Modern literature produces its own classification of people as types. Some of these creations acquire a life of their own. Two books in particular dominated the foreign policy of the Sixties. One was Graham Greene’s The Quiet American; the other was a book Berkeley political scientist William Burdick, a favourite of John Kennedy, wrote with William J. Lederer. Greene’s book is more literary, but Burdick’s book, The Ugly American, became a legend; it attained the life of folklore.
Media and folklore created an inversion of type, though. The original Ugly American was simple, homely, practical, evoking an authenticity that was rare. The Ugly American of media was loud, garrulous, insensitive and ethnocentric. He was the greatest threat to the idea of America, as he was contemptuous of everything un-American. Greene’s ‘Quiet American’ had a better sense of evil, ambition and violence but, as a piece of pop sociology, Burdick’s book became a bestseller. It also triggered an epidemic of equivalents. ‘The Ugly Indian’ was one of them, but it’s a pity the ‘Ugly Indian’, despite his undoubted and august presence, has neither become a character in a novel nor a case study in a management book.