American Culture

I kind of want to talk about this, but the topic is huge and hard to do right. While stereotypes are an interesting shorthand, they probably muddy things up more than anything else if you are trying to explain why a people acts and responds the way it does. It is better for a knowing camaraderie or a comedy act.

Women’s magazines often have the country divided up into cultural style groups: The Southern Woman, The NYCity Woman, The Chicago Woman, The Southwest Woman, The California Woman. They have hair and make-up styles and approach to life styles that are condensed into handy little packets of info and illustration. It works fairly well for Cultural commentary. We can talk about a Southern culture, a Midwestern, Southwestern, and the Coasts. All have their rural and city components, but I think media has done a pretty good job of blending the two.

There is an overall American culture, too, though; the moral/political values of which I usually name as Civitas. There seems to be a fissure that has developed, but I think there is still a fairly strong core.

When we widely differentiate the territorial flavors I think we are talking about superficial things that correlate to the makeup and hairstyles of Women’s stereotypes, not representing deep difference in thought or approach.

That isn’t to say we don’t identify with a mythic sort of ideal.

I’m Midwestern, born and bred to the bone. It is part of my style and I identify it on my blog. But I recognize that it isn’t exactly core to everyone in this territorial perimeter. Midwestern culture is actually the old New England Yankee transplanted and blended with the strongly German culture of the last centurys immigration. That is what makes its work ethic and its conservative style. It has strong religious Protestant undergirding. but it has its variations as other immigrant and religious culture layered on in certain areas. The prevalent flavor is one of stability and a down to earth sensibility.
You find this throughout the region, that is the framework whether rural or city. I read somewhere that the Midwest is small town in aspect. I think that is probably true. That is probably the ideal, and where the idea that Midwesterners are friendly probably originates. I think they are more open than actually friendly, maybe the better word is “neighborly”.

Whatever the region, America is far from the oldfashioned agrarian roots. Even farming is a highly mechanized and large scale mass production. We might have residual memory of such, but it isn’t part of what forms cultural ideas. The Midwest is as influenced by Hollywood and TV as anywhere else.

I think the strongest predictor of cultural values is the strength of traditional religion, while the more numerous the secular religion would be the more there is relative thought on value. To use a punning phrase: it goes with the territory. This is probably where the lines of definition divide, and less on urban versus rural environment. Urban and rural are more Industrial revolution categories.

Those are the thoughts for now….