I’m kinda stuck in a funny place in terms of my worldview and politics and that kind of thing. I’m noticing a greater and greater divide between rural and urban belief systems, and I’m in the funny place because I can kind of understand both. I’ve been feeling this way for awhile, as I’ve watched the political landscape in the US and Canada change over the last few years, and as I’ve had conversations with lots of people from all parts of the spectrum. We also had a really important election in my home province of Alberta recently, and that made it even more powerfully apparent to me that there are some pretty deep chasms between rural and urban ways of thinking.
I grew up in a very rural setting, in the countryside outside Taber, a small Albertan oil/agriculture town. Both sides of my family are cattle people for many generations, and I got a lot of my basic ideas about life from my rancher grandfathers, my country school teacher grandmas, and from my parents. When I left the farm to go to university, and later started a music career in the city, I was exposed to an entirely different way of life, and way of thinking. I’ve learned a lot from that over the last twenty years, too, and it’s formed a big part of my personality and outlook. I know a few friends in similar positions; I have a Hollywood screenwriter/rancher friend who splits his time between LA and Montana, and there’s my cowboy buddy from Taber who is very well read and travels a lot. We’ve discussed the fact that we feel like political chameleons. When I’m at home with my friends from rural Alberta, I come off like a hippie. When I’m with my left wing musician friends in the city, I sound like a conservative. Depends on the issue, too. Maybe everyone feels this to some extent, I don’t know. I guess your beliefs are always relative to your surroundings.
My particular situation is amplified by the fact that my musical audience is split between country and city people. I have friends in bands who have a much easier time expressing their opinions because they’re always preaching to the choir. Some of my buddies in urban based music, whose opinions tend to be pretty left wing, can spout all the lefty stuff they want, and their fans love it. Likewise, guys I know who play straight country music can go off on redneck rants, because it’s right up their audience’s alley. Me, every time I open my mouth it seems like I piss somebody off, because my people are so diverse. I used to think this was a plus, and I thought maybe I could use my position as an artist to bridge the gap a little. That was probably naive.
I’m left in the position of having a pretty good understanding of both ways of thinking, and frankly, depending on the issue, both sides make good points sometimes. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just about impossible for city people to fully grasp the way country people think about certain issues, and the perspective they have. And vice versa. City people often view rural people as backward cousins, when in reality, many people from the country have very wise views about certain things, and can be much more sophisticated than they’re given credit for. They just have a much different perspective. And in exactly the same way, country people often view urbanites with suspicion, and don’t like their citified approach to things. There are a lot of good ideas that come out of the city, that rural people would do well to embrace, but it’s nearly impossible for them to see things the way urban people do. I’ve watched so many arguments over this stuff, and have felt that deep down, both people wanted roughly the same thing, they just couldn’t overcome the cultural divide between them. Very frustrating.
I know already, from observing the tone of modern public discourse, that this little essay probably isn’t going to bring people together, it’s likely just going to start more arguments. And I’m probably going to come off like some pompous jerk suggesting that I know better than everybody. I don’t. But I do know that there are good ideas all around us, and that we should listen to each other more, if we’re going to sort our shit out. And circumstances are dictating that it needs to be sorted pretty quickly.
– Corb Lund