Monday, October 19, 2009

Some Wee Random T'oughts

Last week when I was flitting from bridge to bookstore to restaurant to park all over the Big Apple (well, Manhattan really), I had a bit of an epiphany as to what is meant when one uses the term 'provincial.' It is usually used by people on the coasts as a pejorative when referring to someone from the flyover states. And, I'll admit to using it when referring to many from the flyover states as well, because, well... a lot of people around these parts are pretty provincial (here feel free to insert other synonyms like yokel, bumpkin, creationist... you get the idea). But, while the term gets used freely (and sometimes correctly) by people on the coasts when referring to central-staters, often those making the judgment are actually more provincial than the average hick from the sticks.

I'll give an example from a paper I wrote in an MBA class (more on the MBA cash-generating racket in a later post). If an average American travels abroad to, let's say Moldova, he/she may have a slight idea of what that country is about. The American may have read up on it in Wiki, a travel guide, or the like. He/she (here we're going to dispense with that and just go with... - hold for it, coin flip - yes 'she' wins) may also be able to point to the place on a map. But, for the most part, the American will have at best a cursory knowledge of the little country (landlocked in Eastern Europe for those of you scurrying to an Atlas).

The Moldavians, however will have a much better understanding of the American than she will of them. Because American culture and business is so ubiquitous in the world, the Moldavians will have seen American movies, read American authors, eaten at American style restaurants (there must be golden arches or a KFC sitting somewhere inside their borders). But my point is that even if the Moldovan view of America is slightly skewed to the pop-culture, fast food shell of what makes up American life, in a conversation, a Moldovan will have a much larger frame of reference as to background of his/her visitor than will the American to her host.

And the same lesson applies to the relationship between flyover states and the coasts in the US. Your average central states goat roper will know much more about New York, LA, San Francisco (yes, there actually are a whole lotta homosexuals there), Boston and DC, than the average coaster will know about Omaha, Tulsa, Des Moines (spends more on art per capita than any other city in the US - BTW), or Topeka (and here, quite frankly, I do have to say that there is nothing anyone ever needs to know about Topeka - the Scranton of the plains).

So ultimately, while a New Yorker lives 'here,' and someone in the flyover states is rightly deemed as living 'there,' the designation 'provincial' only applies in geographic fact, and not in the pejorative use of the term. Because, in fact, the geographic provincial, is usually less provincial in her understanding of the coasts than the non-geographic provincial is in her understanding of the rest of the country.

You may have to read that last paragraph twice. It's pretty convoluted.

For more information on the Republic of Moldova:
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