Man enters the unfavorable. They are merely interesting. And
game. the most interesting fact about America is that
Look at your sports! They are the roughest, this childlike, impetuous, " n a i v e " people has
the most reckless, and the most efficient in the probably the most complicated psychology of
world. The idea of play has practically disap- all nations.

High Wind in Jamaica
A Short Story

December, igzS

O.'NE OF THE fruits of emancipation in

the West Indian islands is the number of ruins,
peramental as a mule himself, a quarrel be-
tween the two was generally worth watching.
either attached to the houses that remain or Close to the dwelling were the ruined grind-
within a stone's throw of them: ruined slaves' ing and boiling houses. These two are never
quarters, ruined sugar-grinding houses, ruined quite cheek by jowl: the grinding house is set
boiling houses — often ruined mansions that on higher ground, with a water wheel to turn
were too expensive to maintain. Earthquake, the immense, vertical iron rollers. From these
fire, rain, and deadlier vegetation did their the cane juice runs down a wedge-shaped
work quickly. trough to the boiling house, where a Negro
Truly typical of this melancholy decline was stands and rinses a little lime-wash into it with
the estate of Ferndale in Jamaica. The "big a grass brush to make it granulate. Then it is
house" had altogether collapsed and been emptied into big copper vats, over furnaces
smothered over; only the overseer's house re- burning fagots and " t r a s h " or squeezed-out
mained. It consisted of a ground floor of stone, cane. There a few negroes stand, skimming the
given over to goats and the children, and a poppUng vats with long-handled copper ladles,
first floor of wood — the inhabited part — while their friends sit around, eating sugar or
reached from outside by a double flight of chewing trash, in a mist of hot vapor. What
wooden steps. When the earthquakes came, the they skim off oozes across the floor with an
upper part only slid about a little and was admixture of a good deal of filth — insects,
jacked back into position with big levers. The even rats, and whatever sticks to negroes' feet
roof was of shingles; after very dry weather it — into another basin, thence to be distilled
leaked like a sieve, and the first few days of the into rum.
rainy season would be spent in a perpetual This, at any rate, is how it used to be done.
general-post of beds and other furniture to I know nothing of modern methods — or if
escape the drips, until the wood swelled. there are any — never having visited the island
The people who lived there at the time I since i860, which is a long time ago now.
have in mind were called Bas-Thornton; not But long before that even, all this was over
natives of the Island, "Creoles," but a family at Ferndale. The big copper vats were over-
from England. Mr. Bas-Thornton had a busi- turned, and up In the grinding house the three
ness of some kind in St. Anne's and used to great rollers lay about loose. No water reached
ride there every day on a mule. He had such it; the stream had gone about its own business
long legs that his stunted mount made him elsewhere. The Bas-Thornton children used to
look rather ridiculous; and being quite as tem- crawl into the cut-well through the vent.


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