Cecil Rhodes fatuously stated: "Ask any man what nationality he'd prefer to be and 99 out of 100 would say they'd prefer to be Englishmen."
John Updike said: "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy." Bob Hawke spoke of what made Australia great. I'm sure the Canadians would have their own too.
Since time immemorial we've all been guilty of saccharin sweet, national self-congratulation. Where the problem arises is when you truly start believing your own rhetoric.
The German Schlieffen Plan in World War 1 relied on the effective deployment of resources, the French Plan XVII relied on the concept of 'elan', the idea that in one-on-one battle, a Frenchman will always prevail because of his greater spirit and fighting power. These people went to war in that frame of mind, blissfully ignoring 1812 and heading for 1939.
If the Americans are firm believers in 'good ole American know-how', then what of the Russians? Over here, self-congratulation is of the Python Yorkshireman syndrome - that we're tougher than anyone else. For example, this was sent to me by one of my Russian friends:
+20 Greeks put on sweaters (if they can find them).
+10 Americans shake, Russians are planting cucumbers.
+5 Italian cars don't start. Russians drive with lowered windows.
0 Water freezes in America, in Russia it thickens.
-5 French cars don't start.
-18 New York landlords turn on the heaters. Russians make their last seasonal picnic.
-35 Too cold to think. Japanese cars don't start.
-42 Transportation stops in Europe. Russians eat ice cream on the street.
-45 All Greeks are dead. Politicians really start doing something for the homeless.
-60 White bears start moving south. Hell freezes.
-114 Ethyl alcohol freezes. Russians are unhappy.
-273 Absolute zero, atomic movement stops. Russians wear boots.
-295 90% of the planet is dead. Russian soccer team becomes the world champion.
And the thing is, we really do picnic in the forest in minus 10. Gloves are donned around minus 8. The last time I wore a jumper was in minus 37. We end up with the flu, of course. The pharmacies do a roaring trade over here.
By the way, it's currently minus 16 outside. No more icecream for now.