It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Question Authority, but Don't Stop There!

Questioning authority is something we boomers deserve both credit and blame for in ample quantities. It's embedded in American culture, amplified by the boomer-inspired culture industry, and a point of constant friction for some of us Americaphiles who are attracted to the country but not entirely of it.

The incredibly creative and yet isolated and xenophobic culture of rural America has a lack of confidence in authority at its very roots, roots which go back to Scots and Irish oppression in 18th and 19th century Britain, and which were fundamentally at the roots of the creation of Kentucky and Texas in particular, and much of the west and middle south as a consequence.

This resentment of government is coupled with a strangely contrary enthusiasm for local authority including the church and the military, and perhaps as a direct consequence, a very high tolerance for logical contradiction. It's hard to, you know, argue, in the positive sense of argument, with people who have no trouble holding contrary opinions, who've never learned the disadvantages of doing so.

Anyway, the point is that rock and roll, the ultimate expression of the genius of America, came from those very same Appalachian hills. As a consequence, via this attitude reflected through the powerful and emotive media of music and film, the whole world has been echoing the Appalachian mountain man's defiance and suspicion of authority and profound attachment to local interests.

The trouble with questioning authority, of course, doesn't come from the question; it comes from the complete indifference to the answer.


EliRabett said...

Country music came from those hills, not rock and roll (we can fight about Johnny Cash).

Michael Tobis said...

Not really the place for a history of popular music, but country and rock share common roots in blues and scots-irish ballads with a pinch of swamp music all via western swing.

Memphis and Nashville aren't all that far apart.

And if you're focused on the west coast as the home of American rock, remember that Jerry Garcia played banjo as well as guitar and listen to some of his sessions with David Grisman, and don't forget that Janis is my homegirl.