Getting Over IT – small town mentality

You can sit there and take offense as you read this, similarly, you can instantly dismiss my opinion. Whatever way you choose to deal, or not, it would be a mistake to assume my opinion is a lone one. I hope we can check our attitudes and transcend bias for building a better life together.

At the same time, not everyone has a small town mentality (I would think most don’t) but enough do to make it noticeable. Those that don’t might find courage or see the value of encouraging change of those that do. We can’t just pretend to be a friendly place, we have to be friendly or accept decline.

The small town mentality could come about as innocuously as a bus driver, driving the same route every day could ingrain wrong assumptions. He/she would subconsciously expect certain things to be so. If a traffic light is green 9 out of 10 times he approaches, he will expect the light to be green.

Those that are aware they feel superior, are actually appointing themselves as more deserving. If a fish considers itself  important and big because of his wealth or influence, he/she has judged himself against his neighbor. What happens when you expand the barrel? There is always someone…I think everyone knows the rest of this phrase of someone better off than you and there’s always someone worse off than you. 

Before I provide you with a list of do’s and don’ts for building a stronger community, consider this first: 

If you grow up and live in the same area all your life, you have been blessed with stability and solid roots. If you retire in the same house you grew up in, you’re double blessed because your odds are better for building and keeping lifelong friends. Blessed, in this capacity also means gifts of familiarity, history, intimate knowledge, feelings of connectedness, nostalgia and stuff I haven’t even thought of. Lucky you, that’s worthy of treasuring.  On the other hand, an outsider’s input can be objective, valuable and/or priceless.

Do: 

  • Catch yourself saying, “he/she/they’re not from around here.”
  • Re-evaluate “this is a close-knit community” and what it actually means.
  • Recognize that pretending is pretentious; people have the ability to detect when you’re being disingenuous. There is a difference between acting friendly and being friendly.
  • Appreciate that even the people you don’t care for are still helping and contributing in the community.

Don’t: 

  • Mislead people on purpose.
  • Automatically dismiss people/their idea’s/ their opinions if they have no _____ (fill in the blank), in your opinion.
  • Assume your community is special and it operates differently or more mysteriously than any other.
  • Think for a minute it is comfortable calling attention to something like this!

Also Consider: 

  • You don’t have a valuable think tank if your group is made up of all like-minded people or “yes men”.
  • Because you play games with people doesn’t mean they are playing one with you. People can and do get involved for the right reasons.
  • If someone tells you they have ideas, that doesn’t mean they have all the answers or that your opinion is obsolete, or that you should feel threatened. The beauty of collaboration is a process of seeking the next bit of brilliance for a variety of reasons (namely solutions). Rarely does it come from one individual, if ever at all.
  • Community service does not mean self-service.

After reading this post, you may agree, disagree, don’t know or don’t care. If you’re not part of the solutions, you are either part of the problem or aiding and abetting. Could this be a reason more people don’t get involved in the community?

Next, I’ll delve into the subject of taxes in Blissfield and hope more people want to debate the need to lower them.

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8 Responses to Getting Over IT – small town mentality

  1. Thrilled says:

    I think people don’t get evolved because most people have been raised with “mind your own business”, I think we should sit back and realize what our business is exactly, if we all do just that, I think that most citizens making time to read this might just ask themselves, if their own community isn’t their business then what exactly is? I’m personally just learning not to fear my own voice or what others think of it, I hope to be encouraging. Our community is our personal business, year after year we pay into it, and we pay to live comfortably and for our voice to be heard!

    • Robin says:

      I’m sure your comment will be encouraging to others, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks for contributing and providing some much needed food for thought!

  2. Annie says:

    Having lived in Blissfield for a quarter century now…the village my children call “home”…I’m still astounded when I’m asked where did I come from? No, this isn’t my hometown but, how long do you have to live here in order to be one of “you”? I wasn’t born & raised here like my children were yet does that make me any lessor of a
    “villager”? Many times it’s felt as tho someone’s looking down their nose at me after they’ve asked where I came from. Shame on you who believe you’re superior…WE are both from Blissfield!

  3. Peter says:

    Having lived in a medium sized city, then to one of 5,000, I found your last four points very insightful.

    What is hurting this small community is that they are very fearful of outsiders. They don’t understand that not everyone has an agenda. They rely very heavily on their smaller network because they cannot trust others.

    Many of the volunteers, and employees I have met seem to believe that it their own agendas that they serve. They have difficulty separating their own views and desires from a community, or organizational view.

    This type of fear, suspicion and agenda-driven behavior might be why they often have view politicians as being similar and why they resort to extreme politics.

  4. Robin says:

    As per Annie’s response – 25 years is a long time to be an outsider, I’ve been around for 8 years. I’ve since come to realize that many of the older generation was pretty concerned with “outsider” intrusion; however, their children are much more warm and friendly.

    Through my experience of the smaller network, most hailed from outside Blissfield and joined forces into what I can only describe as a “Good Ole Girls” network. It seems their fear regarding outsiders was more about their agenda being found out and their power base threatened. Otherwise I would have just been shunned; instead I was sabotaged as well so my efforts to contribute would be unsuccessful. It was all done in a wrapper of some grand little game.

    I would have preferred the fearing or being suspicious of my agenda because I could have overcome that obstacle.

    Because I knew what I could contribute, I knew that many more before me had probably tried as well, since I am a buck stops with me type person, I decided to rely on my resourcefulness to attack the problem for the benefit of those coming after me wanting to contribute. It’s okay to have a group of friends, a clique is a different animal. In a community this size it’s divisive and damaging and it’s not okay to also be tapped into the legislators and public office power supply, thus perpetuating mistrust and a disengaged community.

  5. I especially appreciate the sentiment: “The beauty of collaboration is a process of seeking the next bit of brilliance for a variety of reasons (namely solutions). Rarely does it come from one individual, if ever at all.” Sink or swim, we go together as a community. Disagreement in civil discourse should not be feared and I think society as a whole has forgotten how to debate, decide, collaborate, and then live with the consequences of the decisions that we make together. There are many things I don’t agree with in my county, state, nation, world, denomination, and religion yet I still pay my taxes, vote, tithe, participate, agree/disagree, and work hard to change those things I think need changed. Citizenship and discipleship are not easy propositions nor were they meant to be. You gotta want it and work hard for it.

    • Robin says:

      We will always go together as a community and have to live with decisions others may make. The counter for minimizing poorly thought out mistakes, is to engage more actively as a citizen. Unfortunately not everybody is equipped to do this. Some new families with young children have an incredible amount on their plate, others are physically or otherwise prohibited from getting more involved. The able among us should step up when we can, but we shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to contribute.

      A willing contributor should be welcomed with open arms, lightening the work-load for others that are also giving time and energy for the benefit of the community. Sometimes wanting it and working hard for it meets a brick wall of opposition. The brick wall is a self-elected group, aligned with the power-brokers that handily pretend to solve everything by spending more and more of my money.

      I believe in individuals that make up a community, I believe in the strengths each individual is blessed with, such as common sense and creativity. I like long-term, responsible solutions that have been thought through, not utopic driven, group-think window dressing.

  6. Hope2GetOutAlive says:

    Hi,
    I don’t live in your town but I do live in an exceptionally rural area. ‘Town’ is about ten miles away and a town it is. Most people who are white and ‘landed’, (big land owners, farmers, etc), are EXTREMELY bigoted against anyone that ‘ain’t from here’. You could live here fifty years and if your grand-daddy didn’t die here, you ain’t FROM here. And that’s if you’re ‘white’ too. Non-whites are poor, migrant, black slave descendants, and, generally speaking, outsiders or ‘women’. If you’re a ‘wife’ or the land gentry, you’re fine HOWEVER…those who ‘rule’ the town will always, always, always side with the husband’s point of view. He can be a rapist, bigoted, drunken, violent person and crazy as a betsy bug, but they WILL feel compassion towards him over his wife, no matter her story. Sexism, homophobia, and bigotry are rampant and a way of life. Anything outside of that is, to them, an immediate ‘threat’ that, if it don’t keep to itself, will learn ‘how things work ’round here’. And forget about the law being on your side. The depths these types will go to in order to maintain their power base is nothing short of any Hollywood extreme ‘redneck’ stereotype you can think of. Some will even set up their ‘friends’, call the law on them, or otherwise harass them to get to their land. I’ve known some of these ‘men’ to screw each other over for an acre of land and then invite that same person over the following week for a ‘pig pickin’. To them, it’s just the way things are ‘done ’round here’ and they laugh it off, like it’s a game.

    You’re dead on about gossip. They will go to church together, hear the same preacher telling them week after week about Gods commandments ( don’t steal, don’t drink to excess, don’t committ adultery, don’t rape, don’t etc etc etc ) and they’ll go right out and do those very things without batting an eye. It’s despicable really.

    Outsiders? Oh, you’re fine so long as you’re a) white; b) have money they can get to in some manner ( aka ‘contributing to the community’ ), and c) are willing to support or ignore ( never, ever actively resist or vote against ) their often extreme neo-con political beliefs. They fully and totally resent to their very bones ANYTHING that smacks of ‘difference’ to the way of life they insist is ‘normal’. Honestly, I could give a rats backside if someone brings me a bowl of chicken soup in the rare times I get sick ( once every ten years, for example ), when daily life is such as I’ve illustrated to you above. And btw, this is not melodrama nor exaggeration. This is how things really ARE done around here. I have heard some of the most outrageous statements and behaviors you could imagine coming from ‘good folk’ that compared to even the ‘thug wannabe’ talk of your average city youth make them seem like choir boys.

    Something else…they see any criticism you have, any unhappiness you feel for how things are ‘done’ as an instant betrayal against them and their ‘community’. They want you to swallow the horse poo and thank them afterwards. “Look at all we done for you!” is a common response to any outsider who, in due time and after the ‘friendliness’ of the community is shed for their truer natures once they’re sure you’re entrenched or have no way out, (and that often happens to people who move out to the country, not realizing that in many ways it is NOT cheaper financially ), if you put your foot down and demand to be treated with respect or you dare to reject their thinking and way of life in even the most trivial way. Again, ‘rejection’ to them is if you do not adapt to their way of doing things, even down to the type of food you eat.

    Most of these people SINCERELY believe the government is ‘against’ them, that any social evolution that permits, for instance, full civil rights to ALL citizens, ( perish the thought! them animals cain’t handle freedom! ), and think happiness lies in the default conversations surrounding NASCAR and the solution to the ‘gubbmint threat’ to their idea of ‘freedom’ is guns, guns, and oh yeah, more guns. Some are armed up to their eyeballs in guns. Talk of secession, the ‘soverign citizen’ ideology, the despair of ‘the gays’ having the gall to impede small town freedoms by choosing who they love, and just overall mistrust with a capital ‘M’ of ‘them liberal, yankee, atheists tryin’ to change us’, is one of the most depressing environments I have ever lived in. If you wish to ‘get beyond the veil’ of these folks, to know them for who they really are, be EXTREMELY cautious. They are very conscious that in order to maintain their influence they have to buy politicians and, indirectly, the local law enforcement which are typically ‘sheriffs’ departments. Not all the men and women in uniform are so influenced, but a great number of them were born and raised here and are white. Often they start in the prison system as guards, (also tend to have family who were prior guards, a ‘traditional vocation’ so to speak ), and then shift into the sheriff’s department.

    The solution? MORE outsiders should move into small town communities TOGETHER and encourage civic participation, particularly judges, to come work there as well. It is the ONLY way the minorities of ANY ‘flavor’ stand a chance in hell of experiencing the same civil freedoms that many others in this country, not in small towns, enjoy. That many are fully oblivious to the ‘small town mentalities’ in America, is on one hand a good thing but the very bad side of it is that the minority descendants and anyone who nievely believes ‘small town life’ will be a sincere ‘friendliness’ as compared to city life, are very much in full effect. It is very dangerous for a single person, educated, and even slightly socially ‘lib’ruhl’ to move into these kinds of communities alone if they are not male and not white. Even if a millionaire black person moved in here and was good to the town, he would STILL be talked about behind his back as ‘that uppity N__ ‘ word. They would STILL treat him as inferior in some way. If it’s a single woman, they will busy themselves like crazy to get her married, pregnant, and in the church. If she doesn’t comply, the ‘men folk’ will either ‘shun’ her over time or harass her using the law or neighbors.

    If there’s any thing I would say to, especially, single people it’s this: do NOT move into a small town unless you, too, share such ugly and dark opinions about others of a different skin color, sexual orientation, or politics. do NOT do so if you do not have family very close by or several friends within reach of you because, trust me when I say this, you will have a devil of a time trying to leave if you do. Don’t even tell anyone that you might, because they will figure out some way to make the leaving hard on you because they KNOW, they know to their bones, that you will probably tell the truth of their way of life and they do not want that. Think of it like this..if their way of life were so good, so noble…then why would they work so actively to ensure the only politicians in the area were also isolationist in their thinking and values? I say, look carefully at the political climate; at how many Baptist churches there are; if the signs leading into the towns are emblazoned with Masons, Rotary, or other such clubs, and who the biggest political contributers are. If you think that stuff doesn’t matter and you will be left alone and ‘allowed’ to enjoy your freedoms as a native American, you are decieving yourself even before they do.

    Finally, sorry so long but this too is a truth…I have met women here who, thirty years later, see their rapists every single day and these guys never did a day in jail and the women accept a sense of victimization, humiliation, and ‘controls’ to the point that they will actually refer to these men as ‘friends’. One lady, after telling me about the man who had repeatedly ‘drugged’ and thens raped her, said,”Oh I wouldn’t say nothin’ about it. He’s my friend!”. The mans friends, if asked about this would then say,”Hell he was about drunk probably, that’s all. Besides, she knows which side of a womans bread is buttered. You know how women are.”

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