Friday, March 12, 2010

The South!

I've recently delved into Literary Nashville, a collection of fiction and non-fiction writings about Nashville or written by authors who have been influenced by Nashville. One of the inclusions is titled "I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition" and is an excerpt from an Agrarian symposium published in 1930. The work was created by twelve noted Southerners with professions ranging from psychologist to poet to political economist. The symposium is a "refutation... of the mechanistic and materialistic values of industrial urbanism" (19). Sound familiar?

It is made abundantly clear that this is a battle: Southern agrarian tradition and modern industrialism cannot coexist. It must be "Agrarian
versus Industrial" (20). There is no possible mingling of the two, for they represent opposing cultural ideals.

Even that early on in industrialism - for it had not been a great amount of time since Ford's assembly line that led to revolutionizing factory work - it was apparent that industrialism did not have the consumer's best interest in mind. The symposium notes the curious circumstance that people had become "enamored of industrialism," despite the fact that it is "a system that has so little regard for individual wants." This little regard includes the successful attempts of "the producers, disguised as the pure idealists of the progress [to] coerce and wheedle the public into being loyal and steady consumers, in order to keep the machines running."

Despite noting that industrialism is a harmful system, these authors were far from accepting its inevitability. Instead, they had high hopes for the agrarian lifestyle being regained:

"An agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers."

We can heartily agree with these gentlemen in their well-stated conclusion, as relevant today as it was 80 years ago:

"For, in conclusion, this much is clear: If a community, or a section, or a race, or an age, is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation, it must find a way to throw it off. To think that this cannot be done is pusillanimous. And if the whole community, section, race, or age thinks it cannot be done, then it has simply lost its political genius and doomed itself to impotence."

This is just skimming the surface of this interesting document - I'll be checking the entire thing out at the library, so there is more come.

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