Saturday, August 16, 2014

A 2,000 Year Political Divide?

Painting by Antonio Joli
We often speak of Rome.  When we do, we think of it as the jewel of Western Civilization, the crown of the worldwide Catholic Church.  We imagine Rome and the greatest single secular power of ancient history and a place of order, law and civilized society.

No doubt, even in speaking of real estate sometimes we use the words: village, villa, ville, and roman villa to describe an ancient and beautifully traditional type of housing which has been around for nearly 2,000 years.  Indeed, these historically Latin words have come to engender a an idea of an upscale type of society.  Wherein, the most elite would be "Citizens of Rome" and urban dwellers with a sense of civility and class - even with all its flaws.  Rome and Roman society has long been the trademarks of Western Culture and Western Civilization as a whole.

However, our language, itself, engenders the Latin words.  Including, but not limited to connotations and implied meanings that come with a way of thinking, a perception and a psychology that still mirrors ancient thinking patterns today.

The Beginning of the Divide: Words & Etymology

Village vs City
The term, village is also akin to other related words such as: ville and villa.  We also have derivative words from whereby we get: vile, villain and villager as well as de ville and it's closely akin word, "devil."  The Latin word for village is vicus from where the word vicious is also derived.

The word, urbs means city or town and is where we derive the words, urban.  And suburban means to be a bit less developed than a city.  The word domesticus means civil and connotes a sense of order and planning.

Barbarian comes from the Latin, barbarus.  It is a pejorative ancient term as the ancient Romans believed that when barbarians spoke, it sounded like they were saying, "bar bar bar bar" and hence, the name, "barbarian" came into existence.  It was very much to indicate an uncivilized, anamalistic type of person who lacked any domestication at all much less the ability to talk intelligently.

Additionally, these people lived in the countryside or rus.  From this word, we get the term rustic and may also indicate the future name of Russia.  Rus (the Steppes of Russia) would be the place from whence invading hordes of barbarians would eventually overwhelm and destroy the Western Roman civilization and initiating the "Dark Ages" for Western Europe for centuries.
Additionally, we also have derived the word rust which indicates the degrade of iron.

when exposed to oxygen.  Rust is a degradation.  This also happens when towns and cities are invaded by barbarians and are left to ruin thus returning to the ground of the countryside and ultimately to be reclaimed by nature.

Barbaric Invasions

The Romans had long been fighting other indigenous peoples all around the Mediterranean world for centuries.  It wasn't until the barbarian invasions became worse and worse did some of the more popular Latin terms start becoming more and more popular.  Terms such as pervertere which meant to wreck, ruin, trash or otherwise spoil were becoming quite popular as more and more cities of the Roman world were suffering from invasion, looting and destruction on a more regular and continuous basis - particularly after the year 200 AD.  It is this word that we get the words, pervert, perversion and perverted.

As destruction and death became more and more common place, the words annihilare and annullare also were used regularly and with alarming frequency.  From these words we get the English words, annihilate, annihilation, annul and annulment and even the legal word, quash.  All of these words mean to literally make into nothing or obliterate.

Of course, with destruction always seems to come the word, fire.  In Latin, this is ignis and incendium.  From whence we get the English words, ignite, incendiary and incite.  Which were also used with alarming regularity.  In fact, one barbarian group was infamous for their destruction as were called, Vandals by the Romans.  It is also from where we get the words, vandal and vandalism as well in the English language.

A Religious Divide

Christianity overcame the the pagan religion of the Roman Empire city-by-city with the evangelical efforts of Saints Peter and Paul.  Ultimately, the churches they lead would eventually convert many of the people living within the boarders of the Empire.  The last places to be reached where the small outlaying villages and country folk as most of the efforts were focused on reaching cities first with more dense population.

Typically, the "problem" for Roman civilization was reaching the "outlaying" areas for purposes of more control and religious outreach.  The rustic folk were typically more disconnected and more likely to be pagan - maybe even barbarians.  Travel was getting more and more dangerous to travel between cities as roving bands of uncivilized barbarians were likely to rob and kill travelers along the way to their destinations.  So, as distrust grew, it became a city versus rural mentality.  The outlaying population simply couldn't be trusted as they were probably barbarian and were pagans also.

As the Empire began to dissolve, death ("mort" in Latin) became part of life.  As the barbarians invaded, there was a lot of fighting, looting, rape.  This is where we get the English words, murder (from the earlier English merging of the words, "Mort doer") and martyr - both having to do with homicide.

Paganism Then & Now

As the cities began to develop an extreme distrust of rural dwellers, the negative notions of being a countryside dweller started to develop more and more in secular and religious thought.

In fact, today, the use of pejorative terms to describe countryside dwellers typically involve notions of backwards living, being uneducated, less inclined to civilized society and more narrow-minded in their ways of thinking and extraordinarily traditional and conservative with regard to social values and traditions, in general.  

Today, uses include such terms as, "country bumpkin," and "hick".  Generally, this type of thinking denotes a social standing that is lower than the average.  The Urban Dictionary explains the word, "hick" as follows (as it relates to country dwellers):
A derogatory slang term for lower class whites raised in rural areas, usually within trailer parks or hog farms. Generally used more for Midwesterners than Southerners (see: redneck
General defining characteristics of a hick: Protestant upbringing, usually Baptist; racist and sexist opinions; does not attend collage; dumber than a post.
Related pejorative language also includes the following: hillbilly, white trash, country, stupid, inbred, racist, southern, trailer trash, nascar, boring, idiot, south, cracker and cowboy.  
As time continued, the idea of pagan and rural dweller became synonymous with each other and an interchangeable word set.  In fact, pagans are also mostly associated with witchcraft and nature worship.  In fact, pagans are many times considered "nature dwellers" and are people who live "outside" the city limits or in country.

Kind a stretch?  Not really.  The hit show, The Beverly Hillbillies, did well with American audiences.  It focused on country people who became rich when they discovered oil on their land and who moved to Beverly Hills.  Their relationships with the more "sophisticated city dwellers" brings on some comical exchanges.

Wikipedia states the following,
The term pagan is from Late Latin paganus, revived during the Renaissance. Itself deriving from classical Latin pagus which originally meant "region delimited by markers", paganus had also come to mean "of or relating to the countryside", "country dweller", "villager"; by extension, "rustic", "unlearned", "yokel", "bumpkin"; inRoman military jargon, "non-combantant", "civilian", "unskilled soldier". It is related to pangere ("to fix", "to fasten") and ultimately comes from Proto-Indo-European*pag- ("to fix").[12]
 Interestingly enough, Peter Brown states in his book, Late Antiquity, the following:
The adoption of paganus by Latin Christians as an all-embracing, pejorative term for polytheists represents an unforeseen and singularly long-lasting victory, within a religious group, of a word of Latin slang originally devoid of religious meaning. The evolution occurred only in the Latin west, and in connection with the Latin church. Elsewhere, "Hellene" or "gentile" (ethnikos) remained the word for "pagan"; and paganos continued as a purely secular term, with overtones of the inferior and the commonplace.
Interestingly enough, one of the greater Christian saints pits the city dwellers against those who live in the countryside as Wikipedia notes:
"Paganus" acquired its religious connotations by the mid-4th century.[13] As early as the 5th century, paganos was metaphorically used to denote persons outside the bounds of the Christian community. Following the sack of Rome to pagan Visigoths just over fifteen years after the Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I,[16] murmurs began to spread that the old gods had taken greater care of the city than the Christian God. In response, Augustine of Hippo wrote De Civitate Dei contra Paganos ("The City of God against the Pagans"). In it, he contrasted the fallen "city of Man" to the "city of God" of which all Christians were ultimately citizens. Hence, the foreign invaders were "not of the city" or "rural".[17][18][19]
The term "pagan" is not attested in the English language until the 17th century.[20] In addition to infidel and heretic, it was used as one of several pejorative Christian counterparts to gentile (גוי / נכרי) as used in Judaism and to kafir (كافرunbeliever) and mushrik (مشركidolater) as in Islam.[21]
Even today, Google cites pagan as such:
  1. 1.
    a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
    synonyms:heatheninfidelidolater, idolatress;
    "pagans worshiped the sun"
  1. 1.
    relating to pagans.
    "a pagan god"
    "the pagan festival"
Paganism As Evil

Paganism is not only associated with the idea of being rural, it is often associated with evil and as being evil.  Paganism is thought as being evil because of a few ideas Christians have about paganism in general:

1.  Anyone who isn't a city dweller can't be trusted.

2. Anyone who isn't a Christian can't be trusted because they have no sense of morality.

3.  Paganism does not include Christ who is the harbinger of salvation.  Therefore, paganism is evil because it does not allow for the salvation of souls.

4.  Satanists have adopted some of the symbols of paganism.  Since both share these symbols, these faiths must be interrelated and cannot be trusted.

These are the main reasons why there is an adversarial relationship between city dwellers and rural dwellers - even to this day.  But, this is only a presentation that has only mentioned the adversarial relationship from the viewpoint of the "city dweller" and not from the "country dweller"

The Flip Side: Why Country Dwellers Don't Trust City Dwellers

From the time that cities were built, they have mostly been ruled by kings and tyrants.  Indeed, city dwellers are required to "conform" with certain standards and expectations.  Indeed, the "in crowd" are all those who live together for a common end and purpose.  Out of cities rise the power of kings and kingdoms as well as churches and their bishops and power structures.

Country freedom allows a sense of true freedom away from the expectations of urban dwellers and the city governments that demand compliance from all citizens in various manners.

Indeed, more freedom rests outside the control of more "controlling" governments inside cities themselves.  Indeed, freedom versus control by government seems to be the ongoing perception and, in reality, there is some truth to this mindset.  Country living offers more freedom and less interference from the busy ongoings of an urban area.

The Establishment of America

The old adversarial relationship would still continue.  The city dwellers versus the country dwellers and the political philosophy that would develop here in America along those very lines.

America is more of an idea than it has ever been a nation.  It is an idea of a dual purpose... one based on the urban vs city dweller mentality of the Old World.  Indeed, the first Americans were seeking a place where they could be free of religious and political tyranny.  These first Americans became the "pioneers" or the "pagani" of the America we know today.  Indeed, many of these men and women were Christian and brought with them the ideas of freedom - freedom from tyrannical centralized urban-based government to an unsettled New World.  The idea would be striking a balance between freedom from government and needing a government to work for the people.  Herein starts a new chapter in the ideas of conservatism versus liberalism; faith versus secularism; freedom versus slavery; balance of having too much with too little government; spending versus saving and the conservation and development that would later decide our political future and the ultimate drafting of the Constitution of the United States of America. 

The Civil War: Who Is Supreme?  The Federal Government or the States?
Indeed, the United States, once it won its War of Independence from Britain would now have to eventually decide exactly "how much" and "how centralized" and "how powerful" this newly formed country's government would be.  The Articles of Confederation failed the newly independent states and the leadership saw the need for a more centralized government.  The first attempt had ended in failure.  The second attempt would be the ultimate formulation of the Constitution and what such a governing document would have to be as a guide for the future governance of the nation - both as individual states and as a whole - a federalized form of government.

A new challenge, a new question emerged.  Who had more power?  The States or Federal Government?  In the case of property rights (slave ownership) the question would ultimately be settled by a civil war.  Now, it was the Federalists (who were mostly Northern city dwellers) who faced off with Southern (mostly rural dwellers) and favored democracy over republicanism.  In fact, the political parties became deeply divided - Republicans versus Democrats.   The Civil War was fought and the South (the more rural region) lost to the North (the more urbanized region).

It is interesting to note, the Roman Empire (a former Republic and later a Federalist Empire) - comprised of cities and states was overrun by barbarians (a kind of anti-federalist, anti-government, anarchists) enemy.  This kind of "generational" animosity continued in this matter in a completely liberal manner.

The Current Political Opposition In the USA

The map clearly shows the Rural/City divide along political viewpoints.  The cities, which are closely tied to government involvement are blue.  The map showing "red" indicates the more conservative ideas of individual freedom and less government.

There has always been a psychological and philosophical "split" between city dwellers and rural (and semi-rurual) dwellers.  Not withstanding the Great Republican Shift in the South (which can be referred to here), the distinct idea of cities continuing to rely heavily on a central government for greater direction and monetary involvement differed greatly from the more rural "go it alone" and self-dependency notions has greatly determined political voting tendencies.

For example, Republicans favor the ideals of individualism, less government, more individual freedom, less government interference, less government spending, business-oriented mindset. Indeed, the ideas of "less government" harken back to the days of mistrust that rural people had of government and large town living.  Even the idea of "no government" that the barbarian hoards ultimately "ended" in towns and provinces all across the Roman Empire only later to re-install rulers again and rebuild government institutions and standing military as obviously there was a need.  Make no mistake, the Republicans favor government - just less of it at less cost to the American Taxpayer.  It is ironic though, that the very word "republic" conjures images of ancient Rome, senators, congresses, parliaments and other various images of government of the people and this is due to the Great Southern Political Shift that occurred after the Civil War leading up to the strategies of the Nixon administration.  Additionally, the idea of "fighting" often involves military action which such folks are akin to do such as various invasions and use of military around the globe - even to topple and destroy governments (a vague conjuring of barbarian invasions in the history of Western Civilization).

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to favor ideas that involve more governmental assistance, such as government aid programs, assisting minorities in voting, human rights, the expansion of rights of various groups and individuals and promoting government regulation for various businesses and industries - especially with regard to safety matters and focusing on the rights of the people in general including those of workers and the members of the middle class.  Much greater focus on keeping the peace and using military intervention in smaller and more surgical ways.  Conversely, due to the Great Southern Political Shift, the word "Democrat" harkens back to a more simple form of government, where the people are the government (not a republic where the people are heard through a government official) but individually, as a singular voice that casts a single vote among many voices.  The "democrat" is more applicable to the rural mentality of political thinking, but due to the Shift, this is no longer the case in American politics.

Indeed, the idea of greater individualism versus the idea of greater government is here to stay and will not see a resolution any time soon.  This is not to say that city dwellers cannot "get along" with rural people or vice verse.  But it is to say that these two different views of government are definitely opposite.  There will always be a need for the people to decide if there should be any government existence in some instances.  Certainly, there is a need for the people to counterbalance the one view, the need for government and "how much" with the need for individual freedom.  There can be no doubt, that upbringing in the rural areas indicates a "free, do-it yourself" mindset (where there is less presence of government and governmental interference - which has been the case for centuries) and the urban more "interdependent" mindset where government presence is high and much more part of daily life and living.

So, let the people (and/or their representatives) decide and cast their votes accordingly.

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