Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Something Wild

Via reader CH, a post on the website Craigslist:
This past weekend I was really out in the middle of nowhere. A pretty town of about 5 thousand people was the closest settlement. This was a former mining town with no more mines. I would venture to say that fewer than five percent of the people in THAT STATE have heard of it... so I was getting gas and as I walked up to the gas station I notice a large sign in the window. It says,

"Today's National Terror Threat Level is: Yellow. Ask inside for details."

The yellow part was huge and on a hinge. Clearly ready to be flipped to Orange, Red, whatever. I laughed at first. The idea of anyone attacking this place was so ludicrous. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is why these fools have gotten middle America to support them so strongly, even in the obvious abscence of a personal or community threat. They have given them a reason to feel important. They are NOT the remnants of a dead mining town. They are part of something big, that some vague enemy would like to literally blow up. They have an enemy! Which means that what goes on there matters! And that feels good.
Another poster responds:
You're definitely on to something, but I don't think you carry it far enough. The country is awash in people living very small lives, filled with disappointments, drudgery, long drives over the same roads every day, tired old empty relationships, daydreaming about, longing for some meaning in their lives. Those that find theology or art too confining imagine themselves part of some international agency for truth justice and the American way.

I was reminded of Sebastian Haffner's firsthand description in Defying Hitler of life in Germany during the tranquil years just after World War I -- even more relevant, perhaps, if next November a Democrat wins, talk of war and torture and Islamofascists starts to fade, and those exciting color-coded threat level alerts disappear:
A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions, for love and hate, joy and sorrow, but also all their sensations and thrills -- accompanied though they might be by poverty, hunger, death, chaos, and peril. Now that these deliveries suddenly ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful, and worthwhile, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of the political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk. In the end they waited eagerly for the first disturbance, the first setback or incident, so that they could put this period of peace behind them and set out on some new collective adventure.

The great danger of life in Germany has always been emptiness and boredom....The menace of monotony hangs, as it has always hung, over the great plains of northern and eastern Germany, with their colorless towns and their all too industrious, efficient, and conscientious businesses and organizations. With it comes a horror vacui and the yearning for "salvation": through alcohol, through superstition, or, best of all, through a vast, overpowering, cheap mass intoxication.

Thus, under the surface, all was ready for a vast catastrophe.

11 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Along these lines is the brilliant book War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. Published mid-2003, it is definitely worth reading.

10/31/2007 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could we back up? Maybe the color-coding fellow was, you know, being sarcastic? I have a threat level chart on my wall; it's not because I embrace it but rather because it is one way to laugh at the enemy - and I don't mean Osama.

10/31/2007 7:51 AM  
Anonymous fairlane said...

Maybe they were just trying to learn their colors, and they couldn't afford a box of Crayola's.

Everyone knows Sludge Pond, Mississippi is third on Al-Qaida's list of places to blow up.

10/31/2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Gringo_Malo said...

You wrote, "...if next November a Democrat wins, talk of war and torture and Islamofascists starts to fade, and those exciting color-coded threat level alerts disappear..."

Clearly this is a non sequitur. All of our major wars of the 20th Century were initiated by Democratic administrations. (The first Gulf War, being of short duration, was not a major war.) Only one of these wars was justified by a direct threat to the United States.

Even the Hildebeest has said, "We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future." Obviously, if we stay until Iraq shows signs of stability, then we'll be there till judgment day.

10/31/2007 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

Of course regular TCR readers (or even the ones from over the weekend) know that this effect is not just spiritual and psychological, but also economic. "The companies tell me that if we don't get our bomb factories up to full production, the entire economy is going to collapse..." (--Dead Kennedys: "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go 'Round") Just like TCR posted a couple of days ago, the government and the entire economy is jonesing for some big excuse, any excuse, to make everyone (themselves included) forget all about the atrocious economic policies that the country has pursued for 27+ years. Another big pointless war would fit the bill quite nicely, at least in the short term until the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

10/31/2007 11:57 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

I disagree a bit with the rural people bashing. I think the poster goes too far....especially when you look at instances like the great light-bright scare of Boston. You’ll never see anything so pathetic from our rural population. I also think the "backwoods" people are much more self sufficient and distrusting of government than the "educated elite" and urban dwellers. Born an urban dweller I moved to the country 8 years ago. Most aren’t college educated but once you live among them you learn they are not exactly the drooling morons city folk make them out to be. The urban population tends to look upon the rural population as being unsophisticated and easily led. I find the opposite to be true. Many of the farmers are on the public dole and doing OK that way but most people work simple low paying jobs which they supplement by doing many things city folks pay others to do. They also rely on the skills and generosity of neighbors to help them out from time to time. They are far closer to self sufficiency than city folk. Most urban dwellers would starve to death like in the great depression if our economy collapsed. Rural dwellers would handle the hardship better. No local police (some in the larger towns) and nearly all volunteer fire fighters. They believe in low taxation and don’t trust men in suits who tell them what is best for them. They don’t trust the government except when it comes to war. I think this is a result of public school education and the support our government gets from the clergy. A sad thing that they abuse Christ’s teachings that way. Why they think the government is not useful to help them in their everyday lives (like urban people do)...but is competent enough to decide when and if their children should go off to fight a war is a difficult question.

There has been many studies by psychologists, marketers, sociologists, etc. that indicate a person is most susceptible to being influenced by their fears, second their emotions, and third reason and logic. I wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion. The best way to influence impressionable people is by this means. That is why the government is always preaching about the almost certain nuclear holocaust by insert enemy here (Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Al Queada, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.). That is why every potential enemy is the next Hitler and anybody who opposes military attacks is the next Chamberlain (certain to bring the country to ruin).
http://cashpost.com/the-unconscious-marketing-secret-a936.html

I think it is the urban population that is influenced most by this...I think the poster is wrong in this regard. The urban population’s decision making process tends to be in flux. They are not hampered by traditions, small communities, churches, etc. They have less of an anchor and are more moved by propaganda in this manner.

The rural population is tied to its local community though. They are public school educated and get the same propaganda that city kids do. They hear about the great wars and how America had to defend the free world against the Nazis and then fight the Soviets in the cold war. Almost all go to church and nearly all these churches preach in violation of the 1st and 2nd commandments. They teach Nationalism as much as they do religion.

It is not propaganda that gets the rural population...it is a part of their core beliefs. That when attacked they should respond. That they should rally around their community to protect it until the danger is passed. That everybody should band together and stick up for one another. Their schooling and churches reinforce these core values. I actually admire this commitment. I just think it is a shame they have decided that the enemies of our politicians in DC are their enemies too...it is a costly mistake because they are being used.

One other note...since it is a part of their core beliefs it is almost impossible to convince them they are wrong. This is worse than being effected by propaganda. As this war has dragged on and on the support from the rural communities has been maintained but the support from the urban communities has declined. The urban person has always had a less grounded belief system and although propaganda and modern marketing techniques are more effective with them, they always have a smaller commitment to those positions.

10/31/2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Gus said...

I don't think I buy it. I don't think the average American gives that much thought to the war. Americans are easily distracted by bread and circuses. Most people have enough to eat, and most people know more about the latest celebrity scandal than they do about anything to do with the war.

10/31/2007 5:08 PM  
Blogger Chris F. said...

Goldhorder, you make some good points. It is very clear to me and to anyone with half a wit the populace of the United States has to a great extent dehumanized its own rural population. In our minds we cast rural America as a cast of bubkisses wandering the hill sides, home-schooling their children so they can teach their children the “real” truth about evolution. We cast them in much the same light as early Americans cast the Native Americans: as primitives with no real rationality, intelligence or purpose. This has proven devastating, politically. Clearly, this is the population Bush managed to activate, and continues to hold as his loyal base. They are people just the same as any other, with an alternate perspective.

Your thesis bares one major flaw, in my mind. You suggest that rural populations are less manipulated by propaganda because they go to church, and the church engenders the belief that one must attack one's attackers. You say it is such a core belief that you seem to imply that it is part of their identity. It seems to me that the propaganda is not the press clippings that from time to time change in nature and attempt to manipulate and sway a large population. But rather, it seems (and look at the propaganda in the Soviet Union and Germany circa WWII to confirm this) to me that the real propaganda is the stuff that attempts to make the public adopt a chosen agenda into its very identity. Sure Hitler used the press to make himself look impressive; but at the core of Mein Kampf is a mythical story of a great Aryan people who ruled over the world, who would become great again, and eventually become super human, to eternally hold dominion over the world. Hitler used descriptions of traditional Aryan traits to describe this super human to bring this reality closer to the minds of his target audience. The people of Germany could wake up each morning and look in the mirror and see the super man in the mirror. Superman became a core element to their identities. They believed it was their national destiny to hold dominion, and to defeat their greatest adversary, the Jew. Certainly the posters could sway superficial and unintelligent people (whether urban or rural). But those of average and higher intelligence are not so easily swayed. They would not buy the rhetoric any more than many Americans have bought into Bush's. But establishing the early myth about the mythical Aryan past, and then engendering those stories as part of each individual's identity, Hitler guaranteed success. Hitler's real propaganda was the creation of the Aryan identity, which now informs so many of our hate groups, today.

It is my belief that these flawed religious teachings to which you refer are the actual propaganda that should be questioned. I don't mean questioning God, per se. I mean questioning those who claim to speak for God, and questioning what they say. That is how you defeat the propaganda that has actually invaded our country, and somehow our countryside.

11/01/2007 1:31 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

What I am actually saying is that there is a real distrust of outsiders by small communities. That tends to make them less swayed by the political rhetoric of politicians. I am saying it is more difficult to get them to believe the words of politicians than it is city folk. The Urban population tends to consider our poltical system "flawed" maybe...but still the best we can possibly do. They believe in it more than the rural people do. I understand your point. It is still my opinion that it is more difficult to get the rural population to believe in the propaganda from a central government. But once they do...they are in it for the long hall. That is because they have firm core beliefs. They swallow it hook line and sinker and are not coming off. The clergy...for whatever reason...has left the door open for the Republican party. I don't know why they do that. I almost think they must receive money from the Republican party. They trust the clergy more than they do the Republican party and 9/11 gave them a cause to rally around Bush...and they did.

11/01/2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger fairlane said...

Gold,

You clearly demonstrate the inherent dangers of monolithic thinking. I reside in a "Red State," but live in a large city, so I see the "Best" of both worlds.

No doubt, there is a great deal of resentment in Rural communities toward the "City Folk," and some of it is well deserved. But at the same time much of it is irrational,and even paranoid.

The problem is that because these communities tend to closed, there is no one to step up and question.

What if your "Core values" are wrong? Who stands up?

As we're seeing, very few people.

There is no doubt many intelligent people never went to college or even graduated from high school. I know several of them personally. However, what education can do is open up your mind to new worlds, and expose you to ideas, and cultures you may never experience otherwise.

Un-educated people, in general, tend to be more rigid in their thinking, as do people with lower "I.Q.'s", and as you pointed out, when they choose an ideology or philosophy they are less apt to let it go.

This is extraordinarily dangerous especially when these people obtain power, which is what we are seeing today. George Bush is one of the most rigid minded people I have ever seen, and although in certain circles this quality is observed as "steadfastness," I see it as a sign that the man is incurious, and intellectually challenged.

What is the solution? God only knows. The so-called "Liberal Media" does everything it can to exacerbate this "Great Divide," and obviously politicians have no desire to see things change because they benefit from it.

On a personal level, I guess all we can do is attempt to reach out to like minded people, on all sides.

11/01/2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger Trop said...

Reminds me of my small hometown in PA: Windber, pop around 5,000. The community center posts the security threat and I just roll my eyes whenever I see it.

11/11/2007 1:42 PM  

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