The two worlds; oh, the two worlds.
by David Eide .

I would characterize my own development as, (1) opposing the "rural roots,", embracing the urban intellectual as a kind of guide, (2) disillusionment with that and a re-invigoration of that rural aspect, with history as a guide, (3) disillusionment with that for the limitations it imposes and so.....this place.

It's not as clear cut and absolute as I make it sound. I reached a point of disgust with the "intellectual" who pander more often than provide insight. I haven't seen any Voltaire's or Cicero's emerge out of them. In some cases I see a retreat to European intellectual forms which becomes an obstacle. The intellect needs and sometimes yearns for Europe because a core of intellectual values exist in Europe; at some time, at some place. Europe is more intellectually attached to the core of tradition and has more experience with it. But then most European intellectuals saw exactly what was going to happen. Europe was dependent on its imperialism and colonialism but once those were gone the efficacy would vanish and with it the great legacy of European thought and with that, their own contributions to that legacy. So Europe produced tremendous pessimism during that time and American thinkers conflated that with general pessimism toward the West.

Where does that leave the poor American? Adapting European ideas to American experience, with the idea that America is really the last repository for western intellectual and cultural traditions. You find that attitude mostly in the east coast where most of the intellectuals collect, publish, teach, and influence.

Here on the west coast it's a bit different. Every European idea is counterbalanced by an "asian idea." The "asian idea" begins with the natives and reaches various levels of sophistication with Buddhism and human potential movements. It is not intellectual so much as when or what the intelligent do when their faith in Christianity is shattered and they meet the unresolved tension between ambition and conscience.

Emotionalism, which is one attribute of the provincial, is more prevalent. The core of tradition exists in the university complex that runs from the state of Washington to southern California. But these other traditions are taken up by students and graduates who protest against the reality that face them in graduation.

The west coast is still in an ambiguous position between Nature and Civilization. The first impulse is to build a new civilization rather than adapt to the one already existing and when the individual is thrown back on himself in his ambitions he goes to Nature.

Both the revolutionary and the reactionary hate the law. They hate the law because it is a recognition of their own irrationality, ie. a rejection of their own will to power. They both intuit that law, in its ideal state, is a preventative against the manipulation of the citizens. Both the revolutionary and the reactionary, seeing that their powerful wills by necessity must manipulate a wide range of citizens, look at the law as an obstacle (on their way to power.) When they have seized power it's a different story of course.

We are in the midst of a reactionary movement which hates the law, whether it is a Supreme Court justice, tax laws, environmental laws, laws restraining police powers, laws restraining corporate powers, attacks against 1st amendment rights. Symptoms of great fear play in the mind and heart of otherwise decent individuals. Powerful and fearful voices rise up to sway common sense. All of this eventually brings consequence and it's difficult to know what they are at this time. What it does is corrode the democratic energy. It energizes the worst and subdues the best in democracy. The age cries out for a transcendence to the fear of the time. It doesn't rise up through the leadership of the people. It can only abide in that object that is above both leadership and the people.

Here is one very self-evident problem with America and the American people. Their values are overwhelmingly rural in nature. America never had the experience of urban cities developing over a long period of time. Rural values are excellent when the nation is growing, when it is hide-bound and so on. But for a nation that is dominant in the world it is not particularly wise to hold onto rural values; the spread of fundamentalism, even sympathy for "developing nations," for example, and why you see a growing urban sophistication that becomes more and more distant from its rural roots.

It is this split, this division which is acutely felt at this time. This is why there is extreme rationalism and extreme irrationality in the US.

* * * * * * * *

Of the typical suburban man or suburban woman- there are various types. One of these is the young to middle-aged man who works in the city or who works in one of the professional outlets in the area. He is usually in the process of buying his own home, dotes on his children; not particularly religious but has no pretenses in this area either. Is not a thinker or contemplative since his occupation demands both and demands them away from his own intimate self. He is essentially a practical person; the home and its care are the objects which center his practicality. He is invariably a sports fan of some sort. He is aware of the world in the way that a radio talk show personality is aware of the world; it seemingly exists for his opinion, his endless, insatiable desire to form opinion. But he understands that opinion is his only leverage against it. Property, the vote, and opinion are the three typical leverages against the world for this the typical American, suburban or otherwise. There are various dreaded rituals of this man or woman: the commute, mortgage payments, divorce. Politics interests him only as a reflection of his own outlook.

If drama exists in his life it is that which exists between himself, his wife and children. Or herself, husband, and children. This drama always centers around an Image that is built up out of expectation and frustration. He or she is usually determined by their great fears; fear of poverty, fear of communism, fear of insanity. Whether his life is built on the planks of these fears is problematical. Ideologists would say yes, this is true but I doubt it. I think the suburban man or woman is linked to all those people who have existed in the world, in any advanced civilization, who do not want to be bothered by the world. Who do not want to be inundated by the problematical nature of the world. Anything which they can't understand they ascribe to children or subversives. They view the world as a style and see their role as redeeming the style through life style. So eventually, they come to see themselves as the embodiment of hope and anything peripheral to their concerns to be subversions of hope.

There's tremendous decency in the suburbs, much more so than in the cities or rural areas. It's a decency that the typical man or woman is proud of and it makes him generally tolerant as long as he is not forced to move from the Image. They have differentiated enough so that a kind of style appears. There is a part of the suburb that still retains its original character, usually the suburb was a whistle stop for a great train line or a stagecoach stop or a county area settled by grandees of a former age who cultivated the land. In every suburban town there is a marker, a monument or building, some reference that individuates that this is the oldest spot; perhaps surrounded by a row of houses that are restored or some old shop or store that was built from the first few settlers eighty years before the great onslaught came.

Then you have an inner core of houses, neighborhoods that were erected in the fifties, are usually occupied by young professionals whose roots were "country." Their houses are beginning to become venerable though they're only a few decades old.

After the young professionals came the owners who began to build in the hills; who then built country clubs and some degree of tension was developed between the two. Then came the services. In the beginning were a few odd shops and stores. When an area got large enough supermarkets came into being usually accompanied by drug stores and liquor stores. Eventually the shopping mall came into being.

If there is any statement of philosophy in the suburbs it is embodied by the country club and the shopping mall. Here is where mass culture have created a monument to themselves. It is the epitome of human energy directed towards utility, necessity, and pleasure. There's little one can say about them because they might not be around in 20-30 years. The point being that the philosophy underlying the suburb is service.

The suburban man or woman believes him or herself to be servicing the society through his work which is usually: government work in defense or welfare, public utilities, finance, law, medicine. These professions are essentially service professions and the suburb is their great reward. Service is the one link to community. It is the remnants of farming community, upgraded by the professions and shined up by all kinds of accouterments. The grocery clerk and sales clerk are the link between the outside and inside.

There is such a thing as working-class suburbs or working class neighborhoods in suburbs; usually, young people who work in refineries, or auto service shops and the like. The basic ingredients of that area are drink, drugs, cars, parties, etc. Most people are decent. They are totally subsumed by family, sports, and work. Leisure time is spent in front of TV or sports or some recreations like boating. The bonds of community are a great deal tighter which creates violence, frustration, security and all good and bad that come from that.

Personally I like people in the suburbs. I feel more comfortable with them. There's far more hostility in the cities, although in cities you get a finer mixture and distillation of stuff. I suppose I like neither when it comes right down to it.

I do lean more towards viewing the city as a place to work, to do business but it's no refuge unless you are young. It is a great refuge when young until you start running into more vultures than red-breasted robins.

They are here in me in some sense. I want to feel rooted somewhere. But its nearly impossible to do unless you fabricate some lie. I think this is generally the experience of America, although I feel rooted to 1) the house I was raised in 2) the hills I played in.

There are other extra personal things I feel rooted in.

What are some of those things:

  1. Getting more rooted in American history. At least such a thing exists. Plus, I trace my ancestors directly back to 1640 or thereabouts. So there is a strong referent to that history. And there are quite extraordinary things about that history.
  2. nature

What aren't you rooted in?

  1. A profession- it's been the source of great tribulation and misunderstanding, since a profession takes care of many things. It's a huge blanket and if you don't have that blanket it's hard to communicate to people, esp. when they take things for granted. I don't think writing is all that different than law or medicine. The one huge difference is that you don't have the support that a professional life gives. And doesn't this influence the buttress people use to create their individual selves?
  2. Some consistent intellectual community, even an ideology. I have intellectual interest and I'm fairly certain as to where they are rooted in myself but I really can't say I have any consistent thought. I don't think America escapes or transcends thought. I don't think it is "beyond the intellect," whatever that may mean.
  3. A religion of some kind. I read the Bible. I've read other sacred books. I hold them high. They've changed me. But I have little religious practice; social religion. I always ask, "if God is dead what's the new God?" All the answers presented so far have been abominable. At the same time, social faith can hook on the worst damn things. There are times when I feel I understand Christ so well it has frightened me. It is all on-going. I generally agree with those who suggest that the symbols and cosmology of the religions are broken down. But it is the height of absurdity to ignore the reasons why this has happened.

1983


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