Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Friday, January 21, 2011

National Caricatures

The French are...
The Brits are...
The Americans are...

We've all done it.  A moment of frustration in a strange land or a chat between friends that starts harmlessly enough but takes a nasty twist.

Those darn cultural stereotypes.  Those comments about national characters.  Intellectually, we know this is a crass and demeaning sport better suited to our ignorant and misguided ancestors.  Much as we all would like to think that we have progressed, we still do it at one time or another.  The only difference I see is that now it appears that we've acquired some shame to go along with the activity which only serves to make it all the spicier.

It's also a sport with a long history.  In former days there was a Polish proverb that said:

'What an ITALIAN invents,
A FRENCHMAN makes,
The GERMAN sells,
The POLE buys, and
the RUSSIAN takes from him."

If you would like to read more, look no further than the pages of the New York Times here and amuse yourself with a grand collection of caricatures from the 18th and 19th century.

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