restricted access Appalachian Values And The Future
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Appalachian Values And The Future by LOYAL JONES A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a state university on the subject of the future in Appalachia. I imagine that those who invited me had in mind a speech with some appropriate statistics and predictions about population, economic growth, tourism, recreational development, educational levels, and perhaps even something about the assimilation of Appalachian people into the mainstream of American life. But I had long since been unable to muster up any enthusiasm about the future in Appalachia or elsewhere because of the galloping trends in national culture, the economic system with its invasion of Appalachia , and the government at all levels. I had become one of those Appalachians whom Jack Weiler describes in Yesterday's People as liking the past a whole lot better than the prospects for die future. To tell the truth, I don't like the present too much either, except when I go off to such places as Madison County, North Carolina, or a hollow in Knott County, Kentucky, where you can't see the strip mines. But this is really being in the nineteenth century as James Still and Gurney Norman have pointed out about life in these kinds of places. Anyway, I cracked The Year 2000 by those wild men Kahn and Weiner, and read a report or two from the Appalachian Regional Commission which perceives itself as the mid-wife to the future in Appalachia. But I just couldn't cut it. So, I got' to thinking about the future— about something other than economics, or engineering, or development. I remembered those two old books about the future, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. I got diem out and read them again to see how they related to Appalachia. Amazing! They said a lot that could be about Appalachia, especially about Appalachian values and the future. Then I remembered B. F. Skinner and his wish to create a new culture, here right now, and so I read Beyond Freedom and Dignity. What he said also could be related to Appalachian people. I saw that the whole problem could boil down to a conflict between traditionalism and revolution, not economic or governmental traditionalism or revolution, but in terms of cultural values. What I discovered in Brave New World and 1984 was that all of the values and traditions to be eradicated from the new revolutionary societies are the ones I hold dear and are almost the exact ones that have been defined by several writers as being characteristic of Appalachians. Conversely , the values held in the new societies are antagonistic to what I think of as Appalachian values. At least they are antagonistic to my values. This is not sur50 prising since the purposes of these novels is to warn against totalitarianism. Brave New World (BNW) is a more benevolent society than Üiat described in 1984, but the results are pretty much die same. Everyone's life is controlled—that is, except the strange, uneducated, unretrained people who don't fit into the new societies. They are called savages in BNW and proles (proletariat) in 1984. The savages were kept on a reservation. The proles were allowed to run free, but the "mainstream" people paid little attention to them. Their lives were considered to be worthless, except as means toward an end. They did menial tasks and they consumed, their only contributions to die main society. The savages in BNW, being in the desert on a reservation, were never seen except by a few, and were never thought about unless someone made a joke about diem. The proles were not loyal to the Party, which controlled everything in 1984. They were loyal to one another. They had stayed human, had held on to primitive emotions and practices. They still had as many as fifteen children per family, and they still sang. Huxley's Savage is the only one we meet in BNW who has enduring personal relationships, natural feelings and independence . The parallels between the "unretrained" people in these futuristic societies and our own minorities—especially Appalachians— who have not been "conditioned" entirely to mainstream life...