Archive for the ‘#country’ Tag

History of a Country As a State   Leave a comment

From The Law by Randolph Bourne

Randolph  BourneNow this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth’s surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them. In our simple conception of country there is no more feeling of rivalry with other peoples than there is in our feeling for our family. Our interest turns within rather than without, is intensive and not belligerent. We grow up and our imaginations gradually stake out the world we live in, they need no greater conscious satisfaction for their gregarious impulses than this sense of a great mass of people to whom we are more or less attuned, and in whose institutions we are functioning. The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the ideas of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion.

The State is the country acting as a political unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a power politics because it is a relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war. When a country acts as a whole in relation to another country, or in imposing laws on its own inhabitants, or in coercing or punishing individuals or minorities, it is acting as a State. The history of America as a country is quite different from that of America as a State. In one case it is the drama of the pioneering conquest of the land, of the growth of wealth and the ways in which it was used, of the enterprise of education, and the carrying out of spiritual ideals, of the struggle of economic classes. But as a State, its history is that of playing a part in the world, making war, obstructing international trade, preventing itself from being split to pieces, punishing those citizens whom society agrees are offensive, and collecting money to pay for all.

Government on the other hand is synonymous with neither State nor Nation. It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of definite, concrete, fallible men. It is the visible sign of the invisible grace. It is the word made flesh. And it has necessarily the limitations inherent in all practicality. Government is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it. That the State is a mystical conception is something that must never be forgotten. Its glamor and its significance linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities.

Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest levels of the herd, and to its remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become—the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s businesses and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, towards the great end, towards that peacefulness of being at war, of which L. P. Jacks has spoken so unforgettably.


Nations form countries as they spread out across geographical regions, but countries are about getting along with those like us. Country is cooperation. The State,  however, is force. States compete with the states around them. They struggle to get the people (the nation) on board with this competition until war is declared. Lela

A Republic Works Until War is Declared   1 comment

Ongoing series on “The Law” by Randolph Bourne (1918)

Randolph  BourneIn a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.

In a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.


Do  you understand the difference between a nation, a country and a state? By state, I mean not a state of the union (like Delaware or Alaska), but as Bourne used it, a system of administrative control, what we most often mean when we say “government”. We so often say “We raided this Muslim stronghold in this country” when, in reality, we were busy living our lives while the American military raided the stronghold. “We” didn’t decide to invade Iraq or Vietnam or anywhere else. Those decisions were made, at best, by our elective representatives as as the State. A nation is a group of people with similar culture – language, social practices. A country is geographical region often administered by a State. But many countries are made up of multiple nations. Think of Iraq, which has three main culture (national) groups bound together in unhappiness. Although Americans (nation) are not so unhappy as Iraq (country), if we look a little closer we don’t see much agreement between the cultural nations inhabiting the cities and the cultural nations inhabiting the rural areas. We speak the same language, but we don’t hold the same values and that is, long-term, a problem that will only get worse with time. Lela

Country v City 2   1 comment

So, I asked my sister-in-law (she of the city) to read yesterday’s piece before I posted it. She immediately messaged back with how wrong I was on what I wrote. “The good ole days were built on slavery and segregation where whole categories of humanity experienced religion as a lash on their back. Traditional families involved millions of women trapped in kitchens and bad marriages. Gays lived in fear and abortions were performed in back allies without benefit of medical professionals.”

Image result for image of country versus city

Yeah, sort of. But is that any worse than what is happening in “white” rural America today? These people are getting crushed. Step outside your blue zone bubble and the suicide rate among young people doubles (which is a relatively new phenomenon, by the way … suicide used to be a city thing). The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery efforts went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed. Sure, they could all move to the city, but then they would have to live in a city with all the decadence, crime and social isolation that entails.

Rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, an oil refinery … when that business closed, the town started to disappear. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

I also sent my article to some cousins who live in rural communities in the Midwest and this was what they said to me. You can’t understand the hopelessness unless you live in a rural community. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.”

Image result for image of country versus cityLet’s break this down. You’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walmart and you want to move to better things in the city. You’re now going to stuff yourself, your wife and your new baby into a tiny apartment with a park four blocks away (as opposed to a yard you can actually use) that will set you back $1200 a month. You will also pay double what you’re currently paying for utilities, groceries and babysitters. Unless of course you’re willing to live in a housing project where you can’t even go to the park without risking getting mugged.

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to be anything, but in a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

If you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. It starts to feel like the worst of both worlds. Rural whites have all the ravages of poverty, but none of the sympathy. Blacks burn police cars, and those liberal elites say it’s not their fault because they’re poor. An Appalachian man gets jailed and fired over a baggie of meth and the city elites make jokes about his missing teeth. Country folk are everyone’s punching bag — it’s one of our society’s last remaining safe comedy targets.

And that’s painful because these people come from a long line of folks who took pride in looking after themselves. My grandfather would have been ashamed to be dependent on anyone — especially the government. In the country, you mow your own lawn, fix your own pipes, and haul your own firewood in your own pickup truck.

Not like those hipsters in their tiny apartments, or the urban poor in their public housing projects, waiting for the landlord any time something breaks, knowing if things get too bad they can just pick up and move. When you don’t own anything, it’s all somebody else’s problem.

If the rural folk who voted for Trump acknowledge to a city dweller that their way of life is dying, the city dweller smirks and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and the country folk hate it. That’s not how the country folks see it. They say their way of life is dying because it is. It’s not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Oops — except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse — a recipe for subjugation.

So, yes, my rural cousins voted for the guy promising to put things back the way they were, the guy who they hope will act as a wake-up call to the blue islands. They voted for the brick through the window.

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Yeah, Trump has not shown himself to be a great guy by culturally elite standards. He insults people, he supposedly objectifies women and, my heavens, he cheats whenever possible. He’s not even an ordinary person. He’s an arrogant billionaire.

You’ve never rooted for somebody like that? Someone powerful who gives your enemies the insults they deserve? Somebody with big fun appetites who screws up just enough to make them relatable? Like Dr. House, Walter White or Tony Stark?

Yeah, those are fictional characters. But then there’s all those wealthy left-leaning talk show hosts who regularly insult whomever they don’t agree with. Do you love you some Bill Maher? They’re fine, because they’re on the proper side of the issues and everybody needs a Negen to smash their enemies with. It’s okay to be insulting so long as you hold the right views. Right? Country people are barely people, right? They’re just a mass of ignorant, angry, crude subhumans. They don’t matter!

It feels good to mock people, to dismiss them as “deplorables”. You can simply ignore those sorts of people … until they vote like a minority group and swing an election in what might be their favor. That then reminds the city folks that the country folks may now be able to assert some subjugation of their own and, shudder to think it, they may wield influence long after Trump leaves office.

So, can I suggest that instead of just dismissing them, you try talking to some of them. Not “talking AT” them. No. I mean you swallow your pride and talk to them as if they might actually know something worthwhile that might benefit you in your life and all of us in society. Give it a try and see if the next four years might not turn the country (as in the nation) in a better direction.

The blue islands have been in control for far too long and we’ve never been more divided, angry, dysfunctional or broke. Maybe there’s some wisdom out there in the red ocean that might save us all … if we let it.

 

By the way, the map in today’s post is from the 2016 Presidential election at the county level while the map from yesterday’s post is from the 2012 Presidential election at the county level. Pull them up in separate windows so you can see that this isn’t a new thing. And for good measure, here is the 2008 election map by county, because it shows the erosion for the Democratic Party didn’t necessarily have anything to do with Obama being black.

Related image

Country v City 1   Leave a comment

I just finished reading The Hunger Games because I got tired of waiting for the fourth movie and we had it on the shelf (my son read it last year). I read the whole series because I’m crazy that way.

Related imageOne of the things that struck me was that all the districts were rural areas that had been subjugated by the ever-so-clever capital. That’s a common narrative, actually. It’s sort of the universal shorthand of epic adventure movies and dystopian literature. The good guys are simple folks from the countryside while the bad guys are decadent tyrants from the city. Star War exemplifies this, but that’s only the most obvious example. The theme expresses itself in various ways – primitive versus advanced, tough versus delicate, masculine versus feminine, poor versus rich, pure versus decadent, traditional versus freakish. It’s really just code for rural versus urban.

It is a divide that really exists and writers are tapping into that tension. We see it in the Red and Blue States Map when converted to the county level. Look at a map from 2012 and it looks like Obama’s blue party is a fringe political faction. Of course, the blue parts are more densely populated. We call these cities. These are blue islands in an ocean of red. The cities are less than 4 percent of the land mass, but 62 percent of the population. They dominate the popular culture — all of our movies, television, songs and news issue from those blue islands.

Image result for presidential election 2012 county map

Which stinks for those who live in the red ocean. The whole world revolves around the “blue” people. The Walking Dead aside, TV shows are about LA or New York, occasionally Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia or Detroit. When they do make a show about the country folks, they depict us as idiots or creeps. This is about what Alaskans thought of Northern Exposure’s depiction of us. If you’re from the country, you know what I mean about urban arrogance.

Related imageKatniss quickly identified that nothing outside the city mattered to the capital denizens, with the possible exception of her fashion designer. They were blissfully unaware of where their food was grown and their energy were mined.

We see this today in how people talk about how Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans while completely ignoring that 238 people died in rural Mississippi, which experienced $125 BILLION in damage. By the way, if you try to bring this up to a city dweller, they will usually dismiss you. Who cares about a bunch of hillbillies? New Orleans is culturally important. Nobody cares that Seward, Valdez and several other Alaska communities were wiped off the map by the Good Friday Earthquake (the official name of the big quake that hit coastal Alaska in 1964). To most people elsewhere, it’s the “Anchorage Earthquake” because Anchorage is all that matters. And, Anchorage dwellers tend to agree.

Now, the city dwellers will insist that what really motivates these hayseeds (their word, not mine) is ingrown racism. They hate the cities because brown people live in the cities. I live in the second-largest city in second most racially diverse state in the union. Only Hawaii outdoes Alaska in that department. Trump won here. I’m not saying my fellow Alaskans voted wisely. I’m simply explaining that this phenomena has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the different life priorities that come with living a more rural existence.

The statistics back up the fact that we inhabit parallel universes. People living in the countryside are twice as likely to own a gun, about half as likely to die by gun-related homicide, and will probably get married younger. People in the urban “blue” areas talk faster, walk faster and stand closer, according to the sociologists. They are more likely to be drug abusers but less likely to be alcoholics. The blues are less likely to own land and they’re less likely to attend church regularly. In small towns, this often gets expressed as “They [city dwellers] don’t share our values.” My husband’s high school friends would scoff and retort “Like illiteracy and homophobia?” But, really, it doesn’t come down to those difference. The differences are much broader than that.

Related imageNot here in Alaska, which is more secular than any area of the country outside the Northeast, but in most rural places in the Lower 48, church is the nexus of the community. It’s where you make your friends, meet your future spouse, network for jobs, get social support. It’s the place where the poor get food and clothing, where couples get marriage counseling, where addicts go to try and get clean. And that was pretty much all of American until the 1970s. As we’ve seen a startling decline in evangelical Christianity among the general population in the cities, we’ve seen a rise in divorce rates and poverty, an increase in addiction and crime. The fabric of society is breaking down and rural Americans, watching it via the 24-hour news cycle, see that mess flowing their way.

The cities have ethnic riots, Muslims setting car bombs, gays spreading AIDS, Mexican cartels kidnapping children, atheists tearing down Christmas trees … but they have the audacity to say that white Christians are the real problem because they don’t want men to use the women’s bathroom. Seriously, which is more important — that chickens be allowed to be “free range” or that somewhere in the world terrorists are beheading children and abortionists are reaching into wombs and killing babies?

Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down — ideas like hard work is better than dependence on government … children do better with both parents in the picture … peace is better than rioting … a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism … humans tend to value things they’ve earned more than what they get for free … not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb ….

The foundation upon which America was undeniably built — family, faith, and hard work — had been deemed unfashionable and small-minded. Those snooty elites up in their ivory tower laughed as they kicked away that foundation, and then wrote long, wordy dissertations blaming the builders for causing the inevitable collapse.

(More on this topic tomorrow)

Posted December 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide

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