by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
If there is one thing the election of Donald Trump showed the United States it’s that there is an enormous urban-rural divide.
That’s not true at all….
The US “discovered” this exact same problem following the elections of Bill Clinton and Dubya Bush: rural voters found Clinton immoral, urban voters found Bush immoral – open support for either president made one immoral. Both were vilified as totally unacceptable leaders by either the city mice or the country mice.
Both presidents were atrociously immoral and unacceptable modern leaders, of course. However, 2018’s unprecedented animosity towards Trump only shows that undeserved self-righteousness has temporarily swung back to the urban sector.
But the reality is that anger is simply what American mice do: they are angry, and they think that the venting of anger equals power, when most everyone else knows it equals the opposite. But this anger is a phenomenon endemic across today’s West: the French public is aggressive, culturally chauvinistic and incredibly rude, England trails only the US in an assumed sense of superiority, Canadians are the kings of passive-aggressive behaviour, and the list goes on.
The capitalist-imperialist West’s enormous political dysfunctions, faulty presumptions and roads they refuse to take…I cannot offer a remedy to all these things, but this article does discuss real solutions to their unbridged urban-rural divide.
Due to the mass urban migrations of the 20th century, this divide is felt more acutely by rural inhabitants, but it is clearly a cultural and political dysfunction which must be immediately remedied…and which China has already remedied.
I explained China’s solutions in the 3rd part of this 8-part series: When Chinese Trash saved the world: Western lies about the Cultural Revolution. It’s an article which is not that popular, probably because it lacks the sensational appeal of discussing the Great Leap’s famine or the personal appeal of discussing Mao, but the Cultural Revolution is surely the most important Chinese event since 1949.
There can be no remedy to this divide if we don’t acknowledge how timeless and universal it is: the urban-rural dichotomy is as fundamental to human society as male-female, old-young, home life-social life, science-faith, etc. Creating a satisfying cultural synthesis is thus a difficult but necessary undertaking.
China had a big leg up in this particular dichotomy thanks to the Confucian hierarchy of farmer-scholar-tradesperson-merchant-soldier, in that order, but the West gives no such value to the rural producer of everyone’s food. The West has advantages in other cultural dichotomies, but this article does not examine them.
At some point, the West’s urbanites (often effete, annoying, condescending, ultimately intolerant) are going to have to realise, accept and appreciate the timeless fact that this dichotomy is indeed valid and sensible, because different values are needed to thrive in rural settings than in urban areas; therefore, rural values must be as equally promoted as urban values in the overall national culture, in stark contrast to the current policy of denigration and exclusion.
A problem is that urbanites insist that their values are at the crest of the wave…but very often it is a wave of mere fashion. Another problem is that urbanites view their wave as an all-erasing tsunami rather than just one moderate-sized wave on one side of the island. But there is little doubt that the values of rural areas are more enduring because they are more adapted to nature, which certainly runs a longer timespan than the those of powerful cities and their cultures.
Just as men and women must get along despite their natural differences, so must urban and rural – here are some definite answers.
How do we solve the urban-rural divide? Change the culture
I have a very simple solution for the West: have their version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which had the bridging of this urban-rural divide as one of its main tenets.
Of course, my idea will be met (unfairly) with shock and horror, because Western propaganda is that the Cultural Revolution was an unceasing cavalcade of horrors and injustices. The 3rd article of this series overcomes that dominant propaganda simply by discussing the true, known and factual motivations, policies and results of the Cultural Revolution, which are ignored in favor of tabloid, self-serving coverage in Western media and academia. The dominant Western view of the Cultural Revolution is thus a reactionary, prejudiced view, and I encourage you to please read that article in order to appreciate this one – it may go so far as to prepare you to at least consider the possible need for certain aspects of China’s Cultural Revolution in your country.
(Iran doesn’t need a Cultural Revolution – we just had one, and there are legislated polices and rules which truly ensure that it is rather permanent and self-refreshing, but that is a whole different series of articles….)
China, as I detailed in the first part of this series, is largely geographically unsuited for farming and yet they have always held the global championship belt for “World’s Best Farmers”. As I mentioned with the Confucian hierarchy, their esteem for rural life made it easier for China to solve this divide, and also made it only natural that Maoism was the first socialist philosophy to place the farmer on a perfectly-equal basis with the modern industrial worker.
In short, just as the West in 2018 so fervently believes its problems are caused by the racist hicks of rural areas, Maoism so fervently believed the opposite.
The question we should be asking is: Why did Mao believe in the cultural worth of rural values?
Well, he spent years in the countryside, so he knew how they lived. He was not in an ivory tower, nor stuck in a bohemian part of the city, nor surrounded by like-minded factory workers. He actually went to the country (and made a rather Long March around it, too).
But in the West how many people have lived in the countryside for more than a weekend?
I prefer not to make my articles about myself, but: I’m an urbanite, and prior to about 20 years old I could count the number of times I had seen a cow on one hand. But then I lived exclusively on a farm for more than 1.5 years.
To say that it was an eye-opening, humbling experience is an understatement. I quickly perceived how shallow my worldview truly was, having been limited to urban areas. I realised how very rich is the life of the rural people whom urban culture told me to disparage and feel superior to.
I often compare the experience to someone who lived in strict gender segregation until the age of 20: how full and rich is life alongside our other gender, and how empty without it? Male-female, yin-yang, city-country – all of these represent two opposites of perfectly equal, yet different, powers.
But in my discussions with Western urbanites I have rarely come across people who claim to have had genuine experiences in both urban and rural settings.
So when the Communist Party sent everyone from mild reactionaries to city-kid students to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, I am personally certain that it was most often a positive thing, and I am not surprised that it is reported that the era is fondly remembered in rural areas. The Party knew it would be reforming and supremely enlightening because it would increase the scope of one’s understanding of the world, affirm the experiences of other people and thus increase one’s love of humanity and of life itself.
The West’s problem becomes even more profound when one realises that the West’s leaders have not had these types of necessary and rounding experiences…and that China’s leaders have had them:
China’s President Xi spent seven years in the poor countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Xi lived with lice & hard rural labor, and spent nights reading to illiterate farmers. That’s even though his father was the Party bigwig who created the first Free Economic Zones across from Hong Kong – no nepotism there, for sure, eh? Emmanuel Macron, in contrast, spent time at Goldman Sachs. Hillary spent time doing looking down on the people of Little Rock and callously planning her success / her opponent du jour’s downfall.
My political enlightenment on the rural-urban issue came through talking with others – not just watching the corn come in and go out. Without the rural friends I made, and without their patience in correcting my uppity, uniformed city slicker bullplop…I would be a far, far worse person today, and certainly a far, far worse journalist.
What we need to realize is that the only remedy for urban elites is indeed to get them out into the country long-term – enlightenment cannot be a short-term project. China’s Cultural Revolution should start appearing not so drastic, but as the only solution to a universal cultural problem.
A simply policy to make this change in the West are obvious: Civil service programs and public propaganda campaigns to support them. Compulsory service in the armed forces provides another way for people to see how the other half of their country lives, and to provide necessary emergency services (such as China’s People’s Liberation Army).
Of course, this will take the ever-so-incredibly-valuable time of suburban high schoolers away from all those after-school programs they need so desperately to get into capitalist-restricted higher education; the discipline, humility and slogging work such a program requires and creates will also conflict with the “hustler” capitalist mentality promoted on every urban street corner and in every media.
The propaganda battle will require just as big a cultural change: Phrases such as “flyover country” will have to be seen as what they are – signs of reactionary thought, whereas they are instead bizarrely seen as some sort of signifier of leftism/liberalism.
The old rural values – and I don’t need to list them because they’re largely the same – must be promoted with at least equal vigor as the modern urban values of detached alienation, disregard for home life and “be cool, cool, cool” even at 75 years old (which is really quite Parisian, where you truly see 75 year-old men wearing skinny jeans, LOL).
Clearly, something like a ”cultural revolution” would be required to make this long-term and lasting change in the West. Hmm, I wish somebody had thought of that earlier…..
The bottom line is: I just don’t see how the urban-rural divide can be crossed without crossing over? The mass migration of rural to urban during the 20th century makes it clear which side has to make the move.
How do we solve the urban-rural divide? Change the land
This section takes an unexpected tack – let’s not worry about rural land ownership, but urban land ownership.
A reason why there is so little ability for urbanites to spend serious time in the country learning about the country side of life is because they are under such constant financial pressure…to pay rent. The cost of living, and especially housing, is far greater in urban areas, of course.
A fascinating cross-cultural study was issued last year, which found that Paris and London had the highest rates of social psychosis. What I found of great interest was that owning your home – or not – was found to be the single biggest indicator of mental and emotional stability.
Research published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found, “the strongest area-level predictor of high rates of psychotic disorders was a low rate of owner-occupied housing”.
It is quite logical: When a person is constantly worried about being able to pay the rent, or when the rent will be raised without warning or limits, a person cannot feel themselves to be truly stable; in societies where only the rich can afford housing without concerns, then the myriad small neighbourhoods which compose a country necessarily become full of unstable people:
“People in areas that are socially deprived (i.e. not rich) may have more social stresses, which could predict psychosis incidence, as suggested by other studies,” said a researcher.“An alternative explanation could be that owner-occupied housing is an indicator of social stability and cohesiveness, relating to stronger support networks.”
The researcher is right on both counts: “land poverty” (i.e., not having a stable, long-term home) is a stress which creates psychosis, be it mild or severe. And non- “owner occupied housing” (i.e., forcing to hand over 1/3rd to 1/2 of our paychecks every month to a rich, two-home owning bastard (which the landlord probably just inherited from his parents)) means that people are forced to move a lot, have shorter ties to the community and get into debt. The land issue means that capitalist communities thus have inherently reduced “social stability and cohesiveness”.
And also, the lack of a stable home shoots the whole “civil service program” in the foot: What is the point of making a multi-year cultural revolution if people have no place to return to where they can implement and share what they have learned?
This study was the first of its kind in 25 years, and I highly doubt it was geared towards proving the necessary of socialist housing for urbanites, but it clearly does. China did not need such a study to prove what is clearly just common sense – that housing laws must massively favor renters and not landlords, and that is at the very least.
So pity poor Western millennials: 70% of Chinese people aged 19-37 own their own home, double Western rates. Number 2 in the study is Mexico, at 46%. Just 69% of French millennials plan to buy a home in the next 5 years, the highest in the study. Of course not – have you seen Paris real estate prices?! I have no plans to do so, and I’m 40 years old – who is going to pay for it / force housing prices lower?
Western culture thus has to actually spin this lack of stability as some sort of positive: Western young people are supposed to be considered lucky for being “free, flexible & unencumbered”. In reality they have no job security, no stable home, massive debt, are untethered to society and thus suffer from endemic alienation.
“Bread, peace, land” can be translated to “Bread, peace, a decent apartment” in modern times.
But it’s not only China and not only Maoism which has solved this issue, proven by their 90% home ownership rate: 80% of Cubans own their own home and thus pay no rent or mortgage. Can you guess the common denominator here?
How do we solve the rural-urban divide? Central economic planning
The socialist way is “central control but not central management”. The capitalist way is “local control and no management (except for market forces) ”…and history repeatedly proves that this puts rural areas at a fundamental disadvantage: There is simply no way to safeguard the rural half without central economic planning – they will always be left behind because helping hillbillies will never turn an immediate profit.
Except for politically advanced places like Cuba (where fuel shortages provoked by the international blockade required the mass creation of urban food gardens) food, the ultimate currency, is produced in the country…but the money flows to the cities via their middlemen, distributors, commodity exchanges and banks, and it stays there. Therefore, rural societies wind up being perennially poorer than urban societies.
While this fact should be well-known already, the structural causes of the natural exploitation inherent in the rural-urban divide is supplied in multiple eras of Chinese history.
I quote from the Western establishment’s “doyen on China” John King Fairbank’s “China: A Modern History”, which I have referred to many times in this series. Whether he realized it or not, the right-wing Fairbank makes the case for central planning as the only solution to end the urban-rural economic divide:
“Deng and his successors realized that in order to move to the market, it was necessary to decentralize and to reduce the concentration of political and economic power in the central government; but they did not foresee the extent to which such an economic and political decentralization would result in a decrease in the flow of taxes to the center. This diminished the reach of the party state authority and fostered an informal federalism. In the short run, decentralization helps economic development by allowing more tax revenue to stay in the local areas to stimulate growth. But in the long run, as occurred in the late Qing Dynasty, it leads to a relative decline of central government revenues and thus decreasing expenditures on education, health, and infrastructure, eventually undermining economic growth, especially in the countryside.”
Whether it is in Qing-era feudalism or modern neoliberalism, without economic central planning to redistribute revenue money will flow in a largely one-way direction from country to city in the long run, creating an economic rural-urban divide.
Fairbank continues, and Deng-era capitalist failures will sound very 21st century:
“As revenue declined, the government shifted much of the responsibility for investment to the local governments and enterprises. But while they were prepared to invest in economic projects, local governments were less ready to invest in education and health….Likewise, with the abolition of the communes which had provided the funds for healthcare, education, and infrastructure development, particularly public irrigation networks, rural communities could no longer finance their own public activities. Evidence indicates that rural health, education, and public works gradually deteriorated in the 1990s.”
And this is exactly where the EU and US find themselves today: without central planning in order to fund unprofitable rural infrastructure it simply never gets constructed, and thus the urban-rural divide is never bridged. Socialism differs from capitalism in that the government exists in large part to provided needed services, and not to turn a profit.
Crazy Americans say that unprofitable rural towns deserve to die and that rural citizens don’t need opportunity and equality but simply “need U-Haul” in order to move somewhere else. This is not a humane, intelligent, or culturally-sustainable solution, and it justifiably increases the anger of rural residents towards the urbanites who propose such a “solution”.
Furthermore, in the modern and universal context of increased absentee landlordism – the 19th century phenomenon of landlords moving to the city, thus divorcing themselves from rural society, and thus drastically increasing rural exploitation (this is discussed in greater detail in the next article of this series) – only the government can play the role needed to fully protect rural societies from urban exploitation. The urban-rural divide may be timeless, but what goes ignored is that it has been exacerbated in the past two centuries by industrialism and modern capitalism, and that it is being manipulated even further during the digital era.
The irony is that the great Western breadbaskets – the Midwest for the US and France for the EU – already do have major subsides to protect their farmers, but the subsides are mainly for their farming corporations and not small farmers. Central planning is thus not at all new to the West, but socialist (non-corporation centered) central planning certainly is….
The urban-rural divide is not existential – it can be addressed
The Western view of the urban-rural divide seems to be: “take no prisoners in this cultural war”. That’s a problem, because I don’t know how we could eliminate one without the eliminating the other.
Wait – what?
“What” indeed, my rigid Western friend!
The unity of yin-yang, male-female, urban-rural and other “opposites” is only irreconcilable in Western contexts – they are viewed natural, inevitable, desirable complements in Chinese-influenced societies. Until Westerners learn to respect the “other” – such as other races or religions, for example – their unbalanced self-centeredness can only continue to manifest itself violently.
In the globalist era of “the modern person is a proud citizen of no nation”, perhaps whether one identifies as “urban” or “rural” is actually the 21st century’s most fundamental “nation”? This modern intolerance between urban and rural is not a major problem for everyone, however: as Fidel said, a divided society is an ideal society for imperialists.
Certainly, making these fundamental shifts – in national popular culture for humility towards rural areas, resolving the land issue, and economic planning to defend rural areas (and not just multinational farming corporations) – requires nothing less than a cultural revolution.
I am not expecting one tomorrow in the West, but nor do I see a solution without one.
China provides the example…but China’s example was more than a bit violent – if the West could study and learn from the Cultural Revolution, perhaps theirs could be less bloody? But too many find the Cultural Revolution as boring as watching the cows come home – they need to find the revolutionary poetry in both.
The main step, I believe, is to realize that there is no getting over the rural-urban divide – it is too fundamental to human existence – there is only synthesizing and celebrating it. China is way, way, way further along on this issue than the West.
Maybe you don’t like my solutions to the West’s rural-urban divide? At least I am providing an attempt at a mutually-beneficial cultural synthesis based on mutual respect, rather than fomenting intolerance. Turn on your TV – how many Westerners are promoting that?
This is the 5th article in an 8-part series which compares old versus new Western scholarship on China.
Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
Old vs. new scholarship on the continent of China – an 8-part series
Daring to go beyond Western propaganda on the Great Leap Forward’s famine
When Chinese Trash saved the world: Western lies about the Cultural Revolution
Mao’s legacy defended, and famous swim decoded, for clueless academics
The Cultural Revolution’s solving of the urban-rural divide
Once China got off drugs: The ideological path from opium to ‘liberal strongman’ Macron
Prefer the 1% or the Party? Or: Why China wins
China’s only danger: A ‘Generation X’ who thinks they aren’t communist
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.
This article talks as if all rural values/culture is the same. This is far from true. Even in places quite close to each other in geography, and one would imagine, in culture, there can be huge, fundamental differences. In Canada, we have two prairie, originally mainly farming provinces right next to each other: Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta’s cultural values were always pretty right wing–very atomistic, self-reliant, often emphasizing IMO crackpot versions of religion (all this was before they even struck oil). This probably had a good deal to do with the dominance of ranching in Alberta. Saskatchewan on the other hand pioneered various co-operative movements, ultimately leading to the Canadian Wheat Board with its collective banding together of wheat farmers to get an overall better deal through a single desk negotiating on behalf of all of them–this became a government body but was originally kind of a farmer’s union thing, spearheaded by Saskatchewan–and to the left-wing political party the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and a provincial government which introduced the country’s first public medical insurance. Saskatchewan was dominated by wheat farming rather than ranching. Two largely rural provinces with similar geography right next door to each other, settled around the same time by many of the same ethnic groups, two very different political cultures.
Just imagine how different you can get when you start talking about rural cultures with more to divide them. One key example I might suggest is that today in North America there are (at least) two radically distinct farming cultures: There is the agribusiness culture and the organic farming culture. The agribusiness culture revolves around large to very large farms doing monocrops (including “monocrops” of a single kind of livestock), using industrial methods and standardized corporate inputs of seed, chemical fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. The ways of doing things in such farms are pretty standardized, and while there are lots of farm workers there are very few people involved you could call “farmers”–the land is owned by a huge business and what you have at any given location is more a “manager” than a “farmer”. The farm workers are underpaid, their work is routinized, the bosses if anything probably prefer them ignorant. I’m going to go out on a limb and say many of them are the racist hicks that urban dwellers despise. Many of them probably are, in fact, fairly despicable–but the real despicable ones are the corporate overlords who cultivate a despicable workforce because their profits are higher that way.
The organic farming culture, in its purest form, is a sort of cross between hippie, urban, and “old fashioned independent farmer”. Organic farming tends to be much more complex than industrial farming–you have to work with the complexity of life rather than override it. So for instance, one will tend to find mixed and rotating crops rather than monocropping. One will tend to find the byproducts of one crop or livestock used as inputs for another. Without the option of slathering everything with insecticides or herbicides, dealing with pests requires a lot of little tricks. Thus organic farmers have to be more educated. The history of the movement towards organic farming is intertwined with urban culture and the desires of some urbanites for better quality food, authenticity, to get “back to the land” and so on. All this dates back to at least the 60s. The older generations of independent farmers, on the other hand, have been under massive financial pressure. They have tended to either give up and sell to agribusiness, try to make a go of it with the industrial route (often buying up more and more land to scale up, ending up hard to distinguish from the big agribusiness operations), or go the organic route in hopes of surviving through a higher-value crop and cheaper inputs. Some also seem to value the feeling of returning to, as it were, “real” farming by going organic. So there is an infusion of long-term independent farmers into the organic farming movement as well. In general because of the sort of hippie, lefty, urban background of a lot of organic farmers you won’t find much racism or “bible belt” style religion in the organic farming culture, and whether because of the urban background or the requirements of organic farming I get the impression that there’s generally higher education. But it’s not a pure replication of the urban “liberal” culture into the country; it still does remain true that the requirements of farming are somewhat different; these people are still getting crops into the ground.
What I’m saying is that a rural culture (like an urban one) is shaped by the way that rural economy is structured (and the way the economic structure influences education, conditions of work etc), as well as by accidents of history. If you want a revolution to change the rural (and/or urban) culture, you’re going to have to transform the economy, the conditions of work and education and livelihood. And it’s going to be different depending what you started out with.
Excellent points and explanation.
Another splendid thesis from Ramin Mazaheri. Great observation of the divide, and prescription for the cure.
Please keep writing, and explaining socialism as more than a word, and instead as a culture, a life, a political paradigm, and a great benefit to ordinary people.
Such a beautiful essay, thank you. Also good point by PLGuy. I’ve never been a farmer but I’ve lived rural often enough to know how much richer the life can be. You know, instead of the “soft” world of people and their trips, you’re building things, repairing things, keeping up with the cycle of nature. That feeling of doing a physical job right because it has to be, and that satisfying feeling of “that ain’t going anywhere any time soon” when you’re finished.
Not to mention that rural nights, alone or with company, are often the very best, stars and planets to keep you company. I lived in Los Angeles for a brief spell where at _night_ you can’t see the stars!
So much tiresome crappy human behavior cutteth no ice in the country. You have to do what you say you will, otherwise people will leave you alone and you will no doubt need their help one day.
I am so glad I took time to read your article. My husband and I went rural 17 years ago due to failing health in the city–both stress and environmental factors. We took up organic farming, but you can’t make ends meet with that, so I telecommute. Even prior to leaving, I was feeling more and more uncomfortable about living in the city. As an environmentalist, I could see how unsustainable our lifestyle was and how much waste was involved in appealing to the world by means of modern technology. It seemed to me we were kidding ourselves about how much of an impact we were having on the power brokers by jetting scientists and bureaucrats around to chat each other up over grand buffets in high-class hotels.
Rural life has taught me that the connection between “conservation” and “conservative” is more than superficial. Nationalism is one aspect of loving the land–the space within which you reside and work and the complex systems that support your lifestyle. Without loving the land, how can we heal it? The stability of home ownership as you noted is another part of this.
Without actually walking their talk, environmentalists will continue to be seen as hypocrites or fear-mongering profiteers, and it is their own fault it has come to that.
I’ll introduce your article to John Michael Greer, who lived rurally and adopted rural values. He’s open-minded enough to consider what you are saying about the Cultural Revolution. I really appreciate hearing your point of view on that.
Re “We took up organic farming, but you can’t make ends meet with that,”
Please try to check out titles by Ben Hartman such as “The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables,” published by Chelsea Green.
Not that you should change your life style, but others should know that if you want to cross the urban/rural divide and become a farmer, there are very good hands-on, books loaded with exact instructions (including the business aspect) that are also infused with high intelligence and awareness of other cultures’ spirituality and “extreme practicality.” Hartman applies to farming Japanese concepts that are part of the “lean” practice of eliminating waste and making a system work. Worth a look, or a review in your local paper (if writing is what you do!).
“The unity of yin-yang, male-female, urban-rural and other “opposites” is only irreconcilable in Western contexts – they are viewed natural, inevitable, desirable complements in Chinese-influenced societies. Until Westerners learn to respect the “other” – such as other races or religions, for example – their unbalanced self-centeredness can only continue to manifest itself violently.”
Yes. This is the root cause of the irreconcilable divide between the Western civilization and the Chinese civilization. In other words these civilizations are built on top of irreconcilable axioms:
– The Chinese axiom is polarism.
Yin and yang are the polarities of any given entity. Black and white, for example, are the extreme poles on the line representing color. Black being no color at all while white being all the colors. The particularity of polarism is that the line between the poles is constituted by a near infinity of shades of gray and the present reality of any given entity is then, in all probabilities, one shade of gray among the many. Those shades of gray represent indeed all the possible outcomes of the interactions between the poles. Wisdom for the Chinese lays somewhere at the middle of the road between the poles and they consider that it is the most harmonious and beneficial place to be…
– The Western axiom is dualism.
Black and white for Westerners are not polarities they are opposites and opposites are understood to be engaged in a battle for total domination by annihilation of the other. Let’s illustrate this with the opposites good and evil. Good has to annihilate evil. In earlier times good was considered to be god’s nature. With the secularization of their societies Westerners have come to believe that they themselves now represent what is good and in their eyes anything that is other or different than themselves appears thus necessarily as being evil and in consequence the other has to annihilated at all costs.
In the rural-urban discussion that is the subject of your article Western dualism has to be seen as imposing the rejection by Westerners of what they are not. So if they are living in the city they hate the farmers… The Chinese have no such compunction. But the most impressive differentiation imposed by the axioms of civilizations on East and West is to be seen in their encounters with other people and civilizations.
– Zheng He’s voyages to Africa and possibly around the world were motivated by simple curiosity. He and his crew were respectful of the others that they encountered and they showered them with gifts while inviting them to visit later on in China…
– Westerners, in all of their known encounters with other people have invariably plundered and killed the others committing genocides and devastation around the whole world. And the same is still at play today suffice to look at Western actions in the Middle-East. Millions of individuals have died these last ten years as a consequence of their humanitarian interventions.
What is more disturbing even is that Westerners can not admit that other people can have their own ways of thinking and doing. This is best illustrated presently in foreign relations. Having plundered and later imposed on the rest of the world a system of rules unilaterally benefiting itself the West is now simply refusing to accept that the Chinese can have a different approach. And so when the Chinese propose a world with a shared future destiny (economic development and reduction of poverty, fight of climate change, species’ extinction, and so on…) the West only sees China promoting its selfish interest. Unfortunately the world has not much time left before societies collapse and …
I was born in small town but moved to rural area when me and my wife got our third child. In retrospect i have focused that move as crucial so separate myself from all that urban reality-tv-show-worldview. I stopped reading tabloits in late 1980’s. I stopped watching TV in 1990’s. I’m not claiming that every people in my village (of less than 60 people) are similar. Nor are all urban people easier brainwashed than people in countryside. But living near nature, understanding basic facts of live, dependence of nature, farming, climate do open your mind at least a bit because your are forced to that process. In urban life you more easier lost that touch. Of what? Facts.
What’s about the « urban-agriculture phenomenon » that is appearing in the West since, for exemple, the Pierre Rabhi experiment followed by the Colibri Movement and a lot of others more or less similar in America and Europe? This is not on the top of « agenda » of the western baby-boomers, but it seems to be the one of new generations under 40 years old. Some kind of underground revolution, not so visible, is going on slowly and without much means but a strong willingness. This is the challenge for this century everywhere.
Two things to Add.
Criminal Justice Fact Sheet
Incarceration Trends in America
Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.
Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners.
1 in every 37 adults in the United States, or 2.7% of the adult population, is under some form of correctional supervision.
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
•In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
•African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
•The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
•Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
waived to criminal court.
•Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.
•If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites,
prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.
For Every 10 U.S. Adults, Six Vote and Four Don’t. What Separates Them?
Why more than 80 million Americans won’t vote on Election Day?
2) Many Americans simply don’t think voting matters
But if you look at survey data, most people who sit out elections don’t say they were deterred by inconveniences. They say they simply weren’t interested in voting at all, or disliked the candidates, or didn’t care. While we should take self-reported surveys with a grain of salt, there’s something important going on here.
Voter Turnout Demographics
Lao Dan is absolutely right. Chinese philosophy as exemplified and expounded in the I Ching ( Book of Changes ), The Dao De Qing and the Confucian Classics do not advocate destruction of the ” other ” the “opposite.” In the I Ching, interplay of the polarity between the unbroken and broken lines give rise to the world; neither is superior to the other.
To-day, the Chinese government does not agree with the zero-sum mentality embedded in the western consciousness which has proven to be so destructive.
I appreciate the essay very much, and can agree to large extent in the thesis.
I live in Malmoe, Sweden. Malmoe was former a part of Danish “Sweden” and its founding goes back beyond history :) . Fast forwward to the beginning of the last century, Malmoe had now started to become industrialized, and with the Kockums shipyard established just before the century, Malmoe gained in importance as a industrialized city. It kept this position al the way into the 19 ties , where the civil shipyard was laid down and Malmoe was on the way to be relegated to obscurity in the beautiful Swedish countryside, Stockholm had no special interest in Skaene (Län in which Malmoe is located, not a state, really) and everuthing in Sweden at the time was very Stockholm and Gothenburg centric.
However that did not happen, as the Öresundsbridge was completed in 2000 and linked Malmoe with the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. This jumpstarted development in the southern part of Copenhagen and Amager (formerly boring irrelevant places) and it jumpstarted a huge influx of Danes buying homes in “Cheap” Sweden, me among others, but also drawing interest as a sudden dynamic city liked wit a capital and an international airport (Copenhagen/Kastrup), a huge influx of foreign companies building regional headquarters, land is not expensive here, Sweden is large and so is Skaene Län) excellent infrastructure, very skilled people, and good living. The North European golden triangle is now, Gothenburg- Malmoe- Copenhagen, especially in high tech, medicine, and research.
Stockholm is now irrelevant, not even worth a stopover, it is the outskirts, the fringes of Europe. :)
What has this to do with the article/essay you ask… Well the thing is if I go 30 kilometers outside of Malmoe (used to be end of the world) I will come to rural Sweden, which is well, rural. I dont think most of these people there differ much from the people in the Appalachians or deep Alabama. People living in small closed communities tend to have a conservative outlook, but they can be moved with the right approach, mostly they are highly suspicious if you are from the city. Maybe they give thought more time.
How do we solve the urban-rural divide? Change the culture
If what Gail Tverberg teaches a return to the rural will come painfully enough at the expense of the urban:
We live in a world that is finite. While there are huge amounts of oil, gas, coal, and minerals (such as uranium, gold, silver, copper, and lithium), we tend to extract the easiest to obtain, highest quality resources first. Eventually, we find it is more and more expensive to extract additional quantities of these items. Aquifers that are slow to replenish become more and more depleted. Top soil tends to erode faster than it is replaced. Pollution tends to be a problem too, with the most obvious example being carbon dioxide added to air and water.
Economists have set up their economic models as if we would never reach limits. In fact, we seem to be reaching limits now, especially in the area of oil supply. World oil production has been approximately flat for six years now (since the beginning of 2005), even as producers have strained to raise production. OPEC claims to have a huge amount of spare capacity, but there is little evidence that this is really the case. They also claim to have very high oil reserves, but the reserves have never been audited, and are believed by many to be seriously overstated.
There is great confusion regarding what happens when we reach limits in oil supply. People expect that if oil starts hitting limits, the symptoms will be high prices and shortages. In fact, the symptoms as often as not seem to be recession and an inability of would-be purchasers to afford the goods that are being produced with the high priced oil. This at times looks like an over-supply of oil–the opposite of what people expect.
The issue is not a lack of oil, but a lack of cheap, affordable oil. If oil prices could rise high enough (and people’s pay checks could rise to accommodate this increase in price), there would likely not be a problem–we could just extract more higher priced oil. The fact that things seem to work in this manner helps solve the mystery regarding how there could be a huge amount of oil still in the ground, but oil supply still not be growing.
Research suggests that once oil prices reach a high enough level (estimated by Steven Balogh to be $85 barrel in 2009 $), high oil prices start sending the economy into recession. Eventually, recessionary forces overcome the price rise, and oil prices drop. In time, demand rises again, and oil prices rise again, until the higher price once more leads to recession. This up and down pattern leads to an oscillation of oil prices, never raising prices high enough to really increase production. This failure of oil to reach very high prices also means that “renewables” do not become competitive either.
As noted above, world oil production has been approximately level since the beginning of 2005. It seems to me that peak oil problems started about the time that oil supply first stopped rising, and prices started rising instead. Oil prices began rising as early as 2003, and in 2004, the Federal Reserve started raising target interest rates in response to higher oil and food prices. Eventually, higher oil prices and higher interest rates in response to the higher oil prices helped prick the housing bubble. Thus, the debt defaults and recessionary problems we have been experiencing in the past few years seem to be very much related to limits in oil supply.
A chart I made some time ago. It seems to me that our problems started approximately when oil supply stopped increasing, represented by the departure of the blue line from the green line. I am not convinced the decline in oil production will follow the pattern shown in the graph. This is just one idea.
We don’t know precisely when oil supply will start declining, but, in a sense, it doesn’t matter. Having oil supply that doesn’t increase is already a problem, because countries like China and India and oil exporting nations are taking more and more of the available oil supply, leaving less and less for developed nations like the United States.
Going forward, I expect that the we will see significant debt defaults and more recession. Liebig’s Law of the Minimum (saying in effect, that if we lose an essential input, then a whole process will stop) is likely to mean that oil supply shortfalls are likely to have much wider influences than their magnitude would suggest. One area that is vulnerable is our financial system. It operates much better during periods of economic growth (because it is easier to repay debt with interest), and a reduction in oil supply is likely to result in economic decline. If there are serious financial problems, international trade is likely also to be adversely affected.
Eventually, I expect that collapse is likely. The timing is not certain, but because of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum and the very connected nature of our systems today (oil, electricity, food, financial, international trade, Internet, medicine, etc.), it seems to me that this collapse could take place in as little as 20 years. We cannot of course know with certainty, but it seems to me that we should be at least looking at this possibility, and planning accordingly.
Crazy Americans say that unprofitable rural towns deserve to die and that rural citizens don’t need opportunity and equality but simply “need U-Haul” in order to move somewhere else. This is not a humane, intelligent, or culturally-sustainable solution, and it justifiably increases the anger of rural residents towards the urbanites who propose such a “solution”.
I don’t think U-Haul is going to work very well if this is true?
And then there’s the loss of gas stations in the urban centers which raises the question how far will urbanites have to travel to fill their gas tanks?
More gas stations will be disappearing from Vancouver because of the hot real estate market, as Chevron Canada Ltd. plans to put another five stations in the pricey west side up for sale.
The company decided to sell the five locations after marketing three others last year, including one on Georgia Street that is currently one of only two gas stations in the downtown core. Although sales haven’t finalized on the first three, interest in the properties was strong enough to persuade the company to go further.
“They’re all successful businesses, but rising real estate values are driving the decisions,” said Adrien Byrne, a company representative. “It makes sense to put them on the market.”
That decision is not surprising, retail experts say. In a city such as Vancouver, it just doesn’t make sense for certain kinds of low-rise retail to continue to occupy almost whole city blocks.
“For now, it’s just the gas stations, but they are the canary in the coal mine,” said Jim Smerdon, vice-president and director of retail consulting at Colliers International’s Vancouver office. “We will see lots of transition of low-intensity commercial in this city.”
Industry watchdogs say that gas stations have been disappearing steadily across North America in the past quarter century, as companies funnel customers toward fewer but higher-volume, multipump stations. They say that, although customers complain occasionally, there is no sign that drivers are unhappy in large enough numbers to stop the trend. Vancouver’s business-licence database lists 70 active retail gas stations, along with three others listed as pending. Chevron, which has the largest market share of all the gas companies in the city, says even when the ones up for sale are gone, it will still have 19 other locations.
Mr. Smerdon said another sign of the transformation has been the grocery stores in Vancouver.
Some shut down entirely in recent years and were redeveloped into condos, such as the Safeway at Kingsway and Knight Street. Others have redeveloped their property into condo developments, but with the grocery store tucked in at the ground level, such as the Safeway at Robson and Denman Streets in the West End and on Granville Street near 70th Avenue in Marpole.
Mehdi Shokri, a principal at commercial brokerage Avison Young, also pointed to neighbourhood bank branches as another retail use that is shrinking, as banks see they can make more money from selling their property than running a business.
“The condo sales are creating such a crazy environment.”
Building condo’s and buying them is all the rage but what happens when there is a power outage or a disaster of some kind? If one buys a million dollar penthouse on the 30 floor your purchase is basically a death trap yes? If something goes wrong with the power well no elevators? No water? No heat 30th floor? long grocery walk up and done stairs etc etc. Those living in rural areas will be thanking their lucky stars they stayed away from urban centers yes?
This i picked up in the comments section of Gail’s blog from someone who lives in China? lol
When rural states like the Dakotas and Idaho with a fraction of the population of Californian and NY send two senators to Washington and are protected by the Electoral college as in the last election, we definitely have a rural urban problem. This is not one man one vote. Quite the opposite.
I enjoy reading Ramin Mazaheri’s articles. They offer a different perspective. I am disappointed and sceptical when he cites historical facts that are completely inaccurate, as these citations serve to undermine the arguments in his articles, particularly when they relate to basic cultural foundations of the societies that he is discussing. Please look into the hierarchical social class structure developed in ancient China. Although the actual meanings and makeups of the groups, especially the first, went through some alterations over time, anyone who has even a fundamental understanding of Chinese culture would have to cringe at Ramin’s statement: “China had a big leg up in this particular dichotomy thanks to the Confucian hierarchy of farmer-scholar-tradesperson-merchant-soldier, in that order…” Not only are the number of categories incorrect, the order is also wrong. The correct order, known to all Chinese to this day, is “Shih, nong, gong, shang”, translated as “gentry/scholars, peasant farmers, craftsmen/workmen, merchants/traders”. I’ve long admired this outlook, although we should admit that modern China has placed the lowest group in the paramount position in today’s materialistic world.
Yes that was a mistake I made – scholars go first, before farmers.
Nice catch and thanks,
And you are right that soldiers are (amazingly) not on the hierarchy – I explained that in article 3. I only added in soldiers here to quickly show their low esteem.
Actually, in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the Shih (Scholars) also included low-level aristocracy who rode in chariots and commanded in battle, so although they weren’t grunts, they were military. It was in later dynasties that the Shih (Scholars) classification took on the tone of scholarship, administration and so-called morality and ethics. I say “so-called” because in my view it is often the lowest classes in the society who aspire to the highest level of ethics and morality.
Great essay. Many very penetrating insights.
I was born and grew up on a tiny farm that my father had bought. In the middle of nowhere.
At least, in the fifties.
He was an early “back-to-the-lander” in the forties (prefiguring that wing of the sixties protest/social revolution movement). Very glad I had that experience. No central heating. Very limited hot water. Sometimes no water.
Half-mile walk out to the school bus. Everyone had chores to do.
TV and, latterly, internet etc. have led to a lot of changes in the “rural” experience. In principle, greater access to cultural asset should mean an improvement in quality of life. “Electronic cottage” etc. Or, does the constant messaging actually deepen the divide? What is “rural” in a highly developed and automated country such as the USA?
Perhaps Ramin will talk about that in a future essay.
About time the wonder of China is trumpeted. One might find interesting, as I do, that when history in the West is brought up, it always begins and ends with Western history, never incorporating Eastern history which is really the true story of the first human animals which maybe why we of the West are busily killing all oceans, animals, birds, bugs and promoting genocide as a proud goal to other human animals. America has plans afoot to rewrite global history to erase it’s deeds.. It is very busy in all European honoured archives, removing, replacing, The times of surrounding every targeted country makes it easy to begin the “cleansings” as Western corporations infiltrate the blanked spaces.