The BBC last night reported the result of a study where the conclusion was, "More British passengers died on the Titanic because they queued politely for lifeboats."
Specifically, the study noted that women with children were 70 percent more likely than men to survive the sinking with the implication that the Brits were more altruistic than might be expected. In an early example of the "ugly American" stereotype, the article quotes university researcher David Savage as saying, "The American culture was set up to be a more individualist culture and the British culture was more about the gentlemanly behaviour."
I'm not surprised an Australian saw it that way. When I was in Adelaide in November, I saw what I can only say were the most well-organized lines for public transit that I had ever seen. People lined up very straight on the sidewalk lines for their buses -- without there being a single sign or conductor encouraging them to do so. I guess some of that Edwardian-era gentlemanliness rubbed off on the colony.
You can bet that if I were in a similar situation, such as being on the Titanic or last week's plane crash into the Hudson, I would definitely make sure every last woman and child got out -- possibly to the point of beating down any adult male who put themselves ahead. After the kids and females are safe, however, I'm pushing, clawing and scratching my way to the lifeboat and woe be unto those who get in the way.
Hey, at least I'm honest about it. It's called "survival of the fittest." (Wanna take bets this post will haunt me politically in the years to come?)