• The Tradition Of Conservative Subservience.

    The idea of people demonstrating deference and piety towards their social, moral and financial betters is a universal one, but nowhere in America is that idea more prevalent than in the Deep South. This idea shows itself prominently when it comes to the issue of labor unionization, as all of the southern states are "right to work" and unions have a negligible, if not nonexistent presence.

    For instance, the United Auto Workers have made several attempts to organize Volkswagen's Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, also has its eye on organizing a "works council" within the plant, as is the norm in VW's German facilities. But the prevailing attitude among most workers in this and other auto plants throughout the Deep South is one of not "messing up a good thing" by any attempts at unionization, regardless of if doing so will actually benefit them. It's the fear of seeing their jobs move further southward and the commonly-held view of unions as lazy, parasitic and overpaid louts that's kept unions a rare breed south of the Mason-Dixon. Most workers in the Deep South are also invested in the belief that if they do good by the company, the company will do good by them in return. In the age of Kochist corporate thought, company leaders are often bemused by the thought of acknowledging or returning such shows of corporate piety.

    Truthdogg cracks open a window into this sort of thinking, how it relates to the current government shutdown and demonstrates how toxic it's become to the nation at large:

    ...the idea of the commonwealth, of something for all citizens, is as foreign to this region as the Russian language. Here, we look to our corporate leaders and wealthy families for table crumbs, for protection & entertainment, and for permission to act.

    This flies in the face of our popular ideas of the smartass rebel, glorified by the Dukes of Hazzard and other tv shows and movies. But it makes sense once it’s understood that the smartass rebel is a marginal character here, much more likely to end his life as Cool Hand Luke than Bo Duke, muttering alone in his shack if not prison itself. As celebrated as the lawbreaking bootleggers still are, they exist outside the mainstream, with their romanticization from the ruling class little different than memories of childhood squirrel hunts and canned sardine lunches.

    The mainstream is obedient, deferent and possesses a mixture of awe, gratitude and fear toward the fabulously wealthy that is painfully embarrassing to behold. Watch one of our Congressmen apologize to BP executives for the Katrina disaster if you want to scratch the surface of the worshipfulness that is expected here.

    I know, I know. I’m describing something that exists all across the nation in many ways. This is certainly not limited to the South, just like racism is not, and I’m not someone who claims the South is full of more bad people than elsewhere.

    But here, this idea of a fixed class permeates in ways that are more difficult to escape, with struggling workers admiring the charity of the Walton family, or arguing that development companies should be given free rein to foul their own water. Today they’re arguing that they don’t need health insurance, that they (I suppose) will just wither and die once it’s clear that the church bake sale can’t pay for their future lung cancer treatments, because they know that they’re lower class and don’t deserve anything more. Perhaps one of their libertarian heroes of finance will step in and personally intervene like God himself, but if they do not, His will is being done.

    Passions flare over this in no small part because of race. A rigid class structure maintains the illusion of permanent white dominance, and masks the prevalent white working class fear of slipping to an even lower rung in society. Control is the most important issue for the whites I know who fear changes in racial status (or its loss) and the “tradition” of conservative subservience is the path for keeping it. The adoration of the financially successful reinforces it.

    The rigid social structure of the long-lost yet seldom forgotten Confederacy provided plenty of benefits for the "right" folks. The ruling class were rewarded with a never-ending and self-replenishing flow of free labor, while the lower orders looked up to them with a mixture of awe, gratitude and fear. Working-class whites were just grateful for receiving whatever crumbs the ruling class deigned to brush aside in their general direction, all the while comforted with the assurance of always having it better than those coloreds, free and slave. No matter how far down the societal rung one slipped, at least your average Joe of the time knew he would always be a cut above a Negro.

    Even after the death of the Confederacy, this mindset still reigned supreme throughout the southern states, intermixed with anger at the federal government for infringing on their way of living (except in cases where they benefited immensely). A large number of people were simply comfortable with the rigid social structure of old, as they knew exactly where they stood and what their assigned roles were. People often reacted to any attempts at bucking or demolishing the social structure with a vicious, inflamed passion. That explains why many people treat the idea of universal healthcare like a communist plot (at least until the hospital bills comes due).

    It also goes a long way to explain much of the consternation over Barack Obama's presidential election:

    The election of a highly-educated black president shattered it. In fact, as with Bill Clinton, his humble origins are the most distressing part of his biography here. If he were born into a wealthy black family, perhaps with a slaveholding ancestry, or even someone who slipped comfortably into a CEO role (like Herman Cain, subservient to the Koch brothers), President Obama’s election may have been easier to accept.

    But he wasn’t like either of those things. Barack Obama leapt over many people in his ambitions, drive and focus, and argues for making his path easier to follow, as liberals tend to do. He’s an inspiring figure for anyone inclined to be inspired. He doesn’t claim that his success comes only from his work and ambition, even while that is clearly a major part of his story. But for those who rely upon inequality and fixed social classes in order to maintain the facade that they aren’t the poorest citizens of this country, his biography destroys everything they thought they knew about the world.

    The GOP party goals of lower taxes and freer reign for the corporate class and landed gentry, greatly reduced federal social services, sacrosanct defense expenditures, free or greatly reduced-cost labor via public and private prisons and a landscape of districts gerrymandered just enough to insure a permanent Republican majority all echo a desire for a strong ruling class and a populace too enamored with the tradition of conservative subservience to bother with any sort of genuine progress - at least progress that doesn't directly benefit the ruling class.

    There's also the never-ending drive to figuratively and legislatively lynch the first (and as conservatives hope, the last) president of color by cutting off as many of his policies off at the knees as possible. Perpetual gridlock, shutdowns and standstills are all a part of paralyzing government to which it'll have no capacity to make any serious legislative changes until a suitable GOP president is back in the Oval Office. That's something to think about as the House Republicans hold the nation hostage over the Affordable Care Act.