Why America's Rednecks and Hillbillies are a Lot More Knowledgeable than You'd Think
A few years ago, I was eating at a restaurant when a gaggle of impoverished, rural Caucasians came into the building. There were about twenty of them, with probably that many teeth between them all. They looked dirty, and they smelled even worse. Their odor was so horrendous that one of the servers had to start opening windows to let the rank stench out so other patrons could enjoy their meals. They had mullets, and holey shirts, and kids with bare feet. At one point, one of the females whipped her boobies out right there in front of god and everybody so she could breastfeed one of her apparently dozen children. It was like watching feeding time at the zoo, and just about everybody - the staff included - looked on at their ass-backwards ways in sort of a reverse-awe, wondering just how in the hell anybody could look, act and be like that in the 21st century.
Of course, it’s OK to observe rednecks, hillbillies and trailer trash through such a perspective. Now, if I had said the exact same thing about a family of blacks or Hispanics, I would automatically get labeled as “bigoted,” “racist,” “ignorant,” or “a propagator of intolerance and misunderstanding.” Poor, agrarian white folk, however, seem to be the last sort of peoples in the country we can hee-haw and piss at, the last bastion of cultural enmity for this proud, noble nation of immigrants. We can all hate, belittle and caricaturize the lower-class honkies, and nobody will shame us for it. In fact, not only is mockery and derision of white trash tolerated, it’s practically encouraged by media and our social norms.
That reason alone - the fact that NOBODY else is standing up for them - should give me reason enough to serve as an apologist for the sundry crackers, chalkies and hayseeds across America. However, I feel the need to be defensive about them, first and foremost, because guess what? I am the product of white trash culture myself.
I know what it’s like to grow up in lower-class conditions. I know what it’s like to live in a trailer, and go to snake-handler churches and live amongst meth-heads, moonshiners and political wackos. I’ve been in the fishbowl looking out, and I think I know a thing or five about white trash culture that those snooty, erudite champagne sippers in San Fran and New England don’t.
The reality is, not only are lower-class, uneducated, rural white people more well-versed in philosophical thinking than most people would assume, they may very well have a firmer grasp on certain subjects than all of us highfalutin, college-educated elitists. Don’t believe me? Well, how about we take a look at five very important philosophical notions, and uncover why white trash are the only true experts on the subjects that we have in modern American culture.
White trash have the absolute keenest take on social Darwinism of any population subset in the United States. Forget all of those Ivy League professors that study eugenics and natural selection, the hoi polli of the hills not only grasp the concept of social Darwinism more than any so-called expert, they’re actually the staunchest defenders of the idea this side of Joey Mengele.
One of the absolute biggest misconceptions about white trash culture is that the white trash themselves are oblivious to their own plight. In reality, the super-impoverished white folk of America know very well how they are perceived by the rest of culture, and not only do most of them recognize their statuses as cultural pariahs, a lot of them even believe that they deserve such castigation. . .based on, hold onto your copies of “The Origin of the Species,” immutable biological traits.
A lot of researchers (past and surprisingly present) view “white trash” as genetic undesirables, a subspecies of peoples biologically dulled over the centuries, from which no amount of external education can completely remedy. The really shocking thing here is that, well, a lot of “white trash” think the exact same thing: not only do they view themselves as genetically deficient, many of them believe that they SHOULD be separated from the general population, based on those biological differences.
You may find it hard to believe, but a lot of hillbillies and crackers choose to live on the fringes of society and refuse to partake of modern culture not because they’re Luddite fundamentalists, but because they don’t want to taint general society with their presence. That restaurant anecdote I wrote about earlier was a real anomaly, the sociological equivalent of a bruin marching out of the wilderness to rummage through our garbage cans, as most white trash feel so disconnected from the rest of modernity that they voluntarily take themselves out of the cultural gene pool altogether. They know they’re the virtual bottom of the food chain, and as such, they take extra precautions to avoid commingling with the so-called higher forms of the species, perhaps the same way gazelles make damn sure they don’t waltz around the stomping grounds of a pride of lions.
Long story short, White Trash America most likely has no idea who Galton or Ehrlich are, but they not only have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of modern social Darwinism, they actually appear to be the greatest proponents of it in the 21st century.
You would think that in modern American society, the people with the best understanding of Eastern spiritualism would be the highly educated upper crust - you know, all of those academics that sip herbal tea, do yoga, and listen to Yanni, unironically. Well, as it turns out, the absolute deepest Eastern thinker out there just so happen to be the people within the country with the least familiarity with Asian geography - poor, Caucasian rubes.
All in all, poor white trash have more in common with east-Asian Buddhists than they do their like-skinned Anglo-Saxon-Protestants. Proportionally, the socioeconomic standards for hicks and Asian practitioners of Buddhism are quite similar (as in, they’re both extremely, absurdly impoverished), but their social belief systems are what’s really interesting. Ultimately, despite living about as far apart as any two kinds of people can, American hillbillies and contemporary Buddhists have practically the SAME ideologies concerning materialism and earthly existence - although, as far as religious caveats go, for pretty different reasons, obviously.
Real Buddhists - as in, guys that live in Sri Lanka and NOT Richard Gere - tend to eschew material things, because as the noble Buddha once said, “want leads to suffering.” Curiously, the modern hayseed in the U.S. fosters a very, very similar mentality, with the belief that material possession is ultimately “immoral” because material things - i.e., the world around them - is wholly illusory. And as you will soon see, this belief actually has a lot more rooting in Buddhism than Christianity.
For the Buddhist, this world is just one aspect of the universe, this thing that you’re supposed to overcome as a step towards enlightenment. This process, surely, isn’t a very easy one, which is why the first truth of Buddhism - as in, the VERY first goddamn tenet of the religion - is “life is suffering.” Now, the aggregate white trash in the U.S. ALSO believes that this reality is just an interim phase of existence, with our actions in this plane of existence dictating our stature in the next phase of being. Likewise, the spiritual beliefs of the redneck pretty much imply that in order to achieve that enlightenment, one has to withdraw themselves from all worldly things, which is basically a euphemism for “being really, really poor.” As with the Buddhists, the want of bettering your circumstances is a direct slap into the face of the divine order - all that is is as it should be, and rocking the boat in ANY way, shape or form is certain to hinder you in your quest for spiritual advancement in the next round of existence.
And Buddhism isn’t the only form of Eastern spiritualism that shares a LOT of commonalities with the ideology of hillbilly America. Taoism is a spiritual doctrine that implies that there’s NO such thing as free will, that everything that happens was planned out and supposed to occur as part of the fulfillment of some long-in-the-tooth celestial plan that’s so far beyond the comprehension of human understanding that we can’t even fathom imagining such. This perspective is echoed in the idea of God’s Divine Plan, a popular Christian precept that decrees that everything that unfurls is part of a designated system as crafted by the Man Up Stairs - an idea which compels a lot of rednecks to simply accept whatever misfortunes that come their way as the fulfillment of a cosmological schema they have no ability to alter.
When we talk about “nihilism,” we usually confuse it with existentialism; although there are a lot of similarities between the two ideologies, there’s one BIG discrepancy between the two - existentialism is the subjective belief that everything is functionally purposeless and meaningless, while nihilism is the ABSOLUTE belief that everything is functionally purposeless and meaningless.
Although there are a lot of definitions of what constitutes “nihilism,” it’s quite apparent that ALL of them could be applied as qualifiers for the modern white trash experience, beginning with the rejection of social mores.
Remember that redneck family from the introduction? Well, that’s a clear cut example of a group of people embracing the philosophical ideal of nihilism. Forget all of your erudite professors that claim to be experts on Sartre and Nietzsche, the only kinds of people in the U.S. that are even remotely living out what the elder statesmen of nihilism spake of are the kind of people that have no qualms about making livings off yanking copper out of buildings and trying to engineer cough syrup into crank - your TRUE nihilists don’t sip cognac and listen to industrial music, they sport rat tails and breed roosters for cock fighting tournaments.
Earlier, we talked about how the aggregate white trash views existence as a parade of meaningless distractions - essentially, that the world is nothing more than an obstacle course in order to get to the next phase of being. As a peoples, that means that rednecks and hillbillies have no vested worth in the norms and structures that prop up modern civilization. This leads the aggregate white trash to not only devalue a lot of the social constructs the “normal people” within society held dear - or at least respect/tolerate - they view them as constructs that NEED to be eliminated in order to establish a truly just system. This is where your stereotypes aboutmilitant tax-protestors and paranoid, anti-government rednecks come from - with the surprising notion being that it’s a sentiment born not out of political ideology, but the clear cut refutation of all political ideologies.
A lot of “normies” wonder just how in the hell anyone could live in the squalid conditions that most impoverished hill folk seem to thrive in. Well, it’s pretty apparent that the rednecks of America find little worth in things like the socioeconomic system, nor do they seem to have an ingrained concern about the culture’s judicial framework. Winning five bucks on a lottery scratch-off is really no different to them if they were arrested for stealing hubcaps, the same way robbing a liquor store to make ends meet is no different to them if they received their income from SSI. They have completely rejected the values system that most normal folk consider instrumental to day-to-day life; in other words, they’re the only peoples in the country that have elevated themselves to a point where linguistic meaning no longer carries any sort of tangible, physical weight on their own existences. And yes, such an uncovering probably would make Wittgenstein eat his own shit, in case you were wondering.
The country’s “experts” on Marxist philosophy may be a bunch of snooty college professors, but there’s no denying that the most knowledgeable people - and adherents - to Marxist doctrine in the U.S. are people that rarely, if ever, get an education outside of high school.
Contemporary white trash culture in America has pretty much eschewed the “Superstructure” Marx spoke of altogether, as they are a peoples sans the influence of government, religion or economy. The Appalachian hoi polli are a segment of the population so distanced from the rest of society that they truly do seem to live outside the margins of our culture. They rarely pay full income tax (and those that do are extremely opposed to the system), and only in extreme circumstances do they rely on government assistance for anything - there were several reports, even, of pissed of whities and chalkies threatening to “blow away” FEMA officials that visited the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Clearly, this is a peoples that is dedicated to them and their own before any sort of federal or state ideology.
While Marx and Engels were writing “The Communist Manifesto,” they were really irked by the whole institutional religion concept, stating that organized religion is a means of controlling the populace and maintaining the social hegemony. While the two were specifically talking about the Catholic Church and nationalized institutions like the Church of England, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they wouldn’t be fans of the Protestant/Baptist/Evangelical institutions established these days, which while accepted by a majority of Americans, are oddly, rejected by a majority of 21st century white trash.
A lot of people view rednecks and hillbillies as hopelessly religious rubes, a bunch of simple-minded buffoons with beliefs and convictions so ass-backwards and superstitious that you wonder if they even know why lunar eclipses happen. While it is true that most hayseeds and bumpkins are quite religious, the religion they practice really isn’t a religion ordained or institutionalized by anybody else on the planet. “Hillbilly Christianity,” for a lack of a better-term, is really a syncretic religion pasting together something that looks like the New Testament with a ton of paganistic, old-timey folktales and practices, a goulash of Old World, Native American and even South American, Caribbean and African spiritualism. There’s not really a name for what rednecks actually practice, and there is certainly no national organization set up as an ambassadorial or regulatory commission for their practices. While they haven’t completely moved on to a post-institutionalized religious ideology (and most likely, never will), they seem to have moved further away from such than, ironically, the majority of middle class America.
Where things get really interesting, however, is when you compare the economic ideology of white trash with the economic ideology of Marxism. Ultimately, Marx believes that one day, we will achieve such a heightened state of social-welfare that we won’t need the capitalistic system - you know, all that shit about money and possessions and all that jazz - because we’re all so in tuned as a society that we can just share our personal wealth as something of a community chest for everybody around us. Per Marx, this will take some time - hey, breaking down the entire social structure isn’t an over-night task, you know - but the end dividend is supposedly the complete abolition of private wealth and property for the greater good of civilization.
The crazy thing is, the contemporary hillbillies of America have already advanced to Marx’s highest phase of economic being. If you’re wondering how the rubes and hicks of the US are able to survive in the economic downturn - with absolute minimal dependency upon government subsidies - it’s because they’ve, effectively, formed communes with their relatives, kinfolk and neighbors as a means of providing for everyone around them. They share food, and money, and give each other clothing and housing. They work for each other, and do errands for each other, and pretty much exist as a singular state, outside of the economic reality we’re all accustomed to.
Rednecks, white trash and country bumpkins don’t really have that much vested worth in a lot of social constructs - paying taxes, soap, not being racist, etc. However, one of the few things they do profess a reverence for is their own sense of national history - and as surprising as it may seem, a lot of them not only have a pretty firm grasp of U.S. history, some of them have amongst the most comprehensive knowledge of the nation’s past than any so-called historian you’ve encountered.
White trash, if nothing else, keep insanely detailed accounts of their family history. Granted, most of it is probably unreliable, but the sheer scope of their accounts is mighty damned impressive, whether the information therein is accurate or not.
Most Americans have no clue where they came from. For most of us, our national identities really didn’t start until the middle of the 19th century, when most of our forerunners migrated to the country - either by choice, or not. For most families in the USA, you’re probably not going to have tangible records of anything prior to World War II - apparently, there was this thing called a “Depression” that happened, and a lot of people just started burning shit (i.e., the scant records laying around detailing their family origins) to stay warm.
While most U.S. citizens have a family heritage of only about 80 or so years, the aggregate white trash can usually trace his or her ancestry back centuries, not only giving you solid accounts of who their first generation migrant progenitors were, but in many cases, detailed accounts of what they did while they were here.
If you’re looking for information on the U.S. Civil War, or the Whiskey Rebellion, or if you’re just wondering what happened to all those Indians, just about any white trash family worth its salt can give you a first-hand account of what went down via oral history. While only a few can provide you with material relics of much sustenance, just about every white trash clan in the country at least has something that they can show off to you from the 19th century or prior. Granted, a rusty ass canteen from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but they’ve got a sliver or American history in their possession - and in many ways, within their consciousness - that most of us simply do not have. While most Americans spend their entire lives trying to grapple with their identity, the white trash denizens of the U.S. have no such problems - because they already know their history, and what part they played in the story of our country’s development.
Alike all people that are different from us, it’s oh so easy to look at modern white trash as alien beings, these things that are surely less than human because of their unabashed disregard for social norms. The thing is, unlike other oppressed peoples, there really aren’t any organizations or prominent speakers standing up for their rights, attempting to better them socially as human beings.
As a kid that grew up encircled by white trash, I can tell you that these people are nowhere near as stupid, thoughtless and brain dead as the media makes them out to be. Nor are they anywhere near as violent, aggressive, racist, xenophobic or misogynistic as the myriad cultural depictions you’ve seen on TV or in the movies. That’s not to say that all white trash are relatively harmless folk - if you ever run into a guy that refers to his double wide as a “compound,” it’s probably for the best if you contact the local authorities before another Ruby Ridge breaks out - but all in all, I think they’re people that get pissed on way more than ANY minority in modern America should.
After all, white trash America knows a whole lot more about what’s going down than you think they do. In fact, they might just know a little bit more about the world than you do, for that matter…