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Go with your love to the fields ... ?
September 4, 2007 4:25 AM   Subscribe

"My general feeling about farmers is that they can go fuck themselves." The most recent essay published in the new online magazine 'The Smart Set', is a rather contrarian view of rural life, and poses an interesting question: just why does our society have a general consensus that rural=good and urban=bad?

"What do the farmers really believe, anyway? ... Don't they know that the mute indifference of nature is as terrifying and empty as the noisy scrambling of the metropolis?"
posted by woodblock100 (153 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
All I know is that around here in Nebraska, they sure have an annoying knack for repeatedly voting against their own interest. How many times does the GOP get to screw them over before Farmer Brown gets a friggin' clue? And I don't expect them to flock to the Democrats, but they don't hold their preferred party accountable for anything. They just roll-over and pull the GOP lever each election. Then proceed to bitch about their lot in life for the next 364 days.
posted by RavinDave at 4:38 AM on September 4, 2007


just why does our society have a general consensus that rural=good and urban=bad?

Centuries of divisive political strategies.
posted by psmealey at 4:38 AM on September 4, 2007


Thing is, the farmer doesn't really need the city, but the city needs the farmer. Smugness is pretty distasteful, though, no matter which camp it comes from.
posted by maxwelton at 4:40 AM on September 4, 2007 [5 favorites]


"The Smart Set" proves that "Brights" was not the worst name Dawkins could have chosen.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on September 4, 2007 [5 favorites]


they sure have an annoying knack for repeatedly voting against their own interest.

If your only real interest is a feeble-minded and childish theistic view, then the GOP is your party.

not religionist, just strongly opposed to the infantile invisible sky god belief in it
posted by psmealey at 4:41 AM on September 4, 2007


Incidentally, artists = good, art collectives = insufferable.
posted by maxwelton at 4:41 AM on September 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


Any good farmer will tell you that nature isn't mute, nor is it indifferent. What the city folks live on is the result of that understanding on the part of farmers. Mute indifference is a phenomenon you encounter in the city.
posted by ronin21 at 4:41 AM on September 4, 2007 [9 favorites]


...the farmer doesn't really need the city...

If by "the city" you include things like manufacturing, I think this is wrong. Sure, a farmer could grow just enough for themselves and neighbors...but so could a city dweller, in a garden.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sure, a farmer could grow just enough for themselves and neighbors

Thus satisfying the requirements for "need."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:47 AM on September 4, 2007


Why do I even bother, thought one symbiont of the other.
posted by furtive at 4:50 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thus satisfying the requirements for "need."

And disproving the larger point that urban people can't do the same.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this supposed to be part of a Seinfeld routine? What's the deal with farmers?

If you really want to understand why farmers are important, go to Zimbabwe. People have a thing for farms and farmers, probably because they grow food, which is the basis for all other human life. Oh, also they have lots of space. And have a hands-on understanding of the cycles of life, death, and regrowth. Because it's always been kind of marginal being a smallish farmer, they're poor artisans who understand value and thrift. They also get fresh milk. Yum.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:52 AM on September 4, 2007 [9 favorites]


I, for one, am a city boy. Even when they tear down something great in New York City and build something new and stupid in its place I feel okay, even a little excited, because I think about how the new and stupid thing won’t last all that long either. The wrecking ball is indifferent as it swings and bashes season to season, a democracy of unreasonable reason and an obliterator of all things great and dumb.

Keep in mind that this comes from the brain of someone going to college in a neighborhood where a toxic waste dump would be considered urban renewal.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:53 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Farmers are pretty insufferable.
Just thank God we've got Walmart And Tescos to screw them over.
posted by seanyboy at 4:56 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


dreaming of a future when we’ll get all the sustenance we need from a small pill we swallow on the subway heading to a rendezvous with people beautiful and famous.

Surely this article is a piss take? Either that or this guy is certainly not smart. Just a dumbass city slicker. A robot made out of meat hits the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned.


I don't know about American farmers but over here farmers are screwed by big business. God knows why anyone wants to do it. Totally thankless job.
posted by twistedonion at 5:01 AM on September 4, 2007


"The Smart Set" proves that "Brights" was not the worst name Dawkins could have chosen.

Smart Set was the name of a literary magazine once edited by H.L. Mencken in the 1910's. I think the writers and editors might be aiming for some Mencken-style contrarianism here.
posted by jonp72 at 5:12 AM on September 4, 2007


Farming: "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race".
posted by progosk at 5:14 AM on September 4, 2007 [8 favorites]


Farmer talk annoys me. I dislike the notion that people have some sort of right to do what their daddies did, especially when the state comes in and taxes me to make sure of it. Okay, this farm is going to go out of the family that held it since the cambrian era. So?

And I dislike people telling me that I need to feel bad for someone who inherited assets into the millions of dollars, and could only manage to lose money with that staggeringly huge gift. I don't give a shit about people who go broke with factories and stocks they've inherited, and I also don't give a shit about people who do that with umpty acres of dirt.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:18 AM on September 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


Wait, wait, a New York City "artist" is accusing farmers of being self-righteous and self-important?

Pot...Kettle...Black
posted by Muddler at 5:32 AM on September 4, 2007 [7 favorites]


Needs more lame-ass generalizations. Yeesh.

And while I didn't know HL Mencken, and no he was not a friend of mine, you, The Smart Set, are no HL Mencken.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:39 AM on September 4, 2007


Smart Set was the name of a literary magazine once edited by H.L. Mencken in the 1910's. I think the writers and editors might be aiming for some Mencken-style contrarianism here.

Whatever they're aiming for, they achieve mainly smugness and a sense of conceit.

As my granny always said, compliments should come from other people. If you're really smart, the world will tell you.
posted by rhymer at 5:41 AM on September 4, 2007


I'm not sure a city dweller could raise enough food in a garden for sustenance. We're talking more than heirloom tomatoes. chervil and basil -- cows or even chickens sufficient to feed yourself consistently would seem to require more space than a city garden would offer.
posted by boo_radley at 5:43 AM on September 4, 2007


And disproving the larger point that urban people can't do the same.

Not really. To be self sufficient you need enough space and also time and knowledge as well as the inclination. Not many Urban people I know have any of these never mind all three.

For example.. say you decide to grow your own potatoes out your back. Fine. Get some seeds, plant them and enjoy. What about next year? Unless you know about crop rotation, feeding the soil, polination then your crops will start to fail and succumb to diseases.

If you have a small city dwelling having the space to keep enough different types of veg to keep you alive is impossible.

I have an allotment and while it's got me plenty of veg it hasn't kept me in food year round. To do that I'd need to spend a hell of a lot more time looking after my plot. I just can't afford to do that.
posted by twistedonion at 5:50 AM on September 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


"The Smart Set" proves that "Brights" was not the worst name Dawkins could have chosen.

Dawkins didn't choose the name, or set up the group, or indeed have anything to do with it other than suggest in passing that it maybe was a decent idea perhaps.


Also, farmers smell.
posted by flashboy at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2007


I thought it was a pretty good piece of writing, myself -- a bit of a polemic, obviously. His point isn't that farming is bad, but that the whole back-to-the-land thing is annoyingly self righteous. After all, it's city dwellers who actually live the most ecological life styles, with their subways and their dense living accommodations.
posted by footnote at 5:54 AM on September 4, 2007


I've been fascinated by the rural/urban good/evil dichotomy for a long time. What is really interesting is that the appeal of this myth is cross cultural. Watch any oriental martial arts movie and you will see the same myth being played out that you see in Western westerns. Interestingly, Westerns often contain two levels of this where indians are seen as even more noble than the farmers who are more noble than the city dwellers.

Then there is Tarzan.
posted by srboisvert at 5:57 AM on September 4, 2007


This was a terribly written article. It has all the insight of the kid in class who always brags about how smart he is but everyone knows that he is confusing trivia knowledge with intelligence.
posted by geoff. at 6:04 AM on September 4, 2007


You know what gets my goat? McMansions built to look like giant barns.
posted by brownpau at 6:04 AM on September 4, 2007


And self-sufficiency is a virtue why? Besides, it's inevitably an illusion. No modern farm is self-sufficient; they're all dependent on various sciences and technologies... none of the crops we grow today are natural, though they may be "organic", etc. etc.

This article dances around an elaborate series of misconceptions it should be drawing attention to - there are many reasons to reject the "urban vs. rural" binary. The author started with a point, but apparently decided that his actual goal was to convey what a giant douche he is. I mean, without a hint of irony, the subtitle of the essay is "Where do they get off being so self-righteous?" This essay is a steaming pile of shit. The author only brings up the topic to say "farmers can go fuck themselves" and then wanks over E.B. White for three paragraphs, and then disses Joel Salatin for a while - easy target much?

Where does he get off being so self-righteous?
posted by mek at 6:06 AM on September 4, 2007


Rural romanticizing is nothing new. Agriculture has always been of huge importance to nation-states, for obvious reasons. Industrialization made it worse, creating polluted cities full of uneducated and poor workers. The bourgeoisie began believe there to be a certain beauty inherent in nature that was of God's creation, the idea being that no matter how much man could produce with its factories, nature and rural life will never reach this. But no, this article just comes off as pretentious and smug without being smart.
posted by geoff. at 6:09 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I get so, so tired of the instant retreat to 'broad logical possibility.' Yes, in purely logical terms, mythical "farmers"/"ruralists" don't need mythical "city dwellers"/"urbanites". In our world, they absolutely do need one another. It's only in the purely logical world where libertarianism works, people always act in their own enlightened self-interest, and we don't need to feed 6 billion people that you can take "farmers don't need city-dwellers" seriously as a starting point.

Re. the nobility of pastoralism: in western culture it goes back at least to the Romans. I can't think of any good Greek examples, someone else probably can, but the Roman fascination with it was a lot like ours.

Being the source of food can be a base for power in a densly-populated society, if you know how to leverage your advantage. Farmers traditionally have not been able to do that, in the west, and especially not since the agricultural revolution. The industrial revolution put a stake through their heart. In order to grow enough food to have influence, they have to use technological means; same is true for shipping. That's tended to mean that farmers get cut out of the loop by the people who control the means of shipping and finished production (millers, food manufacturers, railroads, trucking companies, etc.).

It's also clear that populations in-migrate to cities over time. That's a really stable trend, across human civilizations. It tends to be reversed by societal collapse, but not much else.
posted by lodurr at 6:13 AM on September 4, 2007


What do the farmers really believe, anyway?

I don't know, but maybe you'd find out if you stopped your lame-ass rant.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:18 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


For not liking farming, he sure loves straw arguments. The standard American meme is that city life is sophisticated and rural life is backwards. What movie star has made a career out of playing rural characters? Generally those who were playing buffoons or your occasional Andy Griffith (who was surrounded by Barney Fifes and country bumpkins). What movie stars played sophisticated city folk? Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn - the top stars. For every Taxi Driver, there is a Children of the Corn. For that rare film that says rural or farming life is better (Sweet Home Alabama), there are a hundred that glorify Manhattan.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thing is, the farmer doesn't really need the city, but the city needs the farmer.

If Farmer Jones wants to farm at post-industrial-revolution levels or live a post-medieval-peasant lifestyle he does. Where's he going to get his tractors from? Or his fertilizer? Or his sheep dip? Or his weather reports? Etc.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2007


It is useful to remember that just about every farmer always votes GOP, but that both parties make sure farms get subsidized, and that the small farmer is mostly gone to be replaced by large land-owning companies, and that illegals do work "Americans won't do (right, see Grapes of Wrath). If you dislike farmers, then move to urbs and you can badmouth suburbs.
posted by Postroad at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is an old question. Practically as old as civilization itself, but in modern parlance especially since the Industrial Revolution.
posted by zardoz at 6:25 AM on September 4, 2007


So, three ladies of the night convene in a bar after an evening of working the streets.

The first lady of the night says 'I had a cop tonight'.

'How did you know he was a cop?' ask the other two.

'Well, he kept his cap and his utility belt on.'

'Oh, right, that's a cop all right,' say the other two.



The second lady of the night says, 'I had a fireman tonight'.

'How did you know he was a fireman?' ask the other two.

'Well, he kept making jokes about his enormous hose.'

'Ah, right, definitely a fireman'.


The third lady of the night says 'Well, I had a farmer tonight'.

'How'd you know he was a farmer?' quoth the other two.

'Well, first he moaned it was too dry, then he moaned it was too wet, then he asked if he could pay me after harvest'.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:30 AM on September 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


For that rare film that says rural or farming life is better (Sweet Home Alabama), there are a hundred that glorify Manhattan.

And how many films are there that actively come out and say that cities are great and farms suck? I know any number of people who went from small towns to big cities, but you'd never know it from Hollywood.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:31 AM on September 4, 2007


This article is incredibly sophomoric and shows no awareness of all of contemporary farm issues or policy, and most definitely reveals that the writer does not know any farmers personally. His arguments are based on broad, overly simplistic shorthand that melds all farmers into a bloc (Farmers) which thinks and acts in the same way, a bloc like Inner-City Children or Urban Women Ages 18-49. There is not only one monolithic type of Farmer out there smugly crying his own moral superiority; there is an incredible diversity of people who raise food, and they're all over the map, from small subsistence operations to community farms to market gardens to massive global-industrial agribusinesses. They are politically, socially, culturally, and economically diverse. And they are our food delivery system, like it or not, for good or ill. In New York City or anywhere, there's nothing to eat without farming (/ranching/fishing). Are there problems with contemporary agriculture? Most certainly. Do politicians and agribusiness bigwigs wrap themselves in sentimentality, Ford trucks, and apple pie? Definitely. Are there Heartland farmers who are conservative and perhaps ignorant? Probably. But I know a lot of farmers, and none of them fit his model. It would do him well to get out of the classroom and start finding out where his food comes from, who gets it to him, and how. The tone!

They take a homespun approach but they often wrap themselves up in a hell of a lot of self-righteousness.

Who is he talking about here? From what conversations with farmers has he drawn this impression? The folks on his college reading list (Pollan, E. B. White, Wendell Berry) are primarily writers, not farmers. While it's nice that he's enterprising enough to take on ideas he's encountered in the classroom in a snarky essay on his own time, he's not saying anything new and he's not well informed.

He needs to start by reading the Turner thesis and then its critiques. American social and political rhetoric has been saturated with the myth of the "Happy Yeoman" since pre-Revolutionary times. We love to idolize those who grapple nature to gather resources - farmers, fishermen, lumberjacks, cowboys. It's what our culture does, and it's indeed interesting. To say that there is a difference between Romantic images of people who work the land and the complex reality of working the land is not a radical idea, though worthy of exploration. However, this kindergarten rant doesn't come close to exploration. It simply shows he's absolutely not ready to discuss the contemporary images of farmers, or the realities of modern farming, in any reasonable way.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on September 4, 2007 [25 favorites]


I sympathize with the article (since it's certainly also self-mocking in its polemic), but that's probably because at the moment I live in the Upper Valley. Really, "return-to-the-land", with its smugness, Wendell Berry and lifestyle books, is more annoying to me than farmers.
posted by Gnatcho at 6:34 AM on September 4, 2007


just why does our society have a general consensus that rural=good and urban=bad

Are you kidding? Food is a type of power, like the military is a type of power or having a local clean and plentiful water source. Any country would be foolish to give up on its local food supply (by giving up subsidies) and allow only foreign or profitable foods in. Being able to produce so much food gives the US a huge advantage politically. Farmers know this.

On top of it, its why pre-made/fast foods are so cheap and why we dont have starving poor people and senior citizens in the streets.

I dont see how the personalities of the farmer are different than any manual-labor blue collar job.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:45 AM on September 4, 2007


My general feeling about reducing human beings to classes is . . .
posted by spock at 6:49 AM on September 4, 2007


Farmer poets like Wendell Berry exploit some strain of American yearning when they write poems with lines such as..."

What a terribly written essay.
posted by mediareport at 6:50 AM on September 4, 2007


If your only real interest is a feeble-minded and childish theistic view, then the GOP is your party.

..or, ya know, if ya don't care to comport with babykillers and buttfuckers.
posted by quonsar at 6:51 AM on September 4, 2007


..or, ya know, if ya don't care to comport with babykillers and buttfuckers.

If that's your thing, I don't see how either party is for you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:52 AM on September 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


Farming: "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race".

Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs...

Well if the aliens followed the author's advice, they'd never discover Earth in the first place, being too busy hunting Dewbacks or whatever on their home planet to discover hyperspace drives.

Also, the FPP is mostly moot since American farming is largely done by massive Ag corps and underpaid illegals. The Cowboy-hatted farmer that this guy is railing against died about 50 years ago.
posted by Avenger at 6:54 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thing is, the farmer doesn't really need the city, but the city needs the farmer.

If you think about it, this makes sense. Giant industrial complexes building tractors and other farming equipment aside... If farmers all became "city folk" instead of "country folk" there would be no more agriculture (for hire). But if the opposite happened, farmers would still be farmers, just on a much smaller scale. And yeah, you can say well the government/Cargill controls it all anyway, but that's taking the statement for more than its worth.

Its just like sports. Sports teams do not need fans to keep on being sports teams. If suddenly there were no more fans to pay out $100s/ticket for their front row seats, whatever specific sport would wind up just falling back to its roots and be played on playgrounds and giant fields (or farms! :) Its the commercial interests/owners who need the fans.

*shrug*
posted by mrzer0 at 7:01 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't really know what the fuck that article was talking about, but I wonder if that guy had anything to eat during its composition.
posted by ND¢ at 7:12 AM on September 4, 2007


Farmers aren't hard they some little bitches. They start
climbing up the tree soon as they see a deer from like 50feet
away. They stupid as hell they should put their brain in their
pouch and put the kid in they ten they're be able to think
better.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:13 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Anyone who is annoyed with anyone else annoys me
posted by poppo at 7:14 AM on September 4, 2007


"If your only real interest is a feeble-minded and childish theistic view, then the GOP is your party."

I applaud your decision cling to the shallow, hostile, and one-dimensional caricatures. Bravo!

However, I might suggest that one day, no hurry, you make an honest and open-minded attempt to understand religion and religious people, but by all means, wallow in your ignorance just a bit longer. A good wallow is rare indeed.
posted by oddman at 7:16 AM on September 4, 2007


Farmers aren't hard they some little bitches. They start
climbing up the tree soon as they see a deer from like 50feet
away. They stupid as hell they should put their brain in their
pouch and put the kid in they ten they're be able to think
better


The formatting of your joke was all messed up. That annoys me.
posted by poppo at 7:16 AM on September 4, 2007


Farmers aren't hard they some little bitches. They start
climbing up the tree soon as they see a deer from like 50feet
away. They stupid as hell they should put their brain in their
pouch and put the kid in they ten they're be able to think
better.


Take the pills, man.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2007


or, ya know, if ya don't care to comport with babykillers and buttfuckers.

And how many films are there that actively come out glorify the babykillers? There's all number of people who went from peaceful civilian to raging babykiller , but you'd never know it from Hollywood.
posted by phearlez at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like that this showed up right after the horse essay.

While horses are a cute idea that won't work, I at least didn't mind the writer. The guy that wrote this... what is it, anyway? An anti-farmer screed? is a pointless asshole who should be hit in the face with a shovel.

And then made to grow all of his own food.
posted by blacklite at 7:21 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Farmers live on subsidies, which come from taxes, which come from cities. Advantage: Urban!
posted by Artw at 7:25 AM on September 4, 2007


It's a wonder small farmers exist at all. If they can compete with corporate agribusiness at all, they are basically set to get screwed right out of the box: If crops are successful, the glut drives prices down; if crops are not so successful prices rise, but there's nothing to sell. Fucked either way. That's where our incredibly weird and complex system of subisidies and price supports came from.

One thing's for sure: farmers can live without insufferable urban artistes a lot longer than insufferable urban artistes can live without farmers.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:26 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


twistedonion wrote:

Unless you know about crop rotation, feeding the soil, polination then your crops will start to fail and succumb to diseases.

most modern farmers know nothing of crop rotation that's why they need to poison our food with inordinate amount of pesticides.
posted by any major dude at 7:28 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


a country boy can survive
posted by pyramid termite at 7:30 AM on September 4, 2007


While I will happily make the point that farmers and urbanites are heavily interdependent, and concede enthusiastically that most farming in North America (and probably Europe) is done by agribusinesses, not "farmers", Benny's got a point: Farmers know how to do shit most city people have never even concieved of, and hence can get by a lot better without the city folk than the city folk could without the farmers.

Until the city folk came out and tore them to pieces and ate them, because they were starving.
posted by lodurr at 7:31 AM on September 4, 2007


> Search supermarket

You find a can of beans!
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on September 4, 2007 [5 favorites]


most modern farmers know nothing of crop rotation that's why they need to poison our food with inordinate amount of pesticides.

I don't consider that farming, or the managers farmers. It's just a big chemically induced food factory. Just as unsustainable in the long term as attempting to grow your own in an urban dwelling.

Plus the produce tastes like shit.

Guess I'm lucky but most farmers round here are actually farmers who understand the land they work. Maybe in a tiny island land is much more valued.
posted by twistedonion at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2007


In a hypothetical world, yes, farmers can survive where citydwellers cannot: it's historically obvious that agriculture precedes urbanization.

But in the real world, the farm and the city are equally dependent on each other. If the city ceased to be, so would oil, medicine, machinery, sanitation, running water, electricity, etc. etc. etc. 99.9% of farms are not capable of surviving the sudden loss of all those things, and the remaining 0.1% are xenophobic communes of hippies and/or cultists and/or Mormons.
posted by mek at 7:40 AM on September 4, 2007


I love how everyone gets drawn into an argument they weren't planning to have.

The article is only interesting to the extent that it reveals the psyche of the author: "Don't they know that the mute indifference of nature is as terrifying and empty"

I've long held a pet theory which I call the Background Noise Theory. The background noise theory is quite simple: stupid people, violent people, and people who are emotionally damaged need to have background noise in their lives at all times to drown out their internal critical dialogue. Have you ever been to a bad part of town and listened? You hear shouting, children screaming or crying, car horns, excessively loud music, sirens, all on top of each other. It's more than ordinary city noise, is people creating more noise for the sake of more noise.

Have you ever known people who have to turn on a TV or a radio the moment they enter a room, or can't stand to do work without some sound on? These are people who are desperately afraid of confronting some truth about themselves, so they try to drown it out with constant distractions. And people like this tend to congregate (because they all like the noise the others are putting out), which is why whole neighborhoods are like this. The noise is clamourous and demanding of your attention, and therefore it's safe. They can deal with the street, they can't deal with what's in their heads.

The background noise doesn't have to be auditory either. Clutter and general messiness are optical versions of the same background noise. People will buy junk and never throw anything away because they are creating a visual garden of distractions. Their eye can dance over a room for hours and see different things in the clutter each of which triggers some superficial memory. But the mind is so busy processing what the eye sees and recalling the seen objects context that theirs no time for thinking the thought "Why do I collect all this stuff?" The classic case here is the suburban family that fills their house with junk, or the teenager who plasters their room with posters, etc.

The noise can also be mental - constant text messaging, video game playing, etc to fill up the isolated islands to downtime in everyone's day.

The point is not simply that they like the noise, it's that they create the noise. The turmoil they create out here mirrors the turmoil in their mind, and drowns it out.

When taken together, the desire for and generation of audio and visual noise, what you have is the psychological antithesis of a zen garden. It is the Noise Garden.

The purpose of the noise garden is to block the internal dialogue, that voice in your head that tries to refocus you on the important things you should be doing or thinking about. It is the source of reflection, insight, and emotional development. For a lot of people that voice wants to bring up some things they'd rather not deal with - some emotional trauma of their past, some wrong they've committed and for which they are repressing their guilt, etc.

In this article, the author finds the "mute indifference of nature terrifying" because there is no opportunity for constant distraction. The quiet invariably leads to contemplation, which invariably leads to thoughts like "Daddy why did you leave us" or "I shouldn't have cheated on her" etc. Nature is so quiet and so static that the mind has nothing to do but think of these things. And if you don't want to think about these things, you don't want to be out in nature.

Except if you are a farmer (which is why this article is crap). Farms like those the author is talking about require massive amounts of demanding physical work and planning. The farmer who is doing his job is focused on his job and can't afford to allow him mind to wander too long, so he does appreciate the mute indifference of nature because he's too busy trying to wrestle nature to conform to his schedule.

Anyway, this is my dumb background noise theory, but at least it explains everything you see on "Cops."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:43 AM on September 4, 2007 [159 favorites]


Pastabagel:

Well said, well said, well said.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:49 AM on September 4, 2007


Pastabagel, you've made a discussion about a realy crap article so worth it.
posted by twistedonion at 7:53 AM on September 4, 2007


.... it's historically obvious that agriculture precedes urbanization

Well, that's not totally true, but the way in which it's not true is instructive. There are "urban" sites that pre-date archaeological practice for a given area, but they tend to be in places (like rich fishing/shellfish grounds) where there was a stable and rich supply of protein for the taking.

Obviously that's not a very scalable strategy.

Diamond's points about agriculture, which are probably intended to be provocative and tongue in cheek (he's improved as a popular writer in the 20 years since that article), are not as crazy as they seem: Average lifespan probably does go down and average health decrease with a shift to farming. Agriculture is a pretty brutal way to make a living, if you've got no technology to help you out.

The thing is, it allows a greater proportion of people to reach child-bearing age and then bear children. And that works in a feedback loop with the fact that farming as a system (generally) rewards the culture that generates more children. It also tends to reward certain kinds of technological advance, while hunting/gathering reward other kinds.

Agriculture drove industrial technology.
posted by lodurr at 7:54 AM on September 4, 2007


Am I alone in seeing this essay as a huge joke? Obviously the author isn't intending to say anything about actual farmers. It's just a rant about the idea of farming-as-holy that's enjoying a resurgence right about now.
posted by footnote at 7:54 AM on September 4, 2007


The farmer and the Mefite should be friends,
The farmer and the Mefite should be friends,
One spends time, a shovelling poo,
The other lot posting to the blue,
But that's no reason why they cain't be friends.

Farmers rob the Mefite senseless,
Mefites snark and grouch a lot,
Maybe I should take up farming,
Perhaps I'll grow a little pot?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:01 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


pastabagel, I think that's such a good theory that I've ascribed (partialy) to it for many years.

But I also think you can find plenty of background noise to distract you in the country -- and plenty of other things to think about. Your view of background noise reminds me a bit of the traditional glorification of the rustic life as simple and not requiring distracting mental effort. You're free, there, to think about other things.

But do you? Probably not, unless you've got input from somewhere else. It's when intensive agriculture is put to the end of maintaining cities that you really start to see the rate of innovation shoot up.
posted by lodurr at 8:02 AM on September 4, 2007


Am I alone in seeing this essay as a huge joke?

My sense is that most folks here get that, but they hate that it's so badly done.
posted by lodurr at 8:03 AM on September 4, 2007


... and Pastabagel's point about getting into an argument you weren't planning to have: The silly rant led us to have this discussion. The rant doesn't deserve the discussion, maybe, but so what?
posted by lodurr at 8:04 AM on September 4, 2007


The distinguished author Jared Diamond said that the biggest mistake made by mankind was to move from hunter-gatherer to an agricultural way of life. Now, with our idustrial or post-0industrail life, we can look back in sorrow if not in anger.
posted by Postroad at 8:07 AM on September 4, 2007



The noise can also be mental - constant text messaging, video game playing, etc reading Metafilter to fill up the isolated islands to downtime in everyone's day.

posted by a young man in spats at 8:08 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel, I love your noise garden analogy. It explains not only Cops but about 90% of the Internets.

Anyways, this site is either one big well executed joke or a boil on the dead circus clown of literacy. Check out this essay on Homer.

Please let it not be real.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:11 AM on September 4, 2007


Miserable writing.

These are plodding thoughts at best.

Heh.

------

Why is self sufficiency a virtue? Because it shows flexibility and the ability to respond effectively to the circumstances of one's life. Sure, in the abstract it's a myth. We're all interdependent. At the same time extending one's capabilities is a worthy goal. Few embody it to the degree that most small scale farmers do. This identification of self reliance with rural lifestyles is one of the main attractors for those wanting to go "back to the land".

But urban dwellers can be quite self sufficient as well. Earthboxes and rooftop gardens can produce a surprising amount of produce. I doubt they can supply your average city dweller year around but farmers and ranchers go to the grocery too. As others pointed out, your average city dweller has a small footprint to begin with and they have access to many of the green options that those living in the sticks do. Composting toilets and solar energy collection are two ways that city dwellers can further reduce their drain on the environment and lessen their dependency on the utilities. So even when it comes to "living in harmony with nature" and not needing the utilities, there is no real advantage to being out in the country. Well, except for being surrounded by natural beauty, I guess.

-------

Pastabagel,

Except that the internal dialogue is just another distraction. It is hardly that "still, small voice" of conscience. Far from refocusing you, it further distracts with broodings over the past and fantasies about the future.

I'm surprised your interest in background noise hasn't led you to this quote from Pascal. It says it all.

"All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone."
posted by BigSky at 8:13 AM on September 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


most folks here get that, but they hate that it's so badly done.

Yeah. If you're going to wave the banner of satire as your excuse for spouting off, you really should know something about the subject first.
posted by Miko at 8:17 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]



The farmer and the Mefite should be friends,
The farmer and the Mefite should be friends,
One spends time, a shovelling poo,
The other lot planting food for you,
But that's no reason why they cain't be friends.


fixed that for you

metafilter - The turmoil they create out here mirrors the turmoil in their mind, and drowns it out.
posted by pyramid termite at 8:22 AM on September 4, 2007


The author of this piece is a pretentious wankstain of the highest order. I've read many piles of steaming shite in my time -that I have chosen to ignore- but this was immensely annoying.

Having said that, the subject is fascinating and I would recommend The Country and the City by Raymond Williams for anyone who is interested in this.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know what gets my goat? Farmers.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2007


Green Acres
"Green acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out,
so far and wide
Keep Manhattan,
just give me that countryside.

New York
is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling, I love you,
but give me Park Avenue.

The Chores.

The Stores.

Fresh air.

Times Square.

You are my wife. Goodbye city life.

Green Acres, we are there!"
posted by ericb at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nature is so quiet and so static that the mind has nothing to do but think of these things. And if you don't want to think about these things, you don't want to be out in nature.


Right, well this is the view of the city-dweller, if you are in 'Nature' you have nothing to do because you're on vacation.

If you were living there, nature would be full of things you want to eat and things that want to eat you.
posted by geos at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


I finally got around to reading this. I agree, it's satire of some sort. The difference, to me, between rural and urban folks is that urban folks go to the country and they're like "wow this is really nice... and boring." and country folks go to the city and they're like "wow, this is really interesting... and dirty and noisy." but I get more city people telling me they'd love to "be able to" move to the country than people around here ever seem to pine for moving to the city. Just one rural person's observation.

Pastabagel, what you just wrote explains a lot of my Labor Day weekend here with my slightly weird and very very noisy neighbors.
posted by jessamyn at 8:50 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


My general feeling about farmers is that they can go fuck themselves.

My specific feeling about Morgan Meis is that he can go fuck himself. He doesn't have the balls to tell that to a real farmer, face-to-face.

If he does, then I choose that he tells Louis Maxon. And then he can have a twenty second head-start, which isn't much, considering as ol' Louis usually has his thirty ought six in the back of the pickup.
posted by anotherbrick at 9:00 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I didn't get that the article was a joke, oh well.

If you were living there, nature would be full of things you want to eat and things that want to eat you.
posted by geos at 11:45 AM on September 4


I was arguing the author's viewpoint - "dull indifference of nature", not my own. There's plenty of things in and about nature to engage you. All one has to do in nature is wait for nightfall and look up. You don't get that view in a city.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2007


Having read the comments, I won't bother with the article, but as a country lad myself, I must say my dad's many years working for a farmer's co-op and then later when semi-retired as a farm inspector for the Farmer's Union led him to the (only half-joking) conclusion that many of the "stewards of the (English) countryside" are whinging gits ever ready to dump banned chemicals in your local stream, grub up your hedgerows and fiddle money out of the Common Agricultural Policy.
posted by Abiezer at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2007


All one has to do in nature is wait for nightfall and look up.

Or look down at all the bastarding wee slugs that are destroying your food everytime you turn your head.

I for one would rejoice if we came up with any solution to rid the world of this evil
posted by twistedonion at 9:19 AM on September 4, 2007


Well I don't know. I thought it was fairly clear that he wasn't talking most farm labor, but about the Gene Logsdon inspired back-to-the-land movement, the sort of people who get a feature story in the NYT because their second home developed into a boutique orchard business, the escape-from-the-city yuppies that Tim Burton turned into great comedy in Beetlejuice. These are the people who treat their new-found rural roots with the zeal of the newly-converted religious because they've not had to deal with the crippling poverty, and minimal access to health care and education that plague rural communities.

Of course, I think this essay wasn't "best of the web" either.

It also should be noted that New York is a curve-busting outlier of an atypcial city. There is only one New York, but there are a few hundred cities with demographics and infrastructure similar to Champaign-Urbana for example. Which is why I just have to laugh when people point to New York as the archetype of American urbanization.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


most modern farmers know nothing of crop rotation that's why they need to poison our food with inordinate amount of pesticides.

I think you meant to say "fertilizers". Crop rotation doesn't have much of a direct impact on insects, compared to nutrition. I also think you meant to say "factory farms" because modern farmers are well aware of crop rotation, soil structure, resource conservation, &c. It's not possible for an unsubsidized farmer to even attempt to make a living farming otherwise.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2007


They make me want to spend a day with Andy Warhol drinking Coca-Cola and dreaming of a future when we’ll get all the sustenance we need from a small pill we swallow on the subway heading to a rendezvous with people beautiful and famous.

So if we can get this kid to be featured on Last Night's Party, will he agree to shut up with this godawful excuse for writing?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


rural=good and urban=bad because quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them.

i grew up in a suburb, studied and worked in urbs, and in june '01 i moved to the oregon countryside. i love it here, one of the best decisions i ever made. in the eighty miles between gold beach and coos bay, there are only three stoplights. parking is never a problem; traffic has ratcheted up a little but is still not a problem.

planet earth is a finite cage swarming with rats on two legs. as with any cage/rats model, there's a tipping point where the addition of more rats will set off a killing frenzy. each rat bears the burden of surrounding rat-pressure while enjoying the social, artistic, etc. amenities of the higher concentration, which countervails until the tipping point is reached. i've noticed that country people are a lot nicer than city people, probably because we each have enough space so that one isn't immediately thinking of how to grab space/resources from the other. i'm a lot nicer up here than i was in california; in my last days of citylife i had moments of very nasty rattiness.

then there's the self-sufficiency-of-the-rugged-individual-rat meme. city people are so dependent on their infrastructure, ever growing in complexity and ever more prone to catastrophic failure, which would put them in a world of hurt. city people are at least subconsciously aware that they elected their leaders on criteria other than the ability to manage common resources and infrastructure wisely, and they apprehend their hazard frequently throughout their days. while few of the individuals up here are truly self-sufficient, we can go to an interdependency model much faster in case of trouble: if i walk several wheelbarrow loads of fruit over to sheep-guy, he will give me a lamb in exchange.

looking out the window from my desk, there is no other sign of human habitation, just a big fig in the foreground, cedars behind it, tall firs behind the cedars. i am the master of all i survey. there is much greater beauty and more interesting challenges around here. this is how we were meant to live, before our excessive numbers forced most of us into cities.
posted by bruce at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


The city as evil and the rural as pure derives from temptation.

The city has much to offer to the bored, beckoning them to leave their family behind in search of a better life.

The city stole my baby, damn dirty city sluts!
posted by Mick at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2007


My general feeling about farmers is that they can go fuck themselves.

I stopped reading the article here. How does the author of this piece expect to be taken seriously using this rhetoric? You think all farmers should go fuck themselves? Really?
posted by Kwine at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2007


Can't both sides just agree that modern American suburbs suck the most?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


How does the author of this piece expect to be taken seriously using this rhetoric?

Um, bingo? It's polemic/dialectic. He doesn't expect his initial statement to be taken seriously. Maybe the majority of mefites don't think it's funny, but y'all should at least realize that it wasn't intended to be Serious Op-Ed On Whether Farmers Are Good.
posted by footnote at 10:14 AM on September 4, 2007


rural=good and urban=bad because quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them.

Of course, that depends on what resources matter to you when you're doing the math.

In any case, while that probably works for you personally, it's not sufficient to explain the rural:urban value dichotomy throughtout history. This really is a very old tradition, and Pastabagel has come closer than anyone else in this thread so far to capture the feeling of it. It's old, and it's usually talked about in terms of distractions and virtue. Cities are said to be corrupting, somehow, and rural life somehow ennobling. But as someone else pointed out up thread, rural life is often characterized by crushing poverty and a sense of isolation.

People like us can choose to live in the country, because we have other options; most people who live there, don't live there out of choice. Most people in the country seem to want to move to the city [google video].

I don't have a dog in the virtue fight. I think it's clear that cities spawn more fundamental innovation, and rural life tends to require more day to day micro-innovation (in order to deal with problems as they crop up) -- so while rural folks might be cleverer in a particular way, city folks might be cleverer in a different way. I see these phenomena (in-migration to cities, people's feelings about rural/urban virtues, etc.) as facts of life; we deal with them. But I am interested in why we have these feelings.
posted by lodurr at 10:24 AM on September 4, 2007


Can't both sides just agree that modern American suburbs suck the most?

Jim Kunstler, is that you?
posted by moonbiter at 10:25 AM on September 4, 2007


RavinDave writes "They just roll-over and pull the GOP lever each election. Then proceed to bitch about their lot in life for the next 364 days."

Weird how certian groups are stereotyped as being across the board complainers.

jessamyn writes "but I get more city people telling me they'd love to 'be able to' move to the country than people around here ever seem to pine for moving to the city. Just one rural person's observation."

Proabably because country people who want to move to the city mostly can while city people wanting to move to the country are often unable to because they are tied to urban areas by their jobs.

oneirodynia writes "Crop rotation doesn't have much of a direct impact on insects, compared to nutrition."

It's a secondary benefit for sure but it is still a benefit. When plant specific bugs burst forth in the spring if their particular plant isn't in around those bugs are going to die.
posted by Mitheral at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2007


this is how we were meant to live, before our excessive numbers forced most of us into cities.
posted by bruce at 9:53 AM on September 4 [+] [!]


No, I believe we were "meant" to live in the Garden of Eden... at any rate we're definitely not "meant" to be posting on metafilter, which makes us extra naughty.

Anyway, this is my dumb background noise theory, but at least it explains everything you see on "Cops."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:43 AM on September 4 [29 favorites +] [!]


Does this FPP count as mental noise?
posted by mek at 10:35 AM on September 4, 2007


hello lodurr...

that depends on what resources matter to you when you're doing the math.

i'm putting clean water and tillable soil at the top.

but i am interested in why we have these feelings.

just a theory: people are animals, but they like to feel superior to and somehow fundamentally different from animals. toolmaking wasn't nearly enough, so we conceived a moral sense, a right-wrong dichotomy that we flattered ourselves in our exclusive possession. trouble is, when the density of our species approaches the tipping point, it distorts the collective and individual moralities, ethics become more situational, self-indulgences are more easily granted, victimology gains a premium. we look in the mirror and are uncomfortable with the animal looking back at us.
posted by bruce at 10:40 AM on September 4, 2007


Well, I think that the urban:rural::inferior:superior dichotomy is a result of our civilization's movement from a majority-rural to a majority-urban population, coupled with the human tendency to romanticize the past.

If, hypothetically, a culture went the other direction over the course of many generations (e.g., not collapsing, but migrating slowly), they would probably romanticize the urban life. As a dim memory, it would seem more pleasant than the day-to-day reality they were faced with.

We tend -- both as individuals and collectively -- to remember things that were pleasant and forget things that are painful. The result of this is that we remember the past as being much more pleasant than it ever was. Since agriculture is our society's "past," it gets romanticized.

Also: the author is a douche.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:49 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can't both sides just agree that modern American suburbs suck the most?

Only if they can agree that those suburbs all fit precisely into your image of them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:51 AM on September 4, 2007


what a fool i've been- living in the city and watching good movies and hearing great music and meeting interesting people from all over the world.

i see it so clearly now- it was all just background noise!!

Daddy why did you leave us!
I shouldn't have cheated on her!
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2007


ps realistic answer: cities are where new things happen. people demonize/fear new things.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:01 AM on September 4, 2007


ps realistic answer: cities are where new things happen. people demonize/fear new things. the end.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:01 AM on September 4, 2007


A couple years ago when I was attending the orientation for a year-long domestic volunteer corps. One incoming member was introduced as the first corps member to ever serve in Podunk Gulch, Oregon. She was born in the community that she was about to serve in and she was very passionate about this small ranching town where she was tasked with creating funding for a local heritage museum. She was hotel roommates with the bleedingest heart liberal at the whole conference and they got along fine, but the corps member from Podunk Gulch mostly bonded and ate with with the other rural corps members.

When I ate lunch with them, she actually said, "the only people I really hate are environmentalists and vegetarians." Because, you know, they create laws that tie down the ranchers who are the true stewards of the land and they don't support the ranchers by buying meat. (Entitlement much? But I digress.) Sufficeth to say, I didn't want to draw out the discussion and I just pointed out that at least everyone wanted to take care of the land and that's what should matter. From my city boy worldview she seemed well indoctrinated in the culture of the community she was going to serve in.

In the end she was run out of town (her hometown) on a rail when her father died under suspicious circumstances. I don't know all the details of the story, but my understanding is that a lot of the reason why the community turned against her was because of a conspiracy theory regarding her affiliation with the volunteer corps.

Jus' saying, small Oregon towns might seem more friendly than the city (but I counter that you haven't spent time in a large Oregon town, clearly), but they can turn on you hella fast.
posted by Skwirl at 11:10 AM on September 4, 2007


Only if they can agree that those suburbs all fit precisely into your image of them.

I'm talking about strip malls. New Jersey. Developments where they go in and bulldoze all the land and trees and then have to put in big pits so the place whole thing doesn't flood, and scrawny nasty-looking trees that need guy wires to hold them up. Aluminum siding McMansions and parking lots bigger than the destination they serve. Places where you CANNOT walk anywhere but out your front door and into your car.

That's a lot of what's been built recently, and as far as I know is still being built.

There are nicer suburbs. I don't know if they'll be tenable in the future, but I grew up in a suburbs where at least I could walk to the train station or to my low wage part time teenage job, where there were real trees, and nice, individual houses. They're not building those so much anymore.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2007


I can't think of any good Greek examples, someone else probably can, but the Roman fascination with it was a lot like ours.

The first writer of pastorals was Theocritos, a Hellenistic Greek. A better example of the rural=good thing in Greek literature, though, is "Daphnis and Chloe" and the other later Greek romances (1st - 4th c. AD)
posted by dd42 at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2007


How does the author of this piece expect to be taken seriously using this rhetoric? You think all farmers should go fuck themselves? Really?

I really think that. Masturbation is normal and healthy, so farmers should fuck themselves. So should electricians and telephone sanitizers and everyone else, for that matter.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2007


Oh, well - New Jersey. Are they still building new suburbs there?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2007


.... everyone else, for that matter.

I hate to admit this, but I'm honestly not sure how this would work. I mean, what are the mechanics? Maybe it's a semantic thing, maybe it's this word "fuck." I keep imagining sitting on a dildo or something. Not my deal, really, yaknowwhadimean?
posted by lodurr at 12:26 PM on September 4, 2007


The first writer of pastorals was Theocritos, a Hellenistic Greek. A better example of the rural=good thing in Greek literature, though, is "Daphnis and Chloe" and the other later Greek romances (1st - 4th c. AD)

And Hesiod was celebrating good honest rural toil in 700 BC.
posted by ormondsacker at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2007


this is how we were meant to live, before our excessive numbers forced most of us into cities....

Whatever. I can wake up at 4 am, walk two blocks and get Korean food. Then go get a beer at the bar with a 6am license and be in bed when you're out milking the cows.
posted by electroboy at 1:07 PM on September 4, 2007


I grew up on a dairy, pig and chicken farm in a very small town. After living in the city for over ten years, I have equal affection for both ways of life. My dream is for urbanites to know and appreciate where their food comes from, and for ruralites to not be so wary of the bustle and those who come from it -- because they share a common enemy: suburbs. They suck and blow.


Oh, and "wankstain" made my day. Thanks, ClanvidHorse!
posted by operalass at 1:14 PM on September 4, 2007


I think what is interesting is that this author and probably the vast majority of commentators in this thread have no exposure to any actual farmers. The ones that do (like Miko) say intelligent things about how varied the experience really is. Personally, I think the penchant for romanticizing the life of the farmer or even back-to-the-lander is this mis-guided thought that rural life is simple. I'm sure rural life can be simple, but I can say with some real certainty that it usually isn't all that different in terms of schedules and stress from the life of an urbanite.

I happen to be a small-scale farmer. One of the ones that might be seen supplying your hip urban co-ops. I chose the rural life and agriculture for a myriad of reasons; among them a sense of building communities and a desire for that particular quality of life. Does that make me self-righteous? I love where I live and I love what I do; in fact, I'm very passionate about it. Perhaps the author confuses the need for the small-scale farmer to defend himself from the encroachment of suburbs and industrial agriculture with self-righteousness. That would be a huge mistake though.

Anyway, all his hipster friends probably think he is incredibly edgy for using such complicated sentences to attack a demographic that is as real as a fairy tale to him. And for what it's worth, if I ever left the country I'd move to Manhattan....I see a lot of similarities in fact.
posted by limmer at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2007


After living in the city for over ten years, I have equal affection for both ways of life. My dream is for urbanites to know and appreciate where their food comes from, and for ruralites to not be so wary of the bustle and those who come from it -- because they share a common enemy: suburbs. They suck and blow.

This sums up my feeling almost exactly actually. My neighbors out here are farmers and we have a lot to teach eachother.

Oh, and "wankstain" made my day.

I was sure you said Wankistan which has now made MY day.
posted by jessamyn at 1:47 PM on September 4, 2007


The impoverished peoples of Wankistan need your help. They are spent.
posted by psmealey at 1:55 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


New Jersey

Worth a chuckle. I'm from New Jersey. Parts of it are overdeveloped. However, it's still the Garden State - I just returned from a vacation there with large bags of tomatoes, corn, peaches, eggplants, cucumbers, and other produce, bought from the farmstand in the town I was visiting. Looking up some agricultural statistics, I find that NJ is second in the nation for blueberry production, 3rd in cranberry production and green pepper production, and 4th in peach production. The state has over 836,000 acres in agricultural production (17% of the state's total land area) generating a market crop value of almost $700,000,000. But about 85% of those are small-scale farms, generating an annual crop value of under $50,000 each. Very little in the way of big agribusiness.

Farms are everywhere, and farmers are, too. A New Jersey farmer is an hour or two away from New York, Washington, or Philadelphia. It's not always an isolated life in a cultural desert of the American hinterland. I live in Northern New England now, in a small city. The people I know who farm here have an interesting array of ways of life - one rents her fields as a tenant farmer for a CSA and lives in an apartment a few miles away in a sorta-suburban town. One lives in my neighborhood, again in an apartment, and grows greens in a greenhouse for the restuarant market, a greens CSA, and the farmer's market. One lives just outside of my city, not ten minutes away, and raises turkey, pork, chicken, and beef on just a few acres. Small farms like this, studded throughout every region, are a smart way to set up the food supply, and will be increasingly important as national security, higher fuel prices, and infrastructure problems become permanent American concerns.

The dream of mutual appreciation and mutual respect from both rural and urban dwellers is a good one and I think limmer said it beautifully, too. But this essay was just a rehash of the old Jefferson vs. Hamilton argument. Whether anyone thinks farmers are self-righteous or not is sort of a moot point. We need farmers desperately in general, and beyond that simple statement, we need more of certain kinds of farming and less of others. our food supply is in a pretty bad way these days and needs reform. Sneering at people who know how to grow food and are willing to make the sacrifices that entails isn't really the way to improve matters.
posted by Miko at 2:17 PM on September 4, 2007


I'm reminded of the old Bloom County strip where Opus is learning to be a farmer.

Milo: "Okay, next test: say the following two sentences in one breath without cracking up."
Opus: "Alright."
Milo: "Keep the government out of my business..."
Opus: "Keep the government out of my business..."
Milo: "...where's my federal subsidy check?"
Opus: "...where's my federal subsid-hee, hee, hee!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:36 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just a quick point - the people who grow fruits and veggies generally don't receive subsidies in any meaningful amounts. American law considers them "specialty" growers. Most subsidies go to the Big 5 "commodity crops" - corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, and cotton. These are used to keep prices down, particularly animal-feed and sugar prices, and to generate export value. Farmers who grow most of the actual food we eat aren't getting much subsidy money.
posted by Miko at 2:40 PM on September 4, 2007


...a common enemy: suburbs. They suck and blow.

if I ever left the country I'd move to Manhattan....I see a lot of similarities in fact.

Interesting that you say that, limmer; I'd like to hear more about that.

I happen to see a great similarity between country/farm life and city life: people in both places are forced to remember some things are simply beyond the individual's power to control. Tornado, drought, subway slowdown, blackout...

I think living through such experiences has encouraged me to be much more patient and stoic (though, considering I was starting at zero...).

By contrast, suburbs foster the illusion of manageability.

If you ever have to leave your freestanding, climate-controlled home situated in your personal, private yard, you get into your climate-controlled car alone (or with people of your own choosing) and play your favorite music on the stereo. You drive down carefully monitored streets inhabited by people who share your worldview to a parking garage next to an enclosed mall, where you can predict what will be on the store shelves and what sort of people you will see -- namely, others just like yourself.

(OK, yeah, I grew up in the suburbs. How could you tell?)
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:08 PM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


GrammarMoses, based on your comments I think you definitely get where I'm coming from. To me, it's about letting go of the natural tendency to control our environment and instead finding it's rhythm and learning to thrive in that. You're absolutely right, the suburbs are the most pure manifestation of that urge to gain complete control of our surroundings...a fear-based instinct, I would argue.

As much as I find constant inspiration in sitting on my front porch at night an hearing nothing but the loudness of nature's sounds, I get equal inspiration walking the complexity that is Manhattan. On one hand, a pinnacle of nature and on the other, a pinnacle of our human construction.

I also find the human communities similar in very rural places and very urban places. As a rule (certainly not always) there seems to be a sense of connectedness that is all too often absent elsewhere. Ultimately, that compelling sense of "place" is strongest in these extreme environments.
posted by limmer at 3:42 PM on September 4, 2007


RE: Pastabagel's noise theory - being in big landscapes for example next to a mountain, a canyon, a horizon, the sea, makes us feel peaceful and at ease precisely because we seem to ourselves less significant in those landscapes. And therefore our problems seem less significant also.

This is why you should never trust hikers/nature types.
posted by dydecker at 4:07 PM on September 4, 2007


I'm kind of surprised that nobody has referenced Dan Savage's Urban Archipelago in this discussion yet.

I would argue, though, that when it comes to social policy and decision making in our increasingly globalized and overpopulated world, rural cultures are at a big disadvantage. For the most part, rural cultures don't have the urgency of having to try to figure out how to live with different and diverse cultures from immigrants to homosexuals. And rural individuals have much fewer immediate, rational reasons to care about the threat of terrorism.

Me? All the wedge issues are right next door. Planned Parenthood is down the street. Urban individuals have to rub elbows with people of all stripes. My neighbors across the street have a rainbow flag. My other neighbors listen to loud hip hop. The woman behind our house is deeply religious and has lived in the neighborhood for years before I was born. Recent immigrants run all of my favorite restaurants and food carts. I grew up in a neighborhood with the Jewish Community Center just a few miles down the road from the Mosque. I used to ride my bike to work through a park crowded with individuals sleeping in sleeping bags. The desperately mentally ill are a daily sight in some neighborhoods. I have to learn how to live with all these people. Hell, we even have immediate access to the opinions of rural expats.

While I realize the hypocrisy of speaking about diversity and generalizing about country folk, it seems to me that anyone that believes that diversity and progressivism are important is going to be troubled and alienated by the social demographic trends of most small or rural towns. The ideal of the country is that they are such staunch individualists, and yet they sure are all up in our business.
posted by Skwirl at 5:12 PM on September 4, 2007


rural cultures don't have the urgency of having to try to figure out how to live with different and diverse cultures from immigrants to homosexuals.

That's funny, that's not my experience at all. My little town (2000 people) has a pretty diverse population and while it's no melting pot, there are a lot of different types of people. The difference, to me, with living rurally is that you not only have to learn to get along with these people, in many cases you all have to pitch in to survive and/or live your lives.

So I make much nicer with my neighbors next door who are very very different from me (and vice versa) partly because we all share a driveway and split the plowing bill and his kid mows my lawn and I know about his history of domestic abuse and keep half an eye on how his wife is doing and whether he's drinking at all. He keeps an eye on my place, tells me if there were weird cars in my driveway, helps me when my car is stuck on the ice in the driveway and says it's okay if I swim in his pool. If we lived a few apartments down from each other in Seattle -- where I lived for ten+ years -- I don't think I would ever have talked to him.

The normal social services -- where you can call someone like AAA or a lawnmowing service or whoever -- are done more by the people in your immediate vicinity and if you don't like the electrician because he's a Republican/Democrat/Catholic/Redneck/Mormon well you're going to be shit out of luck when you need an electrician because he is the only game in town.

I'm not posturing in any "blah blah they don't have THIS in the city" way and I'd kill for a decent Thai place that was closer than 45 minutes away, but I think back to when NY had the blackouts and everyone sat outside and met their neighbors and had this sort of congenial chitchat with people they didn't really know very well, sharing stories and food and water and whatever. Well, that's the way it is out here all the time.

I get wistful sometimes when I go to the city because my friends can spend whole weeks hanging out with people who are just like them -- share music tastes, dress the same, work in similar jobs, similar education etc -- and around here many of the people my age are grandparents, often, and come from economic backgrounds that I only learned about in social studies class. Diversity has many different faces, I guess, is all I'm saying. I'd like to see this guy put a "fuck the farmers" sign up in his yard if he lived in town here, he might find it hard to find someone to work on his car or work on his plumbing.
posted by jessamyn at 5:24 PM on September 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


I guess it might be time to add my own input to the thread that I started (perhaps 'provoked' might be a better word).

I had initially considered linking, not to a specific article, but to the magazine itself. This may be a bit naive of me, but I honestly can't tell if The Smart Set is 'for real', or if they are pulling our leg. The name (which may have indeed made sense in the 1920's for all I know) is so provocative, and the content - completely unedited streams from inexperienced writers - pushes the boundaries of parody. I have no way to judge this, being completely out of touch with the academic/literary environment this is coming from, but it sure leaves me scratching my head.

As to the topic of this particular story, although the fundamental questions underlying the issue are indeed interesting, the very fact that an accusation of self-righteousness was being made in such a self-righteous way kind of takes the edge off any of his arguments.

But his discussion of people like EB White, who 'glorify' their rural experiences while being in reality totally dependent on the industrial society (something well-understood by White himself, I am sure), was a valid point.

Anyway, I'm glad the link brought so many people and ideas out of the woodwork ...
posted by woodblock100 at 6:10 PM on September 4, 2007


just why does our society have a general consensus that rural=good and urban=bad?


what?? That's far from a consensus as far as I can see. I've met just as many people who believe the exact opposite. They're both full of shit, but there you go.
posted by jonmc at 6:54 PM on September 4, 2007


I think I will just close my eyes and fantasize about chasing him around my tiny field with my not so tiny tractor.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:56 PM on September 4, 2007


With 77 +faves, I guess I'm just about the only one who -- while agreeing that external disorder in some people's lives can be a reflection of internal disorder, and that 'entertainment' as a form of background-noise wallpaper can be an indication that people would rather just not think as much -- found Pastabagel's comment left a rank tang of judgmental elitism in my mouth.

Koreans tend to live in a churning maelstrom of noise and disorder -- I'm perpetually astonished at the amount of clutter and chaos people here will happy live in -- and I think that there's a lot there that can be culturally traced back to relatively recent widespread poverty and war and upheaval, but I stop short, no matter how much it annoys me sometimes, of calling them 'stupid people, violent people, and people who are emotionally damaged' or are 'desperately afraid of confronting some truth about themselves'.

Even though in some ways I don't disagree with what Pastabagel said, I am compelled to suspect that he or she may not have spent all that much time in poorer countries or even neighbourhoods, where the zen blessings of introspection-fostering silence are more luxury than birthright.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:03 AM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


(...and if I am incorrect in that assumption I do apologize, but that's the impression I got.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 AM on September 5, 2007


I've long held a pet theory which I call the Background Noise Theory. The background noise theory is quite simple: stupid people, violent people, and people who are emotionally damaged need to have background noise in their lives at all times to drown out their internal critical dialogue. Have you ever been to a bad part of town and listened? You hear shouting, children screaming or crying, car horns, excessively loud music, sirens, all on top of each other. It's more than ordinary city noise, is people creating more noise for the sake of more noise.

Pastabagel, I call those people the Banging Class:
In between the Lower Class and the Middle Class, there's a Banging Class. The Banging Class has enough money to afford stereos, electric scooters, motorcycles, riced-up Hondas, and all the other modern noisemakers. But the Banging Class is too stupid--I say that objectively--to know how to appropriately use those crashing, cracking, thumping, whining, rumbling gadgets. The Banging Class can't imagine its effect on a group containing eight million members, so it acts as if it has none. The Banging Class likes the sound of the peel out, the booming bass, the revved engine. The Banging Class likes to put the gas pedal to the floor for a short street block, and then slam on the brakes at the stop light. The Banging Class jackhammers in the morning, but hardly make a noise the rest of the day. If anything has to be banged, the Banging Class bangs it when you're at home. The Banging Class never sets a thing down, it lets it drop: boxes, barrels, trash cans, dumpsters, cellar doors, tailgates, lumber, metal beams, anything. The Banging Class never met a door it wouldn't rather slam. The Banging Class likes to yell across open spaces, talk in dark movie theatres, shout into cell phones, talk to fill silence. The Banging Class listens to its voicemail on speakerphone, whistles aimlessly, chews with its mouth open, comes home from the bar drunk and screaming just before dawn. The Banging Class doesn't know when to shut up.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:19 AM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've long held a pet theory which I call the Background Noise Theory. The background noise theory is quite simple: stupid people, violent people, and people who are emotionally damaged need to have background noise in their lives at all times to drown out their internal critical dialogue.

Could be. But this all might suggest an explanation of why school shootings and other massacres happen with more frequency in the sticks than they do in major cities.
posted by psmealey at 4:27 AM on September 5, 2007


stavros ... found Pastabagel's comment left a rank tang of judgmental elitism in my mouth.

I can only speak for myself, but when I favorite something, it's more likely to be because I want to remember it than it is that I want to reward it.

In this case, I felt that it expressed very well an idea that I've also had: That there are a lot of people who feel a need to blot out their internal contemplative "voice". It's not a complete expression of my idea, but it's close. And it's a pretty superficial theory, but I felt that the disclaimer at the end made it clear it's just something he's playing around with. Putting it out there in places like this is one way of testing validity: If you can state it such that people understand it, and see what they find interesting about it, you get that much closer to figuring out if it works.

So maybe it's ruralist idealism, or contemplativist elitism, but it's a try. What it needs is counters, like the ones that some of us have provided.

I have known people like the ones that PB describes: They can't stand to have silence, they can't stand to not be ingesting media, and most of the people I've known who were like that never had any very deeply considered opinions and were easily moved by non-rational appeals. But I don't think the place makes them so much as selects them, and even that not very strongly.

Most of the rural folks I've known don't think, consciously, very much. Most people don't. If you hold with Jungian-derived personality theory, you would expect 50-75% of the population to be temperamentally disinclined toward sustained introspection. As I think I said -- mmeant to say, if I didn't express it -- I think urbanites have an advantage in that they're more likely to get exposed to new ideas, and are thus more likely to make fundamental innovations.

That's an idealization, too, obviously. A generalization. Generalizations aren't really good for dealing with people, just with classes of people. Sometimes you need to do that, if you want to learn anything general.

Tangential: What's the prevailing Korean attitude toward rural:urban?
posted by lodurr at 5:11 AM on September 5, 2007


Tangential: What's the prevailing Korean attitude toward rural:urban?

OK, a quick and dirty one-pass to try and address your question before bed...

Despite the fact that the cities are true hellholes (although it is slowly just beginning to change) and the countryside idyllic (relatively), everbody under the age of 60 wants to live in the city, because that's where you get rich. Many villages these days are almost entirely populated by oldsters, and have not seen new births in years. Young farmers who can't escape to the city because they are Oldest Son have taken to importing brides from Vietnam and the Philippines and China, which in this until-recently rabidly xenophobic nation is going to have interesting consequences down the road -- more than 20% of marriages last year were (if I remember correctly) of this nature, something like a 20-fold increase in 5 years. When all those 'mixed' babies (yes, I know, it's loathesome, but that's the way they talk about it here) hit the streets, things are culturally going to go boom! Korea's never seen anything like it.

So everybody goes to the city, and there's nothing left but decrepit dying farming villages, and in the villages there are, of course, no services, no hospitals, no schools, or at least no good ones, and nobody much wants to live there except the people that have to.

Which is weird, because it's often surprisingly beautiful, but it's all about the economics.

I've been predicting for years though that we've got the same kind of pattern we see in any society as the middle class grows -- the flight to the cities, and then the eventual flight out of the cities. Land in the Korean countryside is in my opinion going to be an excellent longterm investment (and I plan to get in on it), if your horizon is 10-15 years. People are going to start realizing how crappy life in the city is, and start moving out to the countryside and building nice houses and modern communities of the sort we might see in North America. Hopefully they'll do it smart -- no strip malls and the like. I think they might, if the timing is good.

At the moment something over 90% of Koreans live in apartments, and something over 80% live in cities. Outside of the cities, it's quite beautiful. That's going to change, sadly, I think.

Another interesting tangent is that those numbers -- 90/10 and 80/20 -- have basically inverted in the last 20 to 30 years. A very large part of Korean identity is predicated on that village/rural/farming/forest/mountain nostalgia nexus, historically, and even more today with everyone living in concrete beehives. All the more reason I think the flight back out of the cities is just waiting to happen.

At the moment though, people think of the countryside as dark, dirty, primitive, and hard to live in -- and they're right, in a way, because a lot of these villages are dirt-poor and completely free of services or yourg people or anything but hard-scrabble small-holding farming -- but they have this idyllic nostalgia for its undeniable beauty. Koreans tend to everything all in a rush, all together, and very few of them are foolhardy enough to stick their heads out and build a nice place out in the sticks. But it's starting.

It's the kind of contradiction that Koreans live with every damn day, in all sorts of different areas of life. I find it pretty fascinating, if sometimes a little bewildering.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:44 AM on September 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


I've long held a pet theory which I call the Background Noise Theory. The background noise theory is quite simple: stupid people, violent people, and people who are emotionally damaged need to have background noise in their lives at all times to drown out their internal critical dialogue.

Looking beyond the mighty broad brush, here are some thoughts:

If we're ascribing faux-evolutionary theories to mundane behaviors, here's another one. In the wild there are lots of things that want to kill us and eat us (lions, tigers, and bears among them). There is a natural background pattern of noises in nature: birds sing, crickets chirp, trees rustle, and streams burble. When that pattern is broken -- the birds go silent or the trees stop moving -- often something is wrong. If all the animal noises stop you can bet that there's a big predator nearby. If the trees stop moving then the wind shifted and it might be worth looking on the horizon for a thunderstorm.

In an office or apartment there are none of those noises. Our brains, equipped for the wild, keep looking for those noises and we get freaked out that there's nothing to process. Either people get distracted (the background processing system is off so it goes looking for things to pay attention to) or get nervous (silence is rarely a good sign in the wild).

Our brains have evolved to work in both foreground (building fires, skinning hides, etc) and background (listening to nature sounds) modes at the same time. Background noise satiates the background system. Period. It doesn't make those who use background noise inferior to those who are above it and would fling about random theories to bring down an entire group of people without much scientific evidence to support it.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:59 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


In an office or apartment there are none of those noises.

None of what noises?

No cars in the street? No people walking by? No birds, no insects outside our windows? No footfalls on the carpet? No creaking floorboards?

It's only in rare and exceedingly isolated environments -- much rarer and more isolated than I typically see, working in an office 9 to 12 hours a day, living in a suburban house, driving on streets -- that you experience the kind of quiet that you seem to be talking about.

And I doubt that it's a matter of "natural" versus "un-natural" noises. Humans are adapted to a wide range of habitates, and the noises in those habitats become welcome to their dwellers: City folk miss the cars, country folk can't sleep without the crickets and cicadas. Me, when I stay in teh country in high summer, I can barely sleep for all the racket. This hiss of tires on the highway two hundred feet away lulls me to sleep at night.

It's true, silence is rarely a good sign in teh wild. But in those rare places where near silence is possible, people often feel profoundly calm and rested. (I know I usually do.) Or profoundly anxious -- but I know that whenever I've felt that, I was able to determine that there were sub-audible vibrations or stale air.

I doubt that we're all that meat-programmed that we can't sleep without specific noises.
posted by lodurr at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2007


Hoofuckingray for thedevildancedlightly's great comment. Pastabagel's is very well written and thought-provoking. It's also a load of bigoted nonsense.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:57 PM on September 10, 2007


I liked Pastabagel's comment not because it was a viable evolutionary theory, nor because it shed any light on the topic at hand (I didn't think it was or did), but because it's a good description of an observable psychological phenomenon with a name: avoidance.

I don't agree that it's a useful value judgement about people of any background. It's also not useful as a point of comparison between urban and rural people. I can show you plenty of rural people who engage in this type of self-distraction. The wireless reaches out there, too.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on September 10, 2007


I would have found it humorous and thought-provoking and, like you, interesting as a description of some avoidance behavior, if it hadn't included a far-reaching assessment of a large number of people who live in the less nice parts of town and not suburbia. The above “Banging Class” is more explicit, and possibly honest, in its class and therefore implied racial bigotry, but more like than unlike pastabagel's comment.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:12 PM on September 10, 2007


do you know what i think? ... i think that some people just don't have that much going on with them - that if they play the radio loud all the time, it's because they like hearing it, not because they have all these things they don't want to think about

it might be hard to believe, but some people are actually happy, well-adjusted and don't have thoughts they have to block out

god, i HATE people like that
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2007


implied racial bigotry

I didn't perceive any of that.
posted by Miko at 5:03 AM on September 11, 2007


I didn't perceive any of that.

Likewise. That may be a New England thing where there's a lot less racial diversity and so not as much racial stratification that falls out along class lines or vice versa. Also, every place around here is a small town so there are the noisy people in the small town and the less noisy people and it has a lot less to do with your ethnic background and a lot more to do with your class. So, there's a class implication as Mo Nickels says, but it doesn't translate to a racial one in my world.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 AM on September 11, 2007


I saw it as classism, not racism. And then there are at least two ways you can see it as classist: Socioeconomically, and intellectually.
posted by lodurr at 6:41 AM on September 11, 2007


It's kind of funny -- we all seem to have projected our own assumptions onto the idea. When I initially read the "Background Noise" post, the description reminded me of niether rural nor urban people - it reminded me most of the semi-affluent suburbanpeople I've lived around at times in my life, for instance in the suburbs of Philadelphia and New York City. These were always the families that seemed the noisiest to me, and it was because of all the media running in their houses - TVs in kitchens, family rooms, and bedrooms, music players of various kinds, cell phones in frequent use, and children, two or more in many cases, which meant clusters of driveway basketball players and cul-de-sac soccer games with attendant hollering.

In talking about what kinds of people are noisier and why, I don't think we really get much insight into rural vs. urban environments, and it's certainly not the point on which I'd want to decide which was 'superior,' if there's even a meaningful way to answer that question.

Both rural and urban life have signifacnt advantages and significant disadvantages. To survive, we need a whole lot of acreage in cultivation, but it's also very efficient to organize populations densely in towns or cities. In some places, there's a nice combination of both - that's kind of true where I live, which is one reason I love it so much and feel that the quality of life is so very high. I actually think there's much that can be done in planning and civic life to reduce the limitations of rural life (in fact, that's been a major area of American political effort, from land-grant colleges and extension programs to cultural resource funding), and to encourage settlement patterns, even in more remote areas, that incorporate the best of what we've learned cities can provide. Meanwhile, careful zoning to protect agricultural/open land within cities and around city perimeters can make a huge positive difference in food sourcing, air and water quality, recreational opportunities, awareness of the natural world, open space, and other things city residents care about. Dichotomous thinking doesn't really help figure out what those kinds of planning look like.
posted by Miko at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2007


Isn't it a little bit disingenuous, even when accounting for regional differences, to ignore the racial dimension when discussing the matter of class in the US? Anyone who has lived in any number of medium to large cities—I daresay most—can tell you that the middle and lower class division falls largely along racial lines and, furthermore, the “noisiness” generalization is notably accurate.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:16 AM on September 11, 2007


Anyone who has lived in any number of medium to large cities—I daresay most—can tell you that the middle and lower class division falls largely along racial lines and, furthermore, the “noisiness” generalization is notably accurate.

And anyone who has lived just in the country won't know what you're talking about because poverty doesn't really fall along the same racial lines out here which is what I was saying. Anyone who isn't white in northern New England has about the same liklihood of being poor as they do being a college professor, business owner or student.

On the one hand EB, you're saying that there's some implied bigotry in the noisiness assertion and at the same time you're saying that the noisiness generalization is "notably accurate" which seems to me to be doing the same thing. I hear it applied to my region where the noisy people are poor white people, Miko heard it as applying to the suburbs where the noisy people are the technorati upper middle class and to you it maybe sounds like it's about the city where there may, to you or to others, be a stronger correlation between the Banging Class and a particular racial group.
posted by jessamyn at 9:31 AM on September 11, 2007


Isn't it a little bit disingenuous...

No.

It may display a lack of worldliness or perceptiveness, or it may indicate a different way of viewing social structures. Or it may simply imply the application of a razor to trim down the discussion to a manageable size -- after all, one can't seriously expect everyone to discuss everything that's related to everything that they say. We'd have to talk about epigenetics right now, for pete's sake.

It does not, however, imply disingenuousness. It's quite possible to say any of this shit in complete frankness.
posted by lodurr at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2007


What Jessamyn says is quite true of this region. Furthermore, while city poverty is a high-profile problem, perhaps due to the concentration of media in cities and edge cities, the face of American poverty is largely rural and often white.
Myth: The vast majority of the poor are African American or Hispanics.*

In contrast to the myth, the majority of those living in poverty in both urban and rural areas are not minorities. Forty-eight percent of those living in poverty in America are white (O’Hare 1996). In 1990, 72.9 percent of those living in poverty in rural areas in the United States were white (RSS Task Force 1993:32). In the North Central region, the rural poor are even more likely to be white, comprising in 1993 more than 90 percent of those in rural poverty, with African Americans comprising 3.7 percent and Native Americans 2.9 percent.
Is childhood poverty more prevalent in rural America?
One out of five or 20.6% of non-metropolitan children (compared to 17.4% of metropolitan children) lived in food insecure households in 2000. The Rural Policy Research Institute reports that 23% of rural children live in poverty. According to a study by America’s Second Harvest, child poverty rates are higher in rural areas (18.9 percent) than in metro areas (15.4 percent). The 2000 Census revealed that some counties in the United States have three out of five children living in poverty.(Rural Poverty Research Institute)
I don't think there's any disingenuousness in my views, which are drawn from and fully accord with my life experience - I've lived in city, town, suburb, and the deep woods, in the South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. You know I'd be among the first to object to subtle racism, but I simply don't see this or the comments about it as necessarily weighted with ideas about race.

In short, the interactions of race and class break down in complex ways, and ways which are different in urban, semiurban, and rural environments.
posted by Miko at 9:51 AM on September 11, 2007


"nd at the same time you're saying that the noisiness generalization is ‘notably accurate’ which seems to me to be doing the same thing."

No, because I'm not making a value judgment about it. Both the comments in question are.

I feel about it like stav does. I don't like noisiness, but I don't think that there's something defective about noisy people especially if it's a shared class or cultural trait.

As for being disingenuousness, I'm not saying that to discuss your own rural experience and say that the noisiness stuff resonates with you is being disingenuousness; I'm saying that interpreting these two comments as being non-racial as if you had no awareness that in America's cities class does break down along race divisions and that someone writing a long rant about all those poor noisy people and how either they are psychologically maladjusted or just plain rude doesn't have a racist undercurrent.

I don't know either of those writers. I don't know that they live in the country and have always lived in the country.

And, by the way, I grew up in a small town of 12,000 people and there, too, the poorest people were the Hispanics who lived, literally, "across the tracks". You just don't have to look very far to see American racism expressed in class divisions.

I have no idea why you guys want to defend these comments. They would be perfect in National Review. Well, the latter, anyway. The former is more frou-frou Californian self-help meet my housekeeper Maria she's delightful Maria you missed a spot white person bullshit.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:44 PM on September 11, 2007


I'm not saying that to discuss your own rural experience and say that the noisiness stuff resonates with you is being disingenuousness; I'm saying that interpreting these two comments as being non-racial as if you had no awareness that in America's cities class does break down along race divisions and that someone writing a long rant about all those poor noisy people and how either they are psychologically maladjusted or just plain rude doesn't have a racist undercurrent [is to be disingenuous].

Yet we've established that class doesn't break down on those lines. Most of the poor people in America are "white" or latino.

The relationship between class and race is much more complex than that. If there were no race issues, there would still be class issues, and they would look a lot like race issues.

So, no: Even if you are conscious that there's a relationship between class and race, you are not necessarily being disingenuous if you discuss behavioral characteristics that are often attributed to members of "racially" marked groups.
posted by lodurr at 6:04 AM on September 12, 2007


Well, I'm of course including Hispanics as a race, being that there's no such thing as race anyway, it's ethnicity.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:56 AM on September 12, 2007


And the majority of poor are still "white." But since there's no such thing as race, why are we bothering?
posted by lodurr at 7:12 AM on September 12, 2007


I'm not defending the comments, merely the idea expressed within one comment that some people are quite noisy, that noise is an avoidance technique, and that noisiness is distributed across the population in rural, suburban, and urban environments and among many American ethnicities. I can't even see the point you're taking on stated anywhere, EB. You may be tilting at a windmill here.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on September 12, 2007


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