Maybe people just don’t like being called dumb. Or admitting their wrong. I don’t know. I know I don’t.
Who knows? Maybe it’s just the fact that country people hate city folk because we aren’t self-reliant, don’t know how to tie a trucker’s hitch, and a host of other reasons that point to our gross inadequacies in a total societal collapse. The “preppers” out among them take this model to the extreme.
The king of the High desert Riviera in Deep Creek Hot Springs I met over Labor Day weekend put it perfectly, “if you live in L.A. and it doesn’t drive you crazy, then you are crazy.”
Now I don’t know if this man voted. To vote he would have had to leave the hot spring – and that was something he didn’t do for the whole weekend. I wondered if he had gills. Regardless of the conjecture and theory about the King’s alien origins, it is clear this man’s priorities are very different than those in the 323 area code.
So were the fish and game guy’s I met back when I drove Lyft. He was visibly shaken by the city, on edge. He tracked water sources in Western Montana. He liked to see the horizon. Or at least be familiar with the topography of the nearest ridge line. During our ride from the W hotel in Hollywood to Spring street downtown, I learned he would often vanish into the wild for weeks at a time to do his job running tests on water and never found it necessary to do a reality show about it.
They had something in common. Something I think that goes at the heart of this continental divide.
An chip on their shoulder. An unspoken “easy for you to say you don’t work for a living,” attitude.
They carry this badge of honor. “I’m stronger than you and you don’t even know it. I can read the hill-side. And tell time by the sky and I know when a storm’s coming.” All very true things. And things I value, too. Things I look for. A sense of possession. Self possession.
So what happens when that breaks? Like a damn.
I wonder how much of this is the true battle “for the soul of America” going on in the water table that spreads out below us.
One thing is certain though. It was an idea big enough to hypnotize the greatest writer of all time. Shakespeare himself lampooned this essential divide and requisitioned this conflict in more of his plays than any other – this battle between Arcadia and the corrupt city state, etc. He loved to demonstrate through a comedy of errors how each and all, self and other, are all hopeless fools upon the stage. if you take Jaques at his word. If the greatest student of humanity that even lived thought enough of this matter to house it in more of his narratives than any other – except maybe the grandeur and folly of love – certainly this country / city thing is bigger then Trump.
Bigger then all the Russian authors and English authors who tackled it.
Bigger then the rust belt. And the dying towns in Iowa caught in the three-headed scourge of oxy and methadone and meth.
Their way of life is dying. And nobody likes that. Nobody wants to feel obsolete. The whole “you don’t know what it’s like to get gobbled up by corporate farms and lose your family’s legacy piece by piece, selling off, always feeling like I’m in the shadow of my father’s father, like I’m not up to task…what am I gonna do, I’m forty three, go work in the factory, what factory, that plant that made fridge parts is gone.” That kind of pain needs a savior; needs a projection to diffuse it, a scapegoat.– And last I checked, Ernie Pyle was dead.
Nobody likes being called a Nazi – except maybe Nazis, but also, nobody like backing a horse and admitting they were duped. You know, like when you’re tricked at the car dealer when they give you the first price, or by that person out front of Whole Foods stopping you with some kind of compliment about your smile to get you to sign their petition, who hasn’t made a really shitty choice. Who likes admitting their that vain, shallow, etc…
Who doesn’t want to blame the world for their own failings sometimes, or cry out the world ain’t fair when so and so “living so wicked” has it so easy and we struggle on …
We’ve all wanted to stick it to somebody sometime. The popular kid in school or that co-worker who got a promotion. I knew a guy who hates immigrants because he couldn’t get a job as a finish carpenter anymore, “no matter what, their bids come in lower.” Maybe this is more about revenge. And betrayal. Then making anything great. It’s definitely about fear. And survival.
I don’t profess to have the answer but I do know it is older than any of us are willing to admit. So maybe the way through is to do what Shakespeare suggests- go to Arcadia. Or if you live in Arcadia – go to Verona. And I know my education and cultural adaptation might threaten some people – cause those places and words may seem like something to remind you of why you hate people like me (if you are an Acadian) but I like sleeping in the wild, and doing back country, and I like listening to your elders describe a trail and the terrain. I know wisdom when I hear it. I’ve been a stranger in both lands.
It’s like trying to read a map when you’re lost. If you think you’re somewhere other than you really are it makes no difference what the map says. Or as my friend John Fort likes to say, “reading a map is mostly convincing yourself.”
So maybe we just need to get lost. On purpose. Just so we can get found. Cause whether we like to admit it or not, what is, is lost. Maybe never was.
Everybody knows the first key to getting unlost is admitting that you are, in fact, lost. Yeah. Everyone should get lost every once in a while, if you ask me. Wilfully. That’s what Shakespeare suggested as a cultural remedy. The experience itself breaks down all the things we build up in our heads to cover up the fact that we don’t understand.
So yeah, call me what you will, I just think this has to do with the break down of the myth of rugged individualism and self-reliance and the dispossessed and disenfranchised than we would ever care to admit. This is about identity and terrain.
Or as the late great Sam Shepherd called it – The Starving Class.