Romain Rolland: Message to America on the will to conquer the world
From Message to America (1926)
Translated by K.S. Shelvankar
The Anglo-Saxon temperament of America is proud and strong, whole-hearted in its likes and its ideas, with assurance and obstinacy. It has a singular inaptitude – which strikes all of us, Europeans – to understand the mentality of other races, to enter into their psychology (and their physiology), to “size up” their spirit, their passions, their peculiar needs. It tends to believe that what is true for itself, that whatever is the Good for her, should be so for all other nations in the world. And if the latter do not judge of the matter the same way, it is they who are mistaken, and America has the right to impose it on them, in its own interests and in the interests of the world. Such a conception leads to the will to conquer the world, under cover of a narrow moralism, wedded (without its knowledge) to natural instincts of greed and domination.
Nothing is more formidable. The more the United States are called upon to act in the world, the more it is their duty to understand the true nature, the true needs, the true ideas of the other peoples of the world; for the duty of the strong is to aid the less strong realise itself and not oppress it, by compelling it to be false to its spirit. It would be a disaster for all humanity if one race, one nation, one State, however lofty it may be, were to impose the rigid and monotonous uniformity of its own personality upon the splendid variety of the universe. I add that disaster would recoil on the people who exercise this blind oppression: for the irresistible forces of oppressed nature would take their revenge upon them.
It is then essential that at this hour of history there should be – not outside of America (as advisers they would be suspect there), but in the heart of the United States itself – clear-sighted and courageous citizens who would be as beacons to their people, who would compel them to know themselves, their greatnesses and their weaknesses, their virtues and their defects, and to know the different individualities, the complementary qualities of other races.