"Be American"

This is an oldish, but haunting, item from Discovery Channel news:

“The Titanic was built in Great Britain, operated by British subjects, and manned by a British crew. It is to be expected that national ties were activated during the disaster and that the crew would give preference to British subjects, easily identified by their language,” the researchers said.

Savage and Frey realized that assumption was off after investigating passenger data.

They found that British passengers, who queued for a place in one of only 20 lifeboats provided for the 2,223 on board, had 10 percent lower chance of survival than any other nationality.

In contrast, Americans, who reportedly elbowed their way to the front of lines, had a 12 percent higher probability of survival than British subjects.

“Be British, boys, be British!” the captain, Edward John Smith, shouted out, according to witnesses.

“Being British” meant to forget mass panic behavior — everyone looking after themselves — and rather follow the social norm of “women and children first.”

Our problem with the British would be not that they stoically privileged the lives of females and kids, but that they needed nationalism to do so. Yet can we even imagine some authority figure — or random crowd member — shouting, in one of our own disasters, “Come on, people, be American!” — ? That’s hardly the American way.