By Ron Marr
The need to control, codify, and stipulate what folks do, think, say, or feel, leaves me baffled. I’ve no need to be made privy to the inner workings, outer actions, or belief systems of others unless such information is voluntarily offered. I cannot imagine the desire to impose my will on strangers or friends, mostly because I have a rather strong reaction when people attempt to impose their will on me. I may be an odd hermit, spending inordinate amounts of time with dogs, trees, shotguns, catfish, and guitars ... but a hypocrite I ain’t.
This modus operandi puts me at odds with a modern society that stigmatizes privacy. We live in an era where all reflections are supposed to be public, all conduct monitored, and all ideologies sanitized for your protection. The urge to convert the predilections of individuals and the masses, to insist they toe the line of conventional wisdom and collective reasoning, renders original cognition and strong opinions moot and mute.
Has the concept of “live and let live” become anachronistic? Are we all voyeurs and members of the Orwellian thought police? When did the concept of tolerance overstep its bounds and morph into arbitrary dogmatism? When did the desire for confidentiality become the bailiwick of the paranoid and dangerous?
These questions do not arise from revelations of prejudiced snooping on the part of governmental agencies. I’ve my own opinions on that topic, but not for here and not for now. I’m referring to society in general, to the adaptive behaviors that are integral character traits of the population at large.
It could well be that this instinct to boss people around has existed since time immemorial. It probably has. Upon reflection, an overbearing and imperious comportment is the stuff of stories, books, jokes, theater, and history. Husbands and wives, siblings, friends, and infamous despots—the tales of bossy and tyrannical mien are legion. One personality type feels the need to control. Another is content to submit and follow. To mix a metaphor, wolves and sheep do not change their stripes.
I might be out of the loop. Again, my hours are spent with dogs, trees, shotguns, catfish, and guitars. The social contracts and proprieties most take for granted frequently strike me as odd and odious. Such epiphanies strengthen my resolve to distance myself from the huddled masses yearning to be free of personal responsibility.
I don’t dislike people. I dislike like the pushy, brutish, boorish, and rude. I’ve a notoriously low tolerance for loutish vulgarians. They cause me to behave in an uncouth and moderately untethered manner, which raises my blood pressure and makes the dogs nervous. That won’t do. I absolutely refuse to put my puppies on Xanax.
Of all the places I’ve lived, only two held a citizenry that valued privacy and individuality as supreme attributes. One was Montana, although I hear it
has changed for the worse since I split there a decade back. Big Sky locals attribute this decline to a locust-like influx of southern Californians.
The other is the Missouri Ozarks. I’m sure that gossip and snooping were prevalent in parts of those midnight-green hills and hollers, but I never knew it to be of the “in-your-face” variety. It’s funny to me that media types who rarely leave the elitist, pseudo-intellectual confines of Los Angeles or New York salons portray the Ozarks as a bastion of uneducated, unwashed, toothless hill folk. I found it, firsthand, to be the most civilized place in the United States. The locals were polite, friendly, and had more common sense in their work-scarred pinkies than could be found amongst the entire staff of a dozen bi-coastal think-tanks. I’m always gonna love that place. Few things are truly unique, but the Ozarks is one of them.
A preponderance of Ozarkers still place individuality, independence, privacy, and hospitality above all else. They don’t suffer fools lightly ... but they will help you change a tire or drop by your house with a sack of tomatoes just to be neighborly.
If society implodes under the weight of its own self-imposed idiocy, I hope I find myself in the Ozarks. It may not be the center of high culture, but it is the hub of courtesy, privacy, and manners. Better yet, there’s an abundance of dogs, trees, shotguns, catfish, and guitars.
If those aren’t the signs of an advanced civilization, I don’t know what is.