21 July 2005

Why North Is Not Always Up

Once again, just as I am poised to spill the beans, the real world scoops me. Or not. So I'll save my conspiracy theories for the moment.

I had an interesting conversation the other day. I was training a new contractor to take up some of our workload in anticipation of a Zero hour that is expected to coincide with August 1. Things will then return to the normal level of mind-unraveling frenetic here at work. Naturally that will precipitate a long pause in blog updates, or perhaps a series of longer pauses.

Anyway. I was talking of my work-related sojourn to Alabama with this trainee. It is noteworthy that he appears to be of Indian descent, possibly first generation American. He made a comment that reflected that the old stereotypes about Southron "Good Ole Boys" were alive, well, and prospering. I pointed out that while I certainly found strong evidence of rampant Conservative Christianity, there was no racism evidenced in the places that I visited. I went on to say, before I caught myself, that while there were still traces of the Old Ways, Southroners in general had become largely "Westernized".

Now wasn't that a strange thing to say?
I cannot even claim that I was consciously using a language more suitable to my audience. I don't normally do that (to an extent that I am aware). Nor is the term "Westernized" a normal part of my speaking vocabulary. "Y'all", on the other hand, makes a regular appearance - making a sailor's dive from my lips into the cauldron of conversation.

For as strange a thing as it was to say, it seemed the right term to use in that context. The definition of 'Westernized' is particularly bland. It is more informative to define what we typically uphold as a contrast to the trappings of Westernization. What comes to my mind immediately is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The majority of the population lives in traditional Muslim culture while all 4000 or so of the Saudi Princes jet-set around living it up in a fashion that is common to Western Capitalists. Thus the contrast in this case is a culture that is deeply rooted in religious tradition, typically poor, subservient to its rulers in a feudalistic or tribal hierarchy, and relatively poor access to a 'liberal' (non-religious) education.

As you can see, there is a huge difference between the 'backwards' culture that I describe and the stereotypical Southron American man: most middle-eastern Muslims simply hate Westerners whereas the xenophobia of the Southroner is much more pervasive.

So I suppose that 'Westernized' must refer to a culture found near an imaginary "pole" that is located significantly north of the Mason-Dixon line.

My apologies to any Southron folk that take offense. I would wager, however, that anyone who does take offense can also take you aside and tell you that most Southerners "....aren't like that hereabouts. But now, you go visit that town in the next county? You know the one? Now that is like being in the Land That Time Forgot!"