Margaret Mead


American Cultural Anthropologist and Psychologist

Author Quotes

It always takes two generations to really lose something, but in two generations you can lose it.. The culture in this country that is ? most limited, is that of the second and third generations away from Europe. They have lost what they had and aren?t ready to take on anything else. They are scared to death and so busy being American? What we have in this country at present is a very large number of second- and third-generation Europeans who aren?t really sure they?re here? Fifteen years ago, if I gave a test to people to fill in: ?I am an American, not a _____,? most people would say ?foreigner,? and a few said ?Communist.? Now, they say ?not a Russian,? ?not an Italian,? ?not an Irishman,? ?not a Pole?: over twenty different things.

The white world ? [has] built its dignity and built its sense of identity on the fact it wasn?t black, the way males in this country built their sense of superiority over the fact that they are not female.

We?re sort of monglers, I was taught to say as a child. Monglers is a Pennsylvania dialect word for a dog of mixed background.

You see, I think we have to get rid of people being proud of their ancestors, because after all they didn?t do a thing about it. What right have I to be proud of my grandfather? I can be proud of my child if I didn?t ruin her, but nobody has any right to be proud of his ancestors? The one thing you really ought to be allowed to do is to choose your ancestors... We have a term for this in anthropology: mythical ancestors? They are spiritual and mental ancestors, they?re not biological ancestors, but they are terribly important.

I asked the little white boys which they would rather be, little white girls or little Negro boys. What do you think they said? ? They said they would rather be little Negro boys.

I've been married three times and each time I married the right person.

Old age is like flying through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do.

The differences between the two sexes is one of the important conditions upon which we have built the many varieties of human culture that give human beings dignity and stature.

The suffering of either sex / of the male who is unable, because of the way in which he was reared, to take the strong initiating or patriarchal role that is still demanded of him, or of the female who has been given too much freedom of movement as a child to stay placidly within the house as an adult / this suffering, this discrepancy, this sense of failure in an enjoined role, is the point of leverage for social change.

We have nowhere else to go... this is all we have.

Laughter is man's most distinctive emotional expression. Man shares the capacity for love and hate, anger and fear, loyalty and grief, with other living creatures. But humor, which has an intellectual as well as an emotional element belongs to man

One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night.

The first step in the direction of a world rule of law is the recognition that peace no longer is an unobtainable ideal but a necessary condition of continued human existence. But to take even this step we must return to a calm and responsible frame of mind in which we can face the long patient tasks ahead.

The United States has the power to destroy the world, but not the power to save it alone

We may say that many, if not all, of the personality traits which we have called masculine or feminine are as lightly linked to sex as are the clothing, the manners, and the form of headdress that a society at a given period assigns to either sex.

Learned behaviors have replaced the biologically given ones.

Orientation in time, space, and status are the essentials of social existence, and the Balinese, although they make very strong spirits for ceremonial occasions, with a few startling exceptions resist alcohol, because if one drinks one loses one's orientation. Orientation is felt as a protection rather than as a strait jacket and its loss provokes extreme anxiety.

The institution of marriage in all societies is a pattern within which the strains put by civilization on males and females alike must be resolved, a pattern within which men must learn, in return for a variety of elaborate rewards, new forms in which sexual spontaneity is still possible, and women must learn to discipline their receptivity to a thousand other considerations.

The way to do fieldwork is never to come up for air until it is all over.

We must devise a system in which peace is more rewarding than war.

Life in the twentieth century is like a parachute jump: you have to get it right the first time.

Our first and most pressing problem is how to do away with warfare as a method of solving conflicts between national groups within a society who have different views about how the society is to run.

The last 20 years have seen an enormous growth of institutions devoted to anthropological enterprises, membership within the discipline, and students, text ªbooks, and paraphernalia. From a tiny scholarly group that could easily be fitted into a couple of buses, and most of whom knew each other, we have grown into a group of tremendous, anonymous milling crowds, meeting at large hotels where there are so many sessions that people do well to find those of their colleagues who are interested in the same specialty. Today we look something like the other social science disciplines, suffering some of the same malaise, and becoming cynical about slave markets and worried when grants and jobs seem to be declining.

The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown... The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.

We need every human gift and cannot afford to neglect any gift because of artificial barriers of sex or race or class or national origin.

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American Cultural Anthropologist and Psychologist