Margaret Mead

And Keep Your Powder Dry

New York: William Morrow & Co. 1965 [1942]

Included here are some quotes from the work which I have guided my reading of Mead's book as presented in my introduction to the reprinting of the work (Note that the titles used to frame the quotes are my own)

  Preface -- 1965 xi
Preface from England - 1943 xvii
Introduction - 1965  xxvi
 I  Introduction - 1942 3
II  Clearing the Air 15
III We Are All Third Generation 27
IV The Class Handicap  54
V  The European in Our Midst  70
VI Parents, Children and Achievement 80
VII Brothers and Sisters and Success 99
VIII Are Today's Youth Different?  115
IX The Chip on the Shoulder 138
X Fighting the War American Style 158
XI Are Democracy and Social Science Compatible Each with Each? 176
XII If We Are to Go On 193
XII Building the World New 217
XIV These Things We Can Do 251
XV The Years Between: 1943-1965 263


p. xx

I wrote this book for my own countrymen to add what I had of knowledge and love of them, to armor them for the conflict of the years ahead. For the first time in my life I asked my publishers to set the book in American spelling. I deliberately turned from writing, as I have always done in the past, for the general English reading world, where many eyes are jolted rudely by the absence of the u in labor or the presence of the z in realize, to writing specifically for my own country, making full use of our own idiom. For I was talking to Americans in America about our share in the job of fighting the war and winning the peace. If we are to fight it well, and put our shoulder equally well to the tasks of the postwar world, we need, I feel, to know ourselves, to measure our strengths and guard against our weaknesses, to know whence we came and where we might best be going. Because this is a book written by an American to Americans it is no apologia, it does not slur over those aspects of our character which other peoples find most trying, nor does it mute the tones of optimism and confidence in our voices which might have been muted had I been worried lest an observer from an older civilization should find us bumptious and too confident.


Although the anthropologist never looks at his own culture and his own people with quite the clear, objective appraisal he is trained to give to South Sea Islanders and Indians, nevertheless, if those South Sea Islanders have been studied carefully enough, the anthropologist wears forever another set of lenses, a new set for each primitive culture which has been examined. With these lenses, acquired in the long months in which he minutely studied strange ways of life and held reflectively small wriggling babies-- for the babies of each society wriggle in a slightly different way, and one learns from observing the differences-the anthropolologist sees different things about the home culture from those things which others see who have never had to submit to this special discipline.

p. 3

Six times in the last seventeen years I have entered another culture, left behind me the speech, the food, the familiar postures of my own way of life, and sought to understand the pattern of life of another people. In 1939, 1 came home to a world on the brink of war, convinced that the next task was to apply what we knew, as best we could, to the problems of our own society. There was no more time to go far afield for the answers which lay crystallized in the way of life of distant, half-forgotten peoples who, for thousands of years, had been finding quite different and various answers to those problems which all human beings must solve if they are to continue to live together in groups. For a few short years the methods of anthropology had been used to explore social problems; and now, with such increased knowledge as the study of other cultures had given us, we had to tackle the enormous problem of a world on the verge of social self-consciousness, a world on the verge of a new period in history.

p. 4-5

The dispassionate study of culture, of the whole way of life of a people seen as a dynamic pattern, is dependent upon a degree of detachment which no one can attain concerning his own society and remain a normal, participant member of that society. My own culture, the language and gestures, the rituals and beliefs of Americans, will always be to me something more than materials for study, to be catalogued side by side with the practices of Samoans and Balinese. Where the Samoans and Balinese may have developed a pattern of life which disallows in cruelest fashion some special capacity of the human spirit, I can record that fact with clarity and a minimum of personal involvement. For my own culture, this cannot be. The obligation of the scientist to examine his material dispassionately is combined with the obligation of the citizen to participate responsibly in his society. To the investigation of social materials to the end that we may know more, has to be added the organization of social materials that we may do more-here-now-in America towards fighting the war in a way that will leave us with the moral and physical resources to attack the problem of reorganizing the world.

Although the anthropologist never looks at his own culture and his own people with quite the clear, objective appraisal he is trained to give to South Sea Islanders and Indians, nevertheless, if those South Sea Islanders have been studied carefully enough, the anthropologist wears forever another set of lenses, a new set for each primitive culture which has been examined. With these lenses, acquired in the long months in which he minutely studied strange ways of life and held reflectively small wriggling babies-for the babies of each society wriggle in a slightly different way, and one learns from observing the differences-the anthropologist sees different things about the home culture from those things which others see who have never had to submit to this special discipline.

What the anthropologist sees is ' different from what the traveler sees. The American who has lived for many years in Paris or London, in Moscow, or Berlin, or Shanghai, comes back with freshened vision: notices how tight the Faculty wives' mouths are at the old university; how nervous the bridge club members arc; how no one speaks to anyone else on a train in the East any more. Peculiarities in manners, which those who stay at home take for granted, show up when the eyes and ears of the returned traveler are turned upon them. Pearl Buck, returning to a world which she had dreamed of as a true democracy, saw, with a sharpness denied to most of those who have lived in America instead of having heard about America in China, how far from her dream-from our dream-we were. Men who fought in Spain, men who have gone through months of London in the blitz, or men who have seen the Russian front come back with eyes which see more clearly, more fiercely, than our own.


which the British are held up to ridicule because they have taboos and fetishes and totems. This is not an "Are We Civilized?" in which the random pieces of better behavior among primitive peoples the world over are cited to deflate our spurious complacency. This is not an attempt to take off American's clothes. I prefer Americans with clothes, just as much as I prefer South Sea Islanders without them. It is an attempt to say: In the last seventeen years I have been practicing a certain way of looking at peoples. I bring it-for what it is worth-to you, to us, at this moment when no American can escape the challenge to use what special or accidental skills he has.

A score of years ago, the British invented a special use for anthropologists as advisers to the government. In colonial countries, where a small colonial staff has to administer large areas filled with native people speaking diverse languages and practicing a large number of strange and diverse customs, there are always administrative problems: Why is there a sudden outbreak of headhunting in the gold-fields? Why have all the men in a certain area suddenly all gone away to work, or all refused to work? What will be the response of a tribe of two hundred fishing people if the government moves them to other land? How is it possible to stop a sudden messianic cult, which is sweeping from tribe to tribe making everyone kill his pigs and neglect his gardens? These are recurrent situations, and some governments retained anthropologists to find immediate answers to these vexatious questions. Trained to get the outlines of a situation quickly in cultural terms, the anthropologist was asked to find the source of the trouble and to suggest satisfactory answers. His answers had to be within the rules of the colonial administration as set up: he couldn't recommend cannibalism as a substitute for headhunting. Education was too long a process. Some change had to be made quickly which would stop headhunting, yet leave the natives able to initiate their young men into manhood. He had to recommend something like pig-hunting; explaining, for instance, that for this given people, boys couldn't grow to full manhood without killing, something, that this was a tribe which couldn't get on without some form of long pants.

So, in our own society at present, the anthropologist can comment on particular problems, based on a special type of experience. The war is putting new strains on men, women, and children; 6 on teachers; 9 on young people; on old people; on social workers; on factory owners; on farmers. The war is posing new problems for which there is desperate need of solutions. Most of the ideas in the chapters which follow were developed in answer to definite questions brought to me by groups of people hopeful that a different experience and training might throw light on their problems. The research, the detailed objective recording 10 of human behavior, which lies back of this discussion was not done in the United States, but in the South Seas. On the basis of that study I have looked at America; I have thought about Americans.

p. 14

In wartime we have three courses-to retire into ivory towers, protect our scientific reputations, and wait, on the chance that peace will come without our help and leave us free again to go back to our patient labors; or, we can do something nonanthropological, satisfy our patriotic consciences by becoming airraid wardens, working in an area where no colleague will review our works. Or, we can say quite simply, with such knowledge and insights as we have, we will now do what we can, as anthropologists, to win the war. We can come out into the marketplace, work in the dust of the traveled road, laying aside the immunities of the ivory tower, and try to ask the right questions, secure in the faith that, whenever in all his history Man has asked the right question, he has found the answer.

p. 27

CHAPTER III -- We Are All Third Generation

WHAT THEN is this American character, this expression of American institutions and of American attitudes which is embodied in every American, in everyone born in this country and sometimes even in those who have come later to these shores? What is it that makes it possible to say of a group of people glimpsed from a hotel step in Sarajevo or strolling down the streets of Marseilles, "There go some Americans," whether they have come from Arkansas or Maine or Pennsylvania, whether they bear German or Swedish or Italian surnames? Not clothes alone, but the way they wear them, the way they walk along the street without awareness that anyone of higher status may be walking there also, the way their eyes rove as if by right over the facade of palaces and the rose windows of cathedrals, interested and unimpressed, referring what they see back to the Empire State build ing, the Chrysler tower, or a good-sized mountain in Montana. Not the towns they come from-Sioux City, Poughkeepsie, San Diego, Scotsdale-but the tone of voice in which they say, "Why, I came from right near


Second generation--American-born of foreign-born parents-they set part of the tone of the American eagerness for their children to go onward. They have left their parents; left them in a way which requires more moral compensation than was necessary even for the parent generation who left Europe. The immigrant left his land, his parents, his fruit trees, and the little village street behind him. He cut the ties of military service; he flouted the king or the emperor; he built himself a new life in a new country. The father whom he left behind was strong, a part of something terribly strong, something to be feared and respected and fled from. Something so strong that the bravest man might boast of a successful flight. He left his parents, entrenched representatives of an order which he rejected. But not so his son. He leaves his father not a part of a strong otherway of life, but bewildered on the shores of the new world, having climbed only halfway up the beach. His father's ties to the old world, his mannerisms, his broken accent, his little foreign gestures are not part and parcel of something strong and different; they are signs of his failure to embrace this new way of life. Does his mother wear a kerchief over her head? He cannot see the generations of women who have worn such kerchiefs. He sees only the American women who wear hats, and he pities and rejects his mother who has failed to become-an American. And so there enters into the attitude of the second-generation American-an attitude Which again is woven through our folkways, our attitude towards other languages, towards anything foreign,

p. 48-9

towards anything European---combination of contempt and avoidance, a fear of yielding, and a sense that to yield would be weakness. His father left a father who was the representative of a way of life which had endured for a thousand years. When he leaves his father, he leaves a partial failure; a hybrid, one who repre. sents a step towards freedom, not freedom itself. His first-generation father chose between freedom and what he saw as slavery; but when the second-generation American looks at his European father, and through him, at Europe, he sees a choice between success and failure, between potency and ignominy. He passionately rejects the halting English, the half-measures of the immigrant. He rejects with what seems to him equally good reasons "European ties and entanglements." This second-generation attitude which has found enormous expression in our culture especially during the last fifty years, has sometimes come to dominate it-in those parts of the country which we speak of as "isolationist." Intolerant of foreign language, foreign ways, vigorously determined on being themselves, they are, in attitude if not in fact, second-generation Americans.

When the third-generation boy grows up, he comes up against a father who found the task of leaving his father a comparatively simple one. The second-generation parent lacks the intensity of the first, and his son in turn fails to reflect the struggles, the first against feared strength and the second against guiltily rejected failure, which have provided the plot for his father and grandfather's maturation. He is expected to succeed; he is expected to 90 further than his father went; and all this is taken for granted. He is furthermore expected to feel very little respect for the past. Somewhere in his grandfather's day there was an epic struggle for liberty and freedom. His picture of that epic grandfather is a little obscured, however, by the patent fact that his father does not really respect him; he may have been a noble character, but he had a foreign accent. The grandchild is told in school, in the press, over the radio, about the founding fathers, but they were not after all his founding fathers; they are, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, somebody else's ancestors. Any time one's own father, who in his own youth had pushed his father aside and made his own way, tries to get in one's way, one can invoke the founding fathers-those ancestors of the real Americans; the Americans who got here earlierthose Americans which father worked so very hard, so slavishly, in fact, to imitate. This is a point which the European observer misses. He hears an endless invocation of Washington and Lincoln, of Jefferson and Franklin. Obviously, Americans go in for ancestor worship, says the European. Obviously, Americans are longing for a strong father, say the psycho-analysts. These observers miss the point that Washington is not the ancestor of the man who is doing the talking; Washington does not represent the past to which one belongs by birth, but the past to which one tries to belong by effort. Washington represents the thing for which grandfather left Europe at the risk of his life, and for which father rejected grandfather at the risk. of his integrity.

p. 52-3

ing got to the top of the pecking order * in their own town or city and sat, still uncertain, still knowing their credentials were shaky, on the top of the pile, the habit of wanting to belong-to really belong, to be accepted absolutely as something which one's ancestors had NOT been-became inverted. They turned towards Europe, especially towards England, towards presentation at Court, towards European feudal attitudes. And so we have had in America two reinforcements of the European class attitudes-those hold-overs, of feudal caste attitudes, in the newly-come immigrant who carries class consciousness in every turn and bend of his neck, and the new feudalism, the "old family" who has finally toppled over backwards into the lap of all that their remote ancestors left behind them.

When I say that we are most of us-whatever our origins-thirdgeneration in character structure, I mean that we have been reared in an atmosphere which is most like that which I have described for the third generation. Father is to be outdistanced and outmoded, but not because he is a strong representative of another culture, well entrenched, not because he is a weak and ineffectual attempt to imitate the new culture; he did very well in his way, but he is out of date. He, like us, was moving forwards, moving away from something symbolized by his own ancestors, moving towards something symbolized by other people's ancestors. Father stands for the way things were done, for a direction which on the whole was a pretty good one, in its day. He was all right because he was on the right road. Therefore, we, his children, lack the mainsprings of rebellion. He was out of date; he drove an old model car which couldn't make it on the hills. Therefore it is not necessary to fight him, to knock him out of the race. It is much easier and quicker to pass him. And to pass him it is only necessary to keep on going and to see that one buys a new model every year. Only if one slackens, loses one's interest in the race towards success, does one slip back. Otherwise, it is onward and upward, towards the world of Washington and Lincoln; a world in which we don't fully belong, but which we feel, if we work at it, we some time may achieve.

p. 74

It's a bleak and lonely business looking into the future, modeling one's life on an undrawn blueprint. It was all very well when one was first generation; learn English, learn to dress and eat and walk and gesture like an American. Learn the intricacies of ward politics and the big leagues. It was all very well in the second generation, going to college, making the "right friends" moving in circles one's parents couldn't have entered. That was what they expected and that is what one did, It was pretty good in the third generation-an American now, without effort, taking it in one's stride, doing better than one's father, planning for one's son to go further still.

If the first generation started poor enough and had bad enough luck, the American dream could last more than three generations before it became an empty myth, before the sharecropper, tied to his land in ignorance and hopelessness, came to feel that he bad always lived there and always would. Something of the optimism of the first generation attitude could survive to make people humble and uncritical and accepting even of the terrible starvation of the Depression. After all this is not quite our country, once fair and prosperous, now conquered and depressed. It is, for every one of us, somebody else's country-Columbus' or the Indians' or God's or it belongs to the Mayflower's complement of passengers; or it belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh or Pocahontas or perhaps Balboahe saw the Pacific first. We came here, of our own accord, in great pride over what we could do with these endless plains


that we know is right. Then and only then can we feel that we are invincible.

During the last war a great lot of nonsense was talked about the folly of two sides who both prayed to the same God and who both felt that God was with them. We weren't both praying to the same God. The Germans saw God as on their side just because they were Germans, as preferring, for some reason which they found no difficulty in understanding, the color of their hair and the curve of distribution along which their long and round heads fell. They followed a tribal God whose preferences were determined by race. It wasn't necessary for him to scrutinize the rights and wrongs of battle; the only issue was who you were. If you were German, God, being a German God, was on your side. But what American could kneel and ask, "Please, God, help us to win just because we are us; never mind whether our cause is just or not"? The words would curdle in the mouths of the most fanatical. Nobody pays much attention to the words of the Star-Spangled Banner, but somewhere' in the dimly lit, seldom inspected corridors of our hearts, the phrases "Then triumph we must ... .. For our Cause it is just," "And this be our motto, In God is our Trust" still echo and reecho with an extra sonorousness. The only way to get God on one's side is to be on the right side-that has been the whole teaching of Puritanism; it lies back of the conditional love we give our children; it lies back of all the emphasis on work and disallowance of pleasure; and it lies back of our inability to fight on, if the


soil of America as it enters our picture of the world is empty and open, uncut forests and unplowed plains. it does not matter that such forests and plains don't exist any more, they are part of our picture, just as secure hedgerows are part of the English picture. Invasion by foreigners-aren't we, in fact, always being invaded by foreigners, not always armed with guns-but still, you know, every Italian carries a stiletto, and certainly the Californians' treatment of the Okies, did not differ greatly from an attitude towards an invading army. Always invaded, always outraged, with the best families' names always disappearing from the news columns and the names of new people, names you can't spell, cropping up. Our feeling about invasion, although it is there, cannot inspire a holy crusade. We will fight and fight hard if invaded, but we will find nothing to boast of or sustain us afterwards, as we tell over the tale and pride in our own good behavior is essential to our picture of ourselves.

We talk about saving the American way of life-and this stands for a number of vague things such as refrigerators and automobiles and marrying whom you like and working for whom you like and not having to be regimented and wrapped up in yards of governmental red tape. Or it may mean something more; it may mean saving that dynamic principle which associates success and goodness. Our character structure is based upon having a job to do which can be done, just as the Manus savage's goodness was based upon associating his failure to work with a disease from which he got well.

p. 251

CHAPTER XIV -- These Things We Can Do

WE CAN, if we will, lay the foundations for this new world, a world that is different and far better than any that has come before, a world which is not American or English or Russian or Chinese, that is not German or Italian or Japanese, that does not represent the triumph of the white race over the black race, or the triumph of the yellow over either. Is this something for which Americans will fight? Will they fight better for the chance to build something that has never been than they will to defend something which happens to exist at the moment? If not, then it would be folly to be dis cussing it, because at the moment there is no issue more pressing than the winning of the war. Even though we run a terrible risk of winning it in the wrong way, of winning with hate and fascism entrenched in our own society as well as in that of the enemy, still as long as we are not sure that this is so-we must fight, because if we lose it is certain that hate and fascism will be sitting high in the saddle.

p. 255

Those social behaviors which automatically preclude the building of a democratic world must go-every social limitation of human beings in terms of heredity, whether it be of race, or sex, or class. Every social institution which teaches human beings to cringe to those above and step on those below must be replaced by institutions which teach people to look each other straight in the face-and that whether the institution in question is the German family or the New York public school system. But no institution is to be rejected in hate; each is to be examined to see what values there are in it and what other valuable institutions it supports. Each is to be considered not as a mere law or formal practice, but as something which is deeply imbedded in the habits of living human beings. To kill these human beings would make us, as we have seen, unfit to inaugurate a new world. Gradually to eliminate the institutions which crippled them will be more arduous, but it will grant us immunity from the corruption which comes from playing God in a human world.

p. 262

speaks a limited language. To build this world in which the orchestration of existing ways of life will produce, by interaction, a way of life which we are not even able to outline now, we need anthropologists from all countries and social scientists from all disciplines. It is the essence of the argument that, to the extent that each one sees sharply, he also sees with blinkers on, paying for his clarity with narrowness. This is not a job for one nation alone; nor for one science. Yet, because one may never treat human beings mechanistically, but must work always through the purposes which have been developed within them, although this is not a job for Americans alone we must see it as America's. Americans will not do it-being what we are-unless we feel that for some aspect of it we are better fitted than any people on earth today. We are proud but not sure, anxious to succeed but never certain that we will, willing to go ahead and tackle any job-but it must be our job. If we are to fight, if we are to win, if we are to hold before us as we fight a goal we will count worth fighting for, that goal must be phrased in American terms, in that mixture of faith in the right and faith in the power of science: Trust God-and keep your powder dry.

p. 328

are out of consciousness-especially the confusion that results from a continual shift in the level of discussion. But gradually we learned to hold the level of discussion constant and to discuss cultural perceptions of reality and cultural fantasy (perceptions that are reflected, for example, in responses to projective materials) in separate contexts.

With the publication of national character studies, we experienced the criticism and opposition both of those who were ambivalent to their native culture (immigrants to the United States, for example, who deeply repudiated their own first culture) and of others who were ambivalent to the culture they were in the process of acquiring. As yet we have not fully learned how to come to grips with the difficulties posed by their affectively toned objections. I can foresee, but I cannot avert, certain objections that will be made on these grounds to my description of contemporary American character.

In addition, we have experienced the difficulties that arise when, through a series of confusions that are in part a result of historical accident, the recognition of national character is linked to political racism. The difficulties grow out of the general assumption, explicit or implicit, that any theory of personality which involves the recognition of characteristics (whether these are innate or acquired through early learning) that may be constant throughout life is necessarily racist in tendency. This viewpoint may be, though it is not always, associated with the belief that a theory of personality is consonant with a democratic ethic only if it allows for infinite modification by learning throughout life. In this combination, opposition to theories about cultural character that take cognizance of innate constitution--temperament is allied with opposition to theories about. cultural character that imply the importance and the essential irreversibility of early childhood cultural experiences.

May 11, 1999