A Lost War: Rural vs Urban Peoples

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

For the most part, we share the ideology of our parents. The way we view the world is similar, how we behave in our social sphere is similar, and the way we communicate our beliefs are all similar.

For most, we like to think that we come to our ideology after in-depth discussion and critical assessment. This is certainly false. Even our youthful teenagers who decide to become a libertine communists in the face of an evangelical Christian home must eventually come to the realization that their vision of the world has been forever warped. While on the surface they may espouse the belief in emancipation of the working class against the rigors of industrial life, behind the façade they beholden themselves to failures of their upbringing. It is immovable. While people may believe that ideology is a set of goggles you put on, something which is ‘obscuring’ your vision of reality; I think the truth is the argument of Salvoj Zizek: that ideology is the method in which you interpret the world. A human without ideology is akin to a human without language. It is unthinkable, ideology as well as language, are the cornerstones of how we operate in a social world.

In the same way you cannot ‘learn’ a new language without it being tainted by the original language you learned, you cannot ‘change’ your ideology without bringing with you the hallmarks of your past.

babylon03

After reading a book on ancient Babylon I came across a passage which shined a light on a truth I had neglected and which Marx has argued all along, Ideology is a product of the social order in which we live. This was the passage,

“[On topic of an ancient story of Inanna, goddess of fertility and love…] But perhaps it was also meant to emphasize that one cannot have civilization without a necessary degree of libertinism, to explain or justify the sexual laxity of city life – something of which country-dwellers have complained throughout history. They surely did so in ancient times too, when the cities were renowned for their courtesans and prostitutes, their homosexuals and transvestites, their party boys and festival people who change masculinity to femininity…”

-Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, Paul Kriwaczek

Upon reflection, this statement should ring true to those who think of the ancient cities of Athens, Carthage, Rome, Nanjing, London, and more. The argument made is that mortality was so high that for the ancient city to survive people needed to constantly reproduce to ensure survival. As we think of ancient civilizations who became overly prosperous and ‘corrupt’ we immediately associate it with lax sexual ethics.

But in modern day this dynamic has not changed. Those who live in densely populated areas are more likely to be ‘liberals’ than those who live in sparsely populated areas. Forever there is the conflict between the ‘conservative’ country folk and the ‘liberal’ urban bourgeoisie. Who, with their high and mighty ideals of ‘culture’, appreciation for the ‘fine arts’, and wasteful indulgences sicken the poverty stricken.

For those who rave over the ‘deconstructed’, the ‘delicate composition’, or the ‘hand selected’ steak tartare; you will forever alienate yourselves in the face of your supposed inferiors. The pretension goes further than just a false belief in becoming ‘cultured’, it reaches the dangerous levels of moral superiority fueled by an ideology espoused from city living. This is the same moral failing claimed by liberals against conservatives but in a religious light.

Uruk700The Ancient City of Uruk

When the first humans sacrificed their autonomy to live in the new cities of the world they must have done so for an ideological purpose. That we must strive for a tomorrow which is greater than today. In the wake of Uruk they built temples, specialized crafts, stratified societies, and technological innovation. But with this great power became the inevitable result; the use of such power.

As the great game between hunter/gather and farming societies ended with the hunters desolation and slaughter, so too did the battle between city states and autonomous farming communities. In modern times the consolidation is even starker, the rural people of this world shrink and the power of the metropolis grows. While media and popular discourse is infatuated with the dichotomy of ‘right’ and of ‘left’ we may find that such a line of thought is pointless.

To determine who wins in any political debate ask yourself, what policy would benefit the city?

In Closing

I was raised with an inescapable scar, we all share it, an unhealable wound. I live under the pretension that I can ‘take off’ my ideological glasses to see the world as it truly is. But now it must be made clear, that the power of ideology is not in its ability to convert another human to its structure. As if I were an accolade who could be so easily swayed.

No, the power of ideology is its ability to adapt, to change, to eek its way into the gaps of your experience. It seeps into the pieces of your world view that you never knew existed, and it embeds in you the self-evident solutions that you pass on to your children. When I participate in the politics of my nation I am swayed by false dichotomies hiding deeper underlying issues. Indeed, they are pleasant fictions that I engage in the fight for ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. My fight, as it has always been is one for self-preservation, fueled by structural differences in how I live my life and how my neighbor lives hers.

My power is not in my ‘moral’ superiority, my supposed ‘cultural awareness’ or my ‘appreciation of the fineries of life’. No, all these things are what bring unity between myself and my fellow city dwellers. My power is in the endless masses of people who will continue to subjugate the countryside in our never ending grab of the most intelligent children and precious resources. My power arises from the glimmer of ‘greatness’ embedded in every country boy wishing for a life in the city. My power has nothing to do with birth control, welfare spending, or cheese making. It comes from the technology and specialization that comes with city life. It comes from a source of power once available and rapidly diminishing to my rural combatants:

Ideology.

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2 comments

  1. I always find it interesting when people associate modernity with progress. Progress inevitably is measured against some goal. I imagine it is the associated vapid thinking that once enough technology has been developed some utopia will magically form. If quality of life is your measuring stick, you can see how little “progress” is actually being made.

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