Recently, I mentioned something about the Civil War and its influence on the South. I started to write and one thought led to another thought and an interesting train of thought was created. Here are those thoughts:
RESENTMENT OF THE SOUTH AT LOSING THE CIVIL WAR
I have always felt that the resentment of the South after losing the Civil War has had far greater impact than what it may, at first, seem. It also seems to have been misinterpreted, particularly by the North. Now, I’m no expert on the South or Civil War but it does seem like I can see some patterns. Whether they are true or not I cannot say for certain.
To begin with, the South appears to of been made up of a very proud people. They believed in their society and way of life. Because of this, during the Civil War, many believed in their cause very strongly and saw it as a fight to preserve their way of life. The policies of the North, instigated by Abraham Lincoln, was viewed as a threat to their society and way of life . . . it had to be fought against. The North, of course, saw it differently. They saw it as a fight to end slavery as well as the growth of democratic thinking and principles.
It seems to me, at this time, that slavery was never a convincing argument for many people in the South (and still doesn’t appear to be). For a proud people, their way of life was what mattered. Slavery was treated more like something that was “in the background”. This, of course, was not shared by the North or black people. This discrepancy, in many ways, can be described as the “dilemma of the Civil War”.
This proud attitude of “preserving our way of life” would continue after the Civil War ended, down to today, though its more diminished now than before. It seems, to me, that mass media, such as TV and music, have decreased the severity and seriousness of this attitude primarily because it has, in a sense, taken the South out of its isolation. As a result, it seems that this attitude has begun to decrease particularly since the 1970’s when mass media, music, etc. really got established.
One of the effects of this proud attitude is that it created a great and intense resentment that could become, at times, sinister and dark and have great strength. The threat to the way of life hit deep for many people of the South and losing the Civil War only made it worse as, once they lost, a new fight to preserve their way of life began! This fact, I think, has never been acknowledged. In many ways, the Civil War was only the beginning of the South’s fight to preserve their way of life . . . its been going on ever since.
Some of examples of the resentment include:
- The bad connotation of black people . . . using black people as an avenue for resentment for losing the Civil War. I am under the impression that the resentment created by the South losing the Civil War caused a change in the perception of black people after the Civil War . . . it got worse. Before, they were treated not much differently than cattle and referred to as “blackies”, for example (that is, they weren’t really hated or despised, just treated “lowly”). After the Civil War they became hated and despised and were called “nigger”, which was said with a horribly bad derogatory connotation (the actual word, without the bad derogatory connotation, only means “black” . . . negro is a variation, and the same root word is used in the name of the country Nigeria). What is the significance of this? That the bad derogatory connotation of black people, such as in the name “nigger”, was not an attack of race but an expression of resentment by the people of the South for losing the Civil War. If this is true, then it would change the whole conception of things, at least as I was told, in which it is all supposed to mean a blatant hatred of people with dark skin. It would meant that words like “nigger” would not have a meaning like, “oh, there’s a person that I hate and despise because he has dark skin!” It would actually mean something more like, “oh, there’s the people we lost the Civil War for and I hate them for that!” In other words, it would mean that the despising attitude, such as seen in the name “nigger”, is not, in actuality, a racial attack as is commonly assumed but a statement of resentment. This same tendency, of using black people as an avenue of resentment, would appear in many other ways, such as the slaughter, after the Civil War, of many innocent black people for no apparent reason. It wasn’t done out of “racial hatred” but because the black people represented not only the cause but the losing of the Civil War . . . it was an expression of resentment. In this way, it seems to me, that this resentment at losing the Civil War seemed to of created more attacks, hatred, despising, and bad feelings toward blacks than the issue of race. This would mean that many things interpreted as “racial attack” have nothing to do with race at all! The North just interpreted it that way to fit their way of thinking as, to them, everything was about slavery.
- The development of organizations, such as the KKK, to express their resentment. Many of these type of organizations, it seems to me, are really nothing but saying, “piss on you North!” and were acts of defiance . . . again, a representation of resentment at losing the Civil War. I get the impression that some people deliberately targeted black people, for example, because they knew it went against the North.
- A suspicion of strangers – the creation of a closed society. Even I, living here in Utah, had an unusual apprehension of the people of the South. We heard of stories of problems people had when traveling to the South as they are very suspicious of strangers and may even put you in jail if you do something (or they think you did something). I remember hearing people who have been in jail for decades for doing nothing at all (it seems that there were even movies about this). I was even told not to travel in the South, if I didn’t have to. These facts shows how the South, after the Civil War, developed a very closed-like society that didn’t like strangers. The fact that they did this is another example of their proud attitude of “preserving their way of life”. Since their way of life was threatened they “stayed to themselves” and viewed everyone else – strangers – as a “threat”. The result of this is that it created a closed society that could treat strangers badly. Here we see how the resentment has now gone beyond blacks, again showing that this goes beyond race.
- A rebellious attitude. The Confederate flag, even in Utah, is often associated with a rebelliousness. I, myself, have always associated it with a particularly violent type of rebelliousness, though I’m not sure why as I saw no proof of it. Many people still fly the confederate flag in various ways (such as bumper stickers and shirts). I still see it all the time. Typically, it seems that the people who fly it are usually white males in their 20-30’s . . . the rebellious age. I get the impression its often a sign of rebellion against the norm of society. I am even under the impression that the character of Rhett Butler, in “Gone with the wind”, reflects this rebellious attitude.
- A fascination of things associated with rebellion. I tend to feel that this is why racing (such as NASCAR) is so big in the South. Supposedly, this racing has origin in increasing the speed of cars in order to evade the police during prohibition so that they could transport their liquor. In this way, fast cars would be a sign of a rebelliousness. In fact, the prohibition appears to of been an avenue of rebellion for many people of the South. It may be one of the reasons why the making of liquor, such as moonshining, was so appealing and flourished so well in the South.
- The growth of religion and the creation of a new style of religion. It seems, to me, that the helplessness of losing the Civil War, coupled with frustrated resentment, created a growing “religious fervor” in the South. In some respects, the loss of the “proud way of life” turned into a “religious fervor” which many people sought refuge in. I am under the impression that this tendency ended up creating a new unique form of religion after the Civil War. Its probably what they call “old time Southern religion” that isn’t so old time as it sounds. It seems, to me, that it is recent. Perhaps the “old time” refers to the sense of “pre Civil War” society which is what caused many people to seek this type of religion? I know that it could become very fanatical, at times, and can produce some odd things, such as TV evangelists who often took advantage of the blind following of the people to get rich and even would “stage” people who were supposed to of been cured. The ease of how this was done may show how many people were so easy to seek refuge in religion as a means to “preserve their way of life”.
All these shows that resentment continued after the Civil War ended and went beyond race, slavery, and the blacks. I get the impression that many people would not accept the fact that the South lost the war and are unwilling to let go their proud sense of a “way of life”. It also suggests that, in actuality, much of the behavior of the South has nothing to do with a hatred of the blacks (racial hatred), as is often claimed, but seems more related with the maintaining of a proud way of life and a sense of dignity it offers.
The interpretation of the behavior of the South, and its resentment, was naturally misinterpreted by the North and given whole other meanings or so it seems to me. Of course, the point of view of the North would turn into the point of view of the U.S.
This tendency of misinterpretation is not new, and has been a common thing when things are done “in the name of freedom” (for example, see my article “The west’s misinterpretation of East Germany“). Its one of the reasons why the U.S. tends to misinterpret other countries cultures and motives so easily. Oftentimes, these misinterpretations “in the name of freedom” tends to create myths that distort things and create erroneous views. What this shows is the American tendency of what I call “forcing the interpretation”. In actuality, the political ideology of the U.S. is actually limited and narrow. It does not explain, or take into consideration, many realities of life nor does it have enough depth to explain them. But, since it is the power in the U.S., it has to take on the role of explaining it. What it ends up doing is taking situations of life and having to “force it into its political ideology”. These may sound good but are often narrow and limited in their scope. The result is a tendency to misinterpretation and the creation of myths.
Many of the myths associated with the South are based, of course, in the U.S.’s ideology and blend into other myths that they have already created. Examples involved with the South include:
- The “different people myth” – the belief that people automatically dislike people who are different. Slavery and the bad treatment of blacks, that happened after the Civil War in particular, became a justification for the idea that people did not like people who are different and would become one of the reasons they used to support it. My observations, though, do not support this myth . . . people don’t automatically dislike other people that are different. Something else is usually required for this to happen (see my article, “Thoughts on the ‘impersonal unfamiliarity’ sense – the apprehension of people we can’t relate to“). The South seems no different. Initially, black people were treated as “primitive” or backward people, a commonly held view of non-European people by Europeans (who fancied themselves as “advanced”, which shows its really more rooted in a self-glorification than a “hatred”). And when slavery began the blacks were despised as slaves or, rather, human cattle, given them a quality of being “subhuman”. These attitudes, we must remember, is not the same as hatred. As I said above, the intense hatred or dislike of black people seems, at least to me, primarily a result of the resentment at losing the Civil War (not because of racial hatred) and primarily came after the Civil War. The U.S., it seems to me, promoted the idea that they were “hated because they were black and different” to fit their ideology. One of the effects of this myth is that it created this idea that slavery is a result of a hatred of people that are different, not because of the real cause of slavery . . . the practical exploitation of people for economic means, much like cattle (which is not a “hatred because they are different” but is really more reflective of a lack of humanity). This is a dramatic change in point of view. This belief, or myth, has been greatly promoted by the U.S. apparently as an easy way to explain all the problems that have happened between people as a result of being the “melting pot of the world”. To explain away any problems between people as “just because their different” is too easy of an explanation and can be applied to just about any situation.
- The “racial myth” – the belief that there is automatic dislike of people of other races. This “different people myth” would get a bigger boost and justification after WWII. The racial policies of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s only intensified it and changed it a bit (see my article, “Thoughts on ‘living under the shadow of Hitler’ – the horror of the modern world“). In fact, it seems to me, that it was after WWII that the word “race”, as a generalized term, first started to be used, showing the influence of the racial policies of the Nazi’s. Before this time, the problems of the South weren’t really perceived as a “racial issue” but a “black issue”, so to speak. But the acts of the Nazi’s would create this idea of a “problem of race”. In this way, the Nazi’s were the ones who created the “racial myth”. Once it was created it would then be applied to the “black issue” of the South with now became a “racial issue” which was now reflective of a “racial hate”. This would be instrumental in the creation of things like the Civil Rights Movement which would be based in the idea of the “racial myth” and a “racial hate”. As a result of these, the idea that “people just hate someone who is of a different race” has become a common belief in America and is often used as an explanation for problems between people.
- The “hate myth” – humanity is full of hate. The previous myths would be greatly associated with this. This myth is really a product of the cold war. This is because, after the cold war developed, it created a general sense of paranoia. At about 1970, or so, this paranoia erupted against the Vietnam War and helped create the ‘hippi movement’. Much of the hippi mentality is based in Christian ideals. This is not surprising as the people who made up the ‘hippi movement’ were primarily from Protestant Christian America. The Christian emphasis on love would create an emphasis on the need for love by the hippi’s and as a solution to the worlds problems. The contrary to love is hate, hence they emphasized that hate was the cause of everything bad, including the cold war, slavery, and conflict between people. In fact, there is the belief that humanity is full of hate and this hate was a threat to the world. The result of this is the creation of the “hate myth”, that people hate each other and that this is a threat. In addition, the paranoia of the cold war created the belief that things have to be done to prevent this hatred from getting out of control (often using the law and the Constitution). This “hate myth” would be blended into the previous myths now making hatred as a motive. This would be associated with black people probably having a lot to do with the Civil Rights Movement which was prevalent then. So the line of thought becomes that we “hate” the black people because “their skin color is different”. This, in fact, is the line of thought I was brought up with about all this.
Because of these things the myths that developed through the years and ended up distorting the interpretation of human behavior in the U.S., particularly when it involved conflicts between people. This is why I never put much belief in many Americans explanation of conflicts between people (including law and politics). It also created a distorted view about human nature. This idea, for example, that people “hate people that are different” I do not feel is correct. But these type of points of view are very prevalent in this country.
Many of these American points of view has always scared me as they are too simplistic and narrow. They are also easy explanations that can be used too easily to explain away various problems between people . . . just call someone a “racist” and the matters done! Because its so simplistic and narrow that it leaves out many other facts and things about life, people, and humanity. In some respects, its like looking at life through a tube, only partially seeing things and not getting the big picture. That’s how many of these points of view looks like to me.
THE IDENTITY OF BLACK PEOPLE
It also seems, to me, that the effects of the myths created by the U.S. also helped to create identity problems for the black people that continue to this day (see my article “Some thoughts on the identity of black people: An example of identity misalignment???“). Many black people have used these myths to define who they are and their position in life. In fact, they’ve become something like a “weapon” that they use to deal with life’s problems. I’ve always felt that this is something that is actually hindering the growth of black people as a group. Its actually “keeping them down” and “stuck in the past”. Some of the reasons for this include:
- Its based on a narrow and limited thinking.
- Its based in a political ideology and, accordingly, not human based.
- It keeps them in a “stuck as a slave” mentality.
- It makes them see hatred and oppression everywhere.
Ironically, the thing that seems to be supporting them (American political thinking) also seems to be hindering them.
In this way, we can see that the Civil War has impacted everyone in the South, white and black, in negative ways down to today.
TRIBAL SOCIETY – THE PROUD SOCIETY
The proud way of life seen in the South is most likely related to the tribal-based society from Europe. This tribal-nature is primarily seen in north-west Europe, the Scandinavian/British peoples. This would have great impact on the behavior of the people of the South.
“Tribal society”, to me, refers to an orientation of society in which there is a great sense of “us” above everyone and everything else. It is a common sense seen in many parts of the world. It is primarily a sense of self-preservation or, rather, social-preservation. Its this sense that has allowed many societies to survive in the world. Many primitive societies develop a tribal orientation out of necessity, as a means of survival.
The rise of a mass society (which could be described as civilization) tends to erode the tribal sense and can even destroy it. Its appearance can cause many social problems. North-western Europe was made up of many tribal societies up until recently. When the Christians came northward to convert them they brought up a more mass society civilized point of view. As a result, they were “forced” to go from one stage of society (tribal) to another (mass society civilization) without going through the transition stages. This same thing happened with the American Indians but on a more dramatic scale. For proper social growth, and transformation, society needs to go through stages as it develops. When this transitioning does not happen there often appears something to as if “bridge the gap” between the stages:
- A conflict or social crisis.
- A stagnation.
- A substitute intermediary stage (often a mixture of the old and the new stage).
For north-western Europe they primarily did the last form. The substitute was a combination of the old and new in the image of royalty and nobility. In other words, the mixture was:
- The loyalty and emulation of royalty satisfied the tribal sense of belonging.
- The image of royalty and nobility represented the ideals of mass society civilization.
The effect of these can be described as a “glorified nobility”. In this way, they had the “best of both worlds” which as if created a transition from tribal to mass society civilization.
As a result of the image of royalty and the nobility, there became a great desire to emulate royalty and be like nobility in the population. This was very common in the 1700’s and 1800’s when the U.S. was getting established. With the early settlers of the U.S. they found means to achieve this in the south-eastern part of the U.S. which gave them many qualities such as:
- The land to use.
- Wealth from the land (such as from cotton).
- An isolation from the bustling progressive north. In many ways, this isolation allowed something like a “regression” to take place, as if to “slip back” into a more tribal-like orientation in the South, focusing on the group, developing a proud attitude, and the creation of a “way of life” worth defending.
- The use of the new growing slave trade that was going on then as a workforce
All this gave them the land and the workforce to create a wealthy lifestyle as well as the free time to “freely imitate the nobility” (what I often call the pseudo-nobility and which is a common trait of this period of time). Much of pre-Civil War southern society reflected this “imitating nobility” with the emphasis on manners, appearance, status, symbols of wealth, etc. This developed and grew in the early-mid 1800’s, right before the Civil War. In fact, it seems that it was at its height right before the Civil War.
The problem is that they were “free to imitate the nobility” only on the backs of the slaves. They did not see this fact as the tribal sense tended to make people not of their tribe (the blacks) appear insignificant, a trait often seen in tribal societies. This shows that the tribal orientation tends to differentiate between those in the tribe and those without. Typically, those not in the tribe are neglected and are often treated as “non-entities”. This is seen by tribes all over the world. This same stance would be taken by the South (in other words, they used a commonly used stance in the world . . . there’s really nothing unique about it). In this way, we can see that the tribal society sense created two stances in the South:
- The emphasis on the tribe – They emphasized, and glorified, their imitation of nobility which is the basis of their “proud way of life” which is the tribe. Because tribal society is social-preservation, the defending of this way of life, which was threatened by the Civil War, had to be defended and takes first priority over everything including the welfare of the slaves.
- The neglect of those not in the tribe – This caused them to give a blind-eye to the problems and effects of slavery. I get the impression that many people, in the pre Civil War era, treated black people as if they were non-existent . . . complete neglect.
These seems to describe the basic stance of the South.
In many ways, it shows that there is a point when tribal society not only fails but tends to develop horribly negative effects. To put it another way, when the tribal orientation is maintained in a large mass society civilization there tends to develop problems, such as:
- There becomes various forms of exclusiveness.
- Many people are neglected or treated badly (meaning those people that are within the society but not a part of the tribe).
- A narrow-mindedness is created and inability to see the ‘bigger picture’. That is, they only have a limited view in respect to their tribe.
The societies created by the north-western Europeans – which is basically “western society” – have all displayed these problems in the past 300 or so years, reflecting the problems of a tribal society in large mass society civilizations. The tribal society worked effectively and efficiently many centuries before when they were a smaller secluded society. This reveals some interesting points:
- Tribal societies are good for small societies that are largely by themselves in the world.
- Tribal societies are not good in large mass society civilizations with many people, particularly if there are different types of people.
The problem with Southern society reflected the problem of a tribal society in a large mass society civilization. The North, being more progressive, was losing its more tribal society orientation which is why they conflicted with the South and tried to change them. The North would take a point of view that reflects a growing sense of mass society civilization – democracy – as the basis of their thinking. But it wasn’t as simple as that . . .
THE UNDERMINING EFFECT OF DEMOCRACY
Ironically, though, the political ideals of the North, which sounded so good, would undermine it. Democracy is actually a point of view that hastens the undermining of a tribal society orientation. It does this by saying that “everyone is the same” and “no one gets special treatment”. In addition, it destroys authority and the power of leaders. This reflects a sense, in democracy, of a growing mass society, made up of many people, and its trying to take into consideration everyone. The net result of this, though, is a blurring of humanity. Tribal society, or any social bond, doesn’t grow much when people are a blur. In this way, democracy undermines society as a whole (see my article, “Thoughts on how the U.S. is undermining itself with its own ideals – the ‘God-ordained democracy’ thats frightened of authority“). Much of the problems of the U.S., now, are rooted in this undermining.
In some respects, democracy creates a problem in social transition. This is because it generally takes an already existing society, with a form of social bond (whether it be tribal or not), and tries to force the mass society mentality (through democracy) upon it. What I mean by this is that it makes it redundant and useless, if not villainized. But democracy doesn’t offer anything substantial for the next stage. In a way, democracy just “hints” at a new stage, or “suggests” it. It does not create it. Though democratic politic theory suggests a mass society civilization, its political practice is not the same as a stage in social change, hence it does not happen. In a way, democracy is as if trying to force society into a new stage, through political practice, when the next stage hasn’t even appeared. As a result, democracy undermines what is already there creating a society that is stagnant and without a social bond. In this way, the society is as if “hanging”: indecisive, uncertain, and vague with no defined leadership or meaning. Interestingly, many people view this condition as “freedom”, believe it or not. What all this means is that the social change democracy promotes is a change to a society that is “hanging in the air”. In western society, we could then say that the social transformations have followed this pattern:
- Tribal society – this is a naturally appearing condition.
- The “glorified nobility” – a substitute stage because they were being forced from a tribal society to a mass society civilization.
- Democracy – an attempt to force society into a mass society civilization.
- A society “hanging in the air” – the undermining caused by democracy in which the next stage is lacking.
So we see that “glorified nobility” was a substitute stage to the mass society civilization, to help the transition. Democracy, on the other hand, is actually a forcing of change that relied on its political practice to instigate it and which failed. The fact is, and history shows this to be true, that political practice does not force social change. This is the failure of democracy.
I would actually go on to say that democracy is a good idea for a small society. Its not a good idea for a mass society. Why is this? Because democracy needs the unity of a tribal bond to work (that is, a unity in the population) . . . mass society civilization does not offer this. What does this mean? It means that, though democracy “hints” at a mass society civilization, it is actually tribal society rooted. In this way, its as like an “in-between philosophy”. It reflects a conflict of transitional stage. Democracy, then, is just another aspect of the conflict of social transition that has plagued western society for over 300 years . . . it is not its solution.
Many societies that have been “democratized” (often with force) have had this “hanging in the air” problem. Democracy is forced upon them and they find their traditional leadership gone, their traditional authority gone, their social structure gone. Many societies have literally been “gutted” by “democratization”. Its probably no surprise that many problems in the world have been instigated by this condition. Once their society and authority structure is destroyed by “democratization” it leaves a void in the society for questionable people to “take over”. This has caused the creation of many governments that are violent, destructive, and threatening. Its created many of the “problem regimes” of the world.
As I said above, the maintaining of a society “hanging in the air” is often viewed as a form of freedom. This is because it becomes a society where there are many “absences”, such as:
- An absence of authority.
- An absence of unity.
- An absence of morality.
- An absence of belief.
What this causes is a quality where one “has no ties” or “responsibility”, which is often perceived as a “freedom”. What it is, in actuality, is a nihilistic society in which the society and people are “nothing” (which is another way of saying, “hanging in the air”). This “nothing” is thought of as “freedom”. The U.S. has become such a “nothing” society.
But a “nothing” society creates a “nothing life”. This is not a freedom at all . . . its more of an illusion. It tends to create a bunch of bored, shallow, and meaningless people. Its sort of like someone brought up on a wealthy family where they have servants do everything for them. It seems great but its empty. To me, this describes American society as I see it now. In this way, its as if American society has gone from one extreme (tribal-like with strict rules) to a “nothing society” (where there are no rules) in less than two hundred years.
Here are some other articles that involve similar issues:
Copyright by Mike Michelsen