American Nations

Tyler Cowen mentioned American nations : a history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America in his Marginal Revolutions blog as a partial explanation for support for the candidacy of Donald Trump among American working class and middle class voters in the 2016 American elections. I found a copy in the Oak Bay Branch of Greater Victoria Public Library.  It was catalogued as children’s nonfiction.  If it is a children’s book, the children in Oak Bay must be precocious.    Garrison Keilor said in his NPR broadcasts and books. “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”.

Colin Woodard is a journalist and writer of explanatory nonfiction. American Nations presents a condensed introduction to a theory of American history: tracking regional culture back to the European settlement of different parts of North America by distinctive groups. Woodard accepts that the cultures of different parts of America evolved from the cultures of the first European settlers.  Consider this review and summary (Scott Alexander) of Albion’s Seed by David Fischer. Woodard summarized American Nations in a 2013 article in Tufts Magazine. (Map in the Tufts Magazine piece).

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From AL Daily, top of the page on June 26/07, the Commencement Address by Dana Gioia to the graduates of Stanford University on June 17, 2007. Worthwhile and quotable. Speaking of the media and culture in the 1950’s:

I don’t think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement.
I grew up mostly among immigrants, many of whom never learned to speak English. But at night watching TV variety programs like the Ed Sullivan Show or the Perry Como Music Hall, I saw—along with comedians, popular singers, and movie stars—classical musicians like Jascha Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein, opera singers like Robert Merrill and Anna Moffo, and jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong captivate an audience of millions with their art.
The same was even true of literature. I first encountered Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, Lillian Hellman, and James Baldwin on general interest TV shows. All of these people were famous to the average American—because the culture considered them important.
Today no working-class or immigrant kid would encounter that range of arts and ideas in the popular culture. Almost everything in our national culture, even the news, has been reduced to entertainment, or altogether eliminated.
The loss of recognition for artists, thinkers, and scientists has impoverished our culture in innumerable ways, but let me mention one. When virtually all of a culture’s celebrated figures are in sports or entertainment, how few possible role models we offer the young.
There are so many other ways to lead a successful and meaningful life that are not denominated by money or fame. Adult life begins in a child’s imagination, and we’ve relinquished that imagination to the marketplace.
Of course, I’m not forgetting that politicians can also be famous, but it is interesting how our political process grows more like the entertainment industry each year. When a successful guest appearance on the Colbert Report becomes more important than passing legislation, democracy gets scary. No wonder Hollywood considers politics “show business for ugly people.”
Everything now is entertainment. And the purpose of this omnipresent commercial entertainment is to sell us something. American culture has mostly become one vast infomercial.
I have a recurring nightmare. I am in Rome visiting the Sistine Chapel. I look up at Michelangelo’s incomparable fresco of the “Creation of Man.” I see God stretching out his arm to touch the reclining Adam’s finger. And then I notice in the other hand Adam is holding a Diet Pepsi.
When was the last time you have seen a featured guest on David Letterman or Jay Leno who isn’t trying to sell you something? A new movie, a new TV show, a new book, or a new vote?
Don’t get me wrong. I love entertainment, and I love the free market. I have a Stanford MBA and spent 15 years in the food industry. I adore my big-screen TV. The productivity and efficiency of the free market is beyond dispute. It has created a society of unprecedented prosperity.
But we must remember that the marketplace does only one thing—it puts a price on everything.
The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics. It is not focused on the price of things, but on their value. And, above all, culture should tell us what is beyond price, including what does not belong in the marketplace. A culture should also provide some cogent view of the good life beyond mass accumulation. In this respect, our culture is failing us.

Another Meth Story

The Free Press has published a couple more stories about crystal meth addiction and the governments’ strategies to restrict supply of meth.
Last Tuesday, January 4, 2006, there was a Bruce Owen, “Mom blames crystal meth for daughter’s death”, published electronically at McIntyre’s site. On Friday, January 6, 200, there was a story that pharmacists had agreed to move products that contain ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine behind the counter, and to limit the amount sold.

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The Discovery of Meth

The Winnipeg Free Press discovered crystal meth this year. There were a few stories, usually tied to the meetings of the Western Canadian provincial premiers, over the last year or 18 months. A few weeks ago, the Free Press discovered the real source of the problem and the government instantly solved it. I am of course being sarcastic, and not completely fair to the Free Press. Some of the information in the recent stories was more useful than the usual daily wad of infomercials and propaganda between the Superstore section, the Canadian Tire section, the Wal-mart section and the Future Shop section.

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The story of the fatal shooting on Sargent Avenue on October 10, 2005 was presented in the media intensely over a short time, and then persistently for several weeks. I summarized the coverage in my entry Unlucky.
There are a few things to be said about perspective. The media are trying to meet the needs of readers, as journalists and editors read those needs. This affects the the questions they address, facts they leave out, and the way they tell the story, The media seldom tell the whole story, and often doesn’t try to get differing perspectives. The media often tries to make a story colourful or accessible by writing about people, instead of facts and issues, which can also make a story intrusive.

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If you live in Winnipeg, you will know this story, which was in the headlines for several consecutive days, and in the headlines repeatedly over the following weeks as civic authorities announced new initiatives in the war on crime. I was distressed by the story, because it involves the death of a young man – only 17 years old.
On Monday October 10, 2005, a young man was walking on Sargent Avenue crossing Maryland Street, with another man, a casual acquaintance. Around 11:00 PM, about a block away, other young men, identified by the police as associates or members of a new gang of teenaged criminals called the African Mafia, fired a .22 calibre firearm, from a house, identified by the police and local residents as a crack house. Members of a rival gang, the Mad Cowz, had been at the house and had fled in the direction of Sargent and Maryland. The police suggested that both gangs were comprised of recent immigrants from Africa. One or more of the occupants of the house had discharged firearms. As the story unfolded, they may have been attacked or believed they were under attack, or just trying to shoot their rivals who had come near the house, and the fled. One young man, named Philippe, was wounded in the abdomen, and he died. A .22 calibre bullet has enough force to penetrate clothing, skin and muscle, and to damage vital structures, although it does not have the momentum to cause massive shock. He was unlucky to have been in the line of fire, unlucky to have been hit, unlucky to have died within blocks of Winnipeg’s major trauma hospital, the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. Phillipe’s companion was wounded in the arm.

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Deborah Hope riffs on the many meanings of Respect in the Australian. She’s right. It has become a flexible word, prominent in the vocabulary of relativism. All beliefs are entitled to respect (but especially mine …) She might also have said that the discourse of respect is usually self-centred and blaming. Feeling disrespected is a more common sentiment than feeling ashamed for disrespecting others.
The Guardian reports in a story headlined ‘We’re not germs or louts. Sarkozy should’ve said sorry’ that some French rioters are complaining that the French government doesn’t respect them. It sounds like gangster-talk, and it might be dismissed as posturing. However, there is merit to the complaint that French society disrespects its underclass. French immigration and
social policy has tended to marginalize East European, African, and North African immigrants and their children. Some French politicians have used inflammatory language toward everyone who lives in La Zone, which has helped keep the anger and crime going. Some political and media figures are explaining the riots as a mass protest against social conditions. The rioters have the government’s attention, which is a kind of respect.

November 7, 2005

Wikipedia’s start page has a daily featured article, an entry selected as the article of the day. For football fans, on November 7, 2005 the featured article is about the Arsenal Football Club which plays in the FA Premier League in England.
The French urban riots made the front page of the Free Press today – a picture of firefighters trying to put out the fire in a burning car. Wikipedia had a problem with the story over the weekend – competing rewrites and disputes over whether the article overstated the role of Islam in the rioting. They had an objectivity flag on the story on Sunday, but they have worked that out. Their article is now called 2005 French Urban Violence.

La Zone

The Winnipeg Free Press has been running news stories about the riots in French cities, on the inside pages. I don’t think the National Post or the Globe and Mail have treated these stories more prominently, although their stories have had more depth.
The Wikipedia entry has been regularly updated since the riots started, and it links to a number of media sources. The most recent BBC Online story on November 5 links to earlier stories and to stories that try to analyze the background and the political situation. Wikipedia links to Theodore Dalrymple’s essayin City Journal, in August 2002, The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris, which took a hard-headed view of the cités of La Zone. (For a note on Dalrymple, see this book review of Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It: the mandarins and the masses in the New Statesman).

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Blackadder strikes

The Guardian reports, in a story called Lords defeat for religious hatred bill, that the House of Lords voted against the British government’s Religious and Racial Hatred Bill. The opposition to the Bill crossed party lines with many Labour peers joining Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in opposing the Bill. The government can still override the Lords and pass the Bill into law in the Commons, which is a special process to break deadlock between the two House of the British Parliament. For background, here are the British government’s explanatory notes on the Bill as passed in the House of Commons, and here is the Bill after the amendments. These links to debate and more debate on the amendments in the House of Lords bring up the Hansard text. The quality of speeches is excellent. This level of debate makes Canadian MP’s sound like trolls.
I like a passage from Lord Onslow’s speech:

I also suggest that, in the well-established case of a Shia cleric who ensured the conviction of a young girl, aged 18, for pre-marital sexual intercourse, he not only advocated her conviction but he also went and put the noose around her neck. I do not know about noble Lords, but I personally find that detestable. It is meet to be detested, and should be by every single person in this Chamber. What this Bill could do—although I am obviously open to correction—is to say that I could be prosecuted for saying that it was a detestable habit and that the man who did it was an odious human being. I would say that with intent, and mean every single word. I give that as one example.
At Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that religion had actually been defined. Now there is, as we know through evidence of it, a religion involving witchcraft and the mutilation of small boys. Their torsos were thrown into the Thames. I know that these things are illegal, but it seems odd to me that I cannot hate them. I may have misinterpreted the Bill; I may have it all wrong. But I am advised that I have not. Can the Minister clear my mind, and either accept the amendment or something like it in whatever form the Bill takes? Or can she explain to me that there is no such provision in the Bill and that I am quite entitled to go on hating Shia clerics who pull the legs of young girls dangling in a noose outside Tehran?