Californians as a group "are a people in a state already surfeited with a smug sense of superiority and, as an ironic consequence, a parochialism and insularity at odds with the innovation, prosperity and openness for which California is rightly known."
("Obama: No Surprise That Hard-Pressed Pennsylvanians Turn Bitter"
Huffington Post (April 11, 2008))
Urban Sophisticates / Small Town Hicks: Reality CheckFor decades, I've seen indications that the stereotype behind "Green Acres" and similar comedies is not merely false: it's inverted. (Green Acres fans: please don't take offense. I thought the show was funny, and nobody came off as particularly sharp.)
Stay with me, please: I'm not trying to create another 'victim' group.
The stereotype is:
- Knowledgeable, up-to-date, broad-minded city folk
- Ignorant, decades out of touch with current events, dangerously narrow-minded country folk
In a time when people seldom traveled more than a few miles from the place they were born, those who lived in cities had an enormous advantage over those in the country.
People who lived in cities had opportunities to meet and talk with many more people than people who lived in the country. And, city dwellers were more likely to meet people from other cities, or even other countries.
Where the country bumpkin might know the king's name, the city sophisticate might know what the king had for breakfast that morning, and be comparing several versions of what the king and the ambassador from abroad were discussing.
That was then.
Old Assumptions Meet the Information AgeI just got through listening to, and watching, a message that the Pope read, for the American people, in anticipation of his visit next week. I plan to watch part of it, although I'll be over a thousand miles away, in Minnesota.
That message is available to people living in downtown Manhattan; Winnemucca, Nevada; and Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
A person doesn't have to live in the heart of a great city to be informed. Not now. For example, I live in a small town in central Minnesota, with a population of about 4,000.
The stereotypical small town hick might, possibly, know who was president, but wouldn't be informed about affairs outside his little twarf. This resident of a small town, in a few minutes, pulled together this list of headlines:
- "Sludge Tested As Lead-Poisoning Fix"
ABC (April 13, 2008)
- " Police: Spears has minor accident in Mercedes"
CNN (April 13, 2008)
- "American Says Its Flights Are Getting Back to Normal"
The New York Times (April 13, 2008)
- "South Korea Confirms Fourth Outbreak of Bird Flu Virus"
eFluxMedia (April 13, 2008)
Living outside a major metropolitan area no longer means being isolated from national and world events.
In fact, I suspect that people in rural areas are more knowledgeable of urban conditions, than the reverse.
It's not that rural people are smarter, or more interested.
What's going on in urban areas permeates the media. It's hard not to know something about New York City, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities.
- Real-life minutia, from the latest grass fire outside Los Angeles, to traffic problems in New York City, dominate the news. It takes a major tornado outbreak to get something that detailed about life in the heartland on national television.
- Fictionalized accounts of life in cities dominate entertainment media. Having lived both in urban and rural America, I know from personal experience that "Law and Order," for example, does a better job of portraying urban life, than "Green Acres" does for rural living.
Wake Up, Everyone! It's a New World!I don't expect that 'sophisticated' people in California, and elsewhere, will give up that "smug sense of superiority and ... parochialism and insularity" any time soon. It's too comfortable a garment to cast off easily.
But, people who really believe that the natives of rural Pennsylvania are armed and dangerous xenophobic religious chauvinists are living in a world of yesterday: one that never really quite existed.
It's time for the rest of us to get on with the business of living in the Information Age.
A related post: "A Xenophobic Remark by a Gun-Toting Religious Small Town Person" (April 12, 2008)