Condescension and Resentment

A few minutes ago, a former professor of mine directed my attention to this New Republic article on the subject of condescending coastal attitudes towards the American midwest.

I cannot speak for the Americans, but we have something similar here in Canada whereby people in Ontario and Quebec regard everyone in the Western half of the country, particularly the three prairie provinces, as being a bunch of unsophisticated hicks. This is a bit of a problem when you consider that almost our entire national news-media is based out of Toronto. Here, as in the United States, broadcasters occasionally try to take a more sympathetic approach to the region, by reporting on matters of local interest: matters such as farming, because this apparently is all that happens west of the Canadian shield. This truth is that substituting a bunch of condescending “corrupt hick” stereotypes for a bunch of equally condescending “salt-of-the-Earth hick” stereotypes is no way to win friends and admirers.

I have lived in Western Canada for my entire life, and as such I can tell you with absolute certainty that not only are there no cow-pies in the streets of our major cities, but that this sort of condescension was far and away the biggest reason that westerners turned their backs on the two “mainstream” political parties (the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives), and threw their support behind the fringe Reform party in the 1990s. Not because of any particular affinity for libertarian economics or fundamentalist religion*, but because of pure resentment from being told over and over again that our issues don’t matter.

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*And here I direct your attention to the fact that two out of three prairie provinces fairly reliably supported democratic-socialists of various partisan stripes up until the end of the 1980s

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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4 Responses to Condescension and Resentment

  1. Lindsay says:

    It’s pretty similar for us, too. I know that Kansas, in particular, has been a hotbed of progressive politics in the past. And of course Wisconsin has historically been a union stronghold. And Minnesota is still sending some impressively liberal people to Washington. (They may have been responsible for Michele Bachmann, but they also gave us Al Franken and Keith Ellison. And until relatively recently one of their Senate seats was held by Paul Wellstone, who might’ve been the most liberal person in the Senate).

    And besides that, I know there’s DEFINITELY a lot of contempt for Midwesterners and Southerners in national progressive politics! It’s annoying and alienating even to committed progressives from those regions, so I can hardly fault my apolitical, moderate or conservative neighbors for being repelled by it.

    The first comment on the linked article is a terrific example of that very contempt, too: the person is like, “All the civilized people should just get out of those states, and leave the homophobes and haters to stew in their own juices.” Oh, OK. Thanks so much, random internet dude. Are you going to buy me a ticket to New York City and let me live with you there, then?

    • And there as here, I imagine that it’s very difficult even to publicly say that you support a party which is so universally seen as treating you contemptuously.

      • Lindsay says:

        Not really for me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people felt that way. I think “moderate” or “independent” or “I don’t much like either party” contain a whole lot of people, liberals and progressives as well as libertarians and Republicans who are ashamed to admit it.

        (Also here I think there’s a presumption that if you’re in the sciences or care about the sciences, of course you hate the Republicans and vote Democratic. Especially if your field is biology.)

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