Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Land of Herders

Northerners don't really think a lot about Southerners.  I didn't and I grew up in Missouri.  I had no idea how close I was to a whole different world.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about it in "Outliers."  People in the North don't really think or care about other people, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  Nobody will bother you when you don't need them, but they may not be there either when you do.  In the South people are always there.  Gladwell explains that people in the South are, for the most part, descended from "herders," which when people actually herded things meant that people could easily steal those things being herded, which meant that the biggest, baddest herder from a family of big, bad herders was the one who made a good living because he kept his flock.  "They were herdsmen, scraping out a living on rocky and infertile land.  They were clannish, responding to the harshness and turmoil of their environment by forming tight family bonds and placing loyalty to blood above all else," Gladwell says in "Outliers."  Northerners were mainly agriculturalists which meant that they tended to their own land, which is decidedly harder for a thief to make off with in the night and less dependent on cooperation with others.
In the South murder rates are higher among people who know each other, but property and "stranger" crimes, like muggings, are lower.  "The statistics show that the Southerner who can avoid arguments and adultery is as safe as any other American, probably safer," says sociologist John Shelton Reed in "Outliers."  Gladwell says that Southerners live in a culture of honor.  There is great respect for other people, as in "Southern hospitality," just don't question a Southerners honor.  It's taken very seriously.
It is into this "culture of honor" that I married and I'm struggling to keep up with the code.  Welcome to the South. 

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