Posted by: jackslife | March 4, 2009

Good Country People?

This post from Bill Kauffman on the Front Porch Republic site gives a great view of the modern democracy of Vermont, but I was especially interested in this quote from political science professor Frank Bryan –

Jefferson said rural people are the chosen people of God—that’s a bunch of crap. But forced intimacy is good for society; it makes us tolerant. The reason I’ll stop and help you out of a snow bank on Big Hollow Road isn’t because I particularly like you. But I might see you tomorrow at the store and have to explain why I didn’t. And I expect reciprocity.

I was interested in this quote because of a conversation that I had with a good friend of mine last week.  He was telling me about a friend of his who has developed the belief that rural people are in some way inherently good.  I’m sure that I am doing injury to this man’s belief, which is no doubt more complicated than I am making it here, but based on what my friend told me this quote is relevant.  I think that this is a great point.  It’s not so much that rural people are better, as it is that they are more connected to each other.  I was discussing this issue from another direction a couple of weeks ago with another friend of mine.  Part of the reason that I have a strong distrust of big business is that I feel that it is completely divorced from the needs and welfare of the communities in which it operates.  Wall-Mart doesn’t care about what’s best for Lubbock, TX.  Wall-Mart cares about what is best for Wall-Mart.  The locally owned business has a vested interest in the health of the community, and not only from a financial perspective.  The business owner goes to church and socializes with his customers, and is even related to some of them.  He shops at other business in the community.  His personal reputation is effected by how he operates within the community.  There is a level of accountability that is inherent to small business that just doesn’t exist for big box retail stores.

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Responses

  1. Makes sense to me. Although a large corporate entity does not by necessarily need to ignore local needs, as they are staffed by humans whose job it is to deal with needs specific to each store, it is quite common practically to ignore local social pressures since local managers feel much more pressure from management than local friends.

    I also agree that the rural social system has a lot to do with producing “good folks”, and perhaps it is that forced intimacy. Again, though, this is a general tendency as opposed to an ironclad rule; there are plenty of rural jerks and good urban people.

  2. Wow, I deem the phrase “forced intimacy” an off-putting choice of words. It conjures uncomfortable images of certain community practices I learned of in anthropology classes 😉 So, I’ll say: We could all use a bit more communal accountability. To care and be cared for is a huge part of our humanity. On a large scale, American society has had this need amputated. And I don’t think any of us are necessarily better for our independence.


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