Niceness has, of course, an individual dimension. There are nice people and nasty people everywhere. Even at the individual level, it’s to some degree time-dependent: a nice person can be driven to nastiness, and a nasty person can be wooed to niceness, under particular circumstances.The full Radio Derb playbill:
Like every other human attribute, though, these things average out across populations. There is a pretty commonly accepted map of the world with contour lines drawn for niceness. I’ve never been to Korea, but I’m told Koreans are not very nice in the generality. People who’ve traveled a lot in the Middle East, including Zionists, have told me that Arabs are much nicer than Israelis. Up in Europe, the French have a reputation as not very nice, while the Scandinavians are nice, and the English of course are nicest of all.
That’s in everyday peacetime contacts. If you read up the history of the British Empire, the Brits were not nice to their subject peoples. If anything, the French were actually nicer to theirs. The Anglo-Saxons didn’t fight World War Two nicely, and we Americans didn’t fight the Civil War at all nicely. There is a topic in military history: “the American way of war”—the late John Keegan wrote about it. I remember in the run-up to the first Gulf War, Keegan writing an op-ed in one of the London papers saying the Iraqis couldn’t imagine what was coming to them: when Americans make war, he said, they don’t fool around.
Yet here are all these nice Americans telling Guatemalan peasants and Somali goat-herds: “Come on in and take our country! Take as much as you like, we’re not really using it!” Too many of us are too damn nice. Say what you like about Koreans and Israelis, they’re not about to give their countries away to Third World moochers.