Why Are Americans Self-Assured?

Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion— science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth— science— which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.

— Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Kindle Location 15566

Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in the 1860s, and it played between 1800 and 1815 during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time, Americans were not influential enough for him to bring them into this discussion. I wonder what Tolstoy would write about why Americans are self-assured? Because they know the live in the greatest country in the world and have the most powerful military the world has ever seen and they are the leaders of the free world?

Not that I would want to put words into Tolstoy’s mouth, or better, ink into his pen.

One thought on “Why Are Americans Self-Assured?

  1. Read what Alexis de Tocqueville and Antonin Dvořák wrote about Americans in the 19th century for a good European perspective on American culture before we all became the country that Donald Trump see us as today.

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