The American Southern Hill Country Personality

The Southern hill country personality type is a reticence towards others, even a reticence toward life, a suspicion about others, really a suspicion about everything, being afraid to commit, being afraid to take action, waiting, accepting—accepting not so much God, awaiting the will of God, as accepting because of unwillingness to act, to take a chance. And so life can pass by and one sits and waits, stifled by inaction, stifled by indecision, until finally something forces movement. Movement may be caused by hunger, or fear, some outside force that impels the person to do what he might not otherwise have done. The consequent movement, action, might be absurd, completely out of character, yet circumstances have brought about this action, this movement, and the person goes blindly along, not sure, waiting even while moving, passive even while in the process of acting, faithless even while seemingly throwing all aside in an act of blind faith.

Emotions, likewise, are restricted, because one is unsure how to express them. How does one express love toward another when one is unsure, and reticence is the typical response to everything in life. How can one feel excitement, feel love, feel wonder, feel happiness, in an uncertain world where inaction, waiting, watching, seems the most comfortable approach to life? Rocking in the chair on the porch, waiting—for what? For nothing really, just waiting. Perhaps just waiting for death, waiting for everything to finally come to an end. Waiting for the boredom to end. Waiting for the failure to end. Waiting to be released from the stifling inaction and uncertainty and hopelessness and faithlessness.

The Southern hill country personality is outwardly pious, but inwardly barren. Outwardly such people belong to a church, believe in God, say the proper grace at meals, sing the proper hymns, but without emotion, without feeling, because religion is something not to express emotion over; to express love for God is just as uncomfortable as to express love for another, a child, a relative, a parent. It is embarrassing.  

Thank God for radio and television, by which one can submerge inaction and lack of confidence and the endless waiting for who knows what into a fantasy world of action, of love, of certitude, of confidence, of knowing exactly what to do, of taking life and directing it according to one’s will. How relieving to be able to watch a program, watch others, who are doing what you are unable, unwilling, to do, but you can watch along as they do it, and feel the satisfaction of a life well lived even if it is not your own.

Such crutches are everywhere, to help one limp along in life. If not television, if not the internet, then booze, or pills, or gambling, or something that takes one’s mind away from what is, to focus on what could be, what might be, and so lose oneself in a stupor, a fantasy world where one is exactly what one is not, where one is a great actor, a great mover, a great lover, a wealthy dynamic mover and shaker, a confident person wrestling with life and winning the match time and again.

What happens to you if all of a sudden chance (or destiny) steps in and wrestles  you away from such a life, and you are brought into an awareness of something completely different, a different approach to life, whether it be due to the northern urban personality or some sort of personality in which the fire has been lit, and there is no embarrassment, and a person acts, sometimes foolishly, sometimes in failure, but acts just the same. What is it to put aside inaction to grasp an opportunity and do it? How can the southern hill personality abide by such a notion? Perhaps there becomes a contest of different personalities, different approaches to life, and a person is caught in between, and the personality conflict rages within, the genes of the past confronting the newness of the present, and the split personality results in internal chaos. North and south meet, action and inaction, arrogance and humility, certainty and uncertainty, willingness and unwillingness, and the split personality is torn in so many directions, between choice and non-choice, action and inaction, moving and waiting, doing and watching, accepting life as opportunity or accepting life as struggle.

How can life be both opportunity and struggle, action and inaction, doing and waiting, getting up and sitting down, embracing and distancing, feeling emotion and fearing emotion, loving but being embarrassed by love?

Northern Yankees and Southern hill people: two different ways at looking at life. One is more accepting, but still has the same fears and trepidations as others, but masks the fears in the formalities and structures of urbanized living—the associations or gessellschaft of modern society. The other is suspicious of such formalities, befitting a more rural people; the fears and trepidations of life are often dealt with not by masking them in formalities, rather by submerging them in the informalities of a more community existence: plain speaking, suspicion of others outside of one’s typical familiarity, a rough appearance to the world to show “ain’t scared,” even if you are.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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