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3/31/11

Angry People

The book for April book club is Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

Mr. Gladwell says that success is not a fluke in most cases. Some of the things that have contributed to the success of Bill Gates, The Beatles, a bunch of New York law firms, and professional hockey players are practicing for 10,000 hours, being the grandson of a Jewish immigrant who worked in the garment district of New York, and being born in January.

Now, I've never wanted to do anything enough to practice it for 10,000 hours, I'm not Jewish or from New York, I wasn't born in January. And even though I'm smarter than the average bear, I was not taught that I was entitled to a good education or anything at all actually.
So after discovering that I am apparently resigned to a life of mediocrity, I found the book kind of depressing, albeit in an interesting way, until I got the Chapter on the Culture of Honor.

Ah, my people.

You can listen to the entire chapter here:
Outliers - Culture of Honor by Malcolm Gladwell - Why I Hate The Joneses Audio track

Skip to 10:00 or even 15:00 to hear the [to me] interesting bits.

I'll sum up: Basically Southerners are angry sums a' bitches.
Most of the people who settled in the South came from clannish areas such as Scotland, Ireland, the midlands of England, and Wales. Life was hard, people tried to steal your sheep, and your clan had your back. Because the part of the country we settled in was a lot like where we left, we kept our clannish ways and still act this way even now - though many of us haven't seen the "home country" in two-three hundred years.

These are people who can recite their genealogy back generations (it's part of knowing your clan) and even suggesting there's a y*ankee, (as CP says), or an Englishman in the woodpile is fightin' words.
Remember, we're angry people, so watch your mouth. Plus for some reason, we tend to have a long ass memory, not necessarily a good thing. Elephants got nothin' on us, baby.

Most crimes in the South are personal in nature - in a culture of honor, we don't want your stuff - we're settling a score. The Hatfields and McCoys are a classic example. Mr. Gladwell calls it a "cultural legacy".

I'll add my own theory here - as to the pissed off bit.
Here were these crazy warrior folk - all mixed up with Vikings, Picts, and other blood curdling berserker types, but then something happened (what? religion?) and most of those countries or sections of those countries were kept oppressed, poor and exploited. The Irish were beat down for centuries by the English. Not a couple of years or decades - centuries.They were not allowed to practice moneymaking professions, their religion, own property, speak their language, or be educated. The Welsh and the Scots also suffered under the rule of the English.

Then over to America we trot, bringing our centuries of oppressed anger with us (Southerners are masters of the passive-aggressive. I think we invented it.). Yeah, we're still pissed. So what?

Anyhoo, that chapter was extra interesting and made me proud. I'm sure I was meant to take it another way, but cultural legacy won out.

As an aside: the Angles and the Saxons had themselves some cajones and managed to do what the Romans did not, which is a little bit amazing.
The Italians didn't conquer the Picts in Caledonia so much as corral them with their nice wall. Keep those woad covered barbarian bastards on the other side, thank you.
They didn't mess with Ireland at all http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibernia

1 comment:

  1. Good one! My boys are studying the "Civil War" in middle school, so in the car tonight I was teaching them to say either "War Between the States" or "War of Northern Agression." They aren't allowed to call people y*nkees because it's mean. Of course I told them what my mother told me, that slavery was completely wrong and should never have happened but that war was an economic conflict. What are they teaching these days? Makes me, you know, angry!! CP anon

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