Skip to content

A Small Medium @ Large

In The Ozarks Land and Life, by Milton D. Rafferty (U. of Arkansas Press 2001), it is written that “The Ozarks has been a semi-arrested frontier. . . (with its) persistence of traditional lifestyles, slowness to accept change, and the presence of a distinctive cultural landscape in which much of the past has persisted.”

Right at the outset, dear reader, I’d recommend that Mr. Rafferty’s characterizations be taken as strengths.  We can then positively press our mental fingers into the rubbery edges of our attributes.  He says these include:

“The combined framework of rurality, the Upper South hill country heritage, and semi-arrested frontier (mindset that) . . . supports most of the cultural baggage and popular imagery of the Ozarks:  distain for city life and education, suspicion of outsiders (especially representatives of federal and state agencies), conservative politics (whether Red or Blue) . . .” (etc.)

Now, it’s a fact that it takes considerable skill to craft a believable edifice of proper stereotypes, lest the writer’s intellectual merchandise lay like an old tire on the lake bottom.  And yet, outsiders keep rolling out the same old clichés including “. . . good-old boyism, rednecks, clannishness, a casual regard for time, tall tales, and fundamental religious beliefs.”  And Ok, if there’s a small kernel of resemblance, we’re big enough to admit it.  But what about the very rich upside to all of this?  

Here’s what they keep missing:  Rural folk were bound together in isolation and our wisdom relates to survival and hardship.  In this post 9-11 world, where any kind of moral and ethical standard’s officially been left to flop around on the bank, so-called backwater traits are becoming vibrant cultural pluses.  You need a drag anchor that works when the lake gets too rough to fish, right?

So true to form, Mr. Rafferty omits the defining characteristic of Ozark peoples, which is the ability to feed oneself independently of any organized authority.   Food freedom’s always been a top qualifier when picking the Last Adult in the room.  It separates free men from the tenant serfs when push comes to shove. 

Nowadays, a reflexive disregard for the people’s necessary ownership of the food supply is institutionalized from the top down.   Today’s office seekers need to think better:  “Does the principle of food freedom top your party’s platform for restoring democratic self-rule?  Do you have the vision and energy to rally Ozark strengths around a plan for economic decentralization?  Will you restore regenerative agriculture to our land grant colleges, yes or no?”     

Why restore?  Read this chilling update on Big Ag’s buyout of land grant colleges: 

Our great scientific discoveries and inventions are a result of materializing, or externalizing, the higher powers and capabilities that are latent in each one of us.  We have created many machines and we are all enjoying the benefits.  Science has plumbed the secrets of the atom, but what is happening now with those secrets?  It has become a terrifying force.  Atomic weapons now orbit overhead, they say.

We can’t blame this progress, nor need condemn or stop science and research.  What is to be condemned?  The minds of the people using these forces.  One look at the nightly news shows why the entire world is terrified.  If we are going to exploit the secrets of life and plumb the quantum cloud to gain control over people, we should have pure minds to make proper use of them.  Otherwise, the destruction of the entire humanity is a given.  It’s not if, it’s when. 

And it’s not like destruction grows on trees. Reasonable people have done the math and arrived at a shocking conclusion:  Our attributes are an endangered species and we’re a vanishing indigenous culture. Independence from Big Ag could be a profitable last stand for Ozark peoples.  It’s high time we demanded UN protection from our own government, maybe get our own casino. 

I take bigger issue with Rafferty, though, over his assertion that the intellectual life around here was, and maybe still is, not of a striking character.  But au-contraire!  You’d raise a spirited discussion, I suspect, over one of the modern ages most hauntingly prophetic films, the Truman Show.  We’re coming up on the 20th year anniversary of the release, and seeing it again with new eyes is very worthwhile. 

Its multiple themes remain super crispy even today and include the hegemony of corporate media, utopian/dystopian programing, commercialism, The American Dream, rebellion and authenticity.  It’s especially relevant given the brilliantly choreographed 2016 election.  How can they top our expectations come next time?  

Our Realty Show President, “It’s Huge!” Vs. “There’s no evidence and there never will be!” Hillary, have outdone the paranoid dramedy of the movie.  You know the end is near when it’s come down to “Frequently charged” vs. “Never Convicted.”  The only problem, a hiccup really, is that way too many people suddenly realized it’s all fake and their notions of “free will” flew out the window.

But when will these same people stop to ask themselves:  “What happens if everyone decides to just go about life, mind their own business, and suddenly applies critical thinking?  The whole system collapses, that’s what.  

And Cut.  If we’re living in the Truman Show then it’s, like, that scene where the collective right brain’s screaming in terror and grabs for the wheel.  The left brain’s, like, “We’re gonna make it” and laughs maniacally as our car careens towards the raising drawbridge.  As we struggle to make the script liberal or conservative, the $22 Trillion tab for special effects runs on.

Yet, with all its dramatic appeal, the Holy Grail of total political polarization remains elusive.  The goal, we must remember, is to teach voters to realize that the astonishing structure of global corporatism has barely begun to explore a future that has no intrinsic connection to biology.  Nowadays, smart kids can just Google “Making trail mix from chem trails” for their science fair projects.  It’s no leap to imagine our best and brightest will one day go on to strip-mine the entire Galaxy! 

You have to wonder how many other sorts of scientists would be as astonished at the possibilities.  What if the carefully layered appearance of randomness (in our election outcomes) could just segue to the even simpler, more cost-effective model of science?  Why vote at all if we can predict the outcome already?  

Deceased Missouri politicians, looking up at us from their justly deserved position in the afterlife, will continue to sabotage any hope of authentic self-governance until the Ozarks freezes over.  These tireless minions of money-driven probity are here to help us square our distorted sense of personal relevancy to reality.

We are just one Bankster crises, or nuclear crises, or bio-germ crises away from ending the world as we know it.  Maybe, though, I’m the last one still arguing for the kind of “cultural baggage” that it takes to survive as a free people.  Maybe my notions of Jeffersonian self-government, (along with the work ethic required), are just symptoms of advanced age.  Recalling tall tales is about all I can still do.  

“Dad’s seeing Pliocene animals in front yard again!  Hide the shotgun!  And get some clothes on him before he reaches the Sonic.”  (ED NOTE:  Due to climate change, it’s often 15-20° warmer in the small medium’s head).  

Maybe it’s just denial on my part but, c’mon!  Who hasn’t swerved at a suicidal armadillo and secretly dreamed of bagging a glyptodont, a genus of cute but heavily armored mammals the size and of VW Beetles, though gratefully flatter in shape?  I seen ‘em!  And besides, if your kids can’t scope out the outer weeds of plausible deniability, they’ll miss the larger vistas today’s job market demands.

Now where was I?  Oh yes, how to describe a condition of total human integrity which allows higher consciousness to do its part.  Should I write for aficionados of infinitely fractal irony, a rapidly vanishing audience?  Or aim for those requiring no further application of chaos theory beyond “fits the bottom of my birdcage?”