Southern Reflections on Being Neighborly

< img width="670"height ="459"src =" "alt =" "/ > A white house sits on the outskirts of a village in upstate South Carolina. It is modest in both size and appearance, and rather old, and in front of it beside the highway is a big cross which appears to have taken some money and effort to put up. There is a sign which welcomes any passerby to stop and kneel at the cross to hope, especially for the good of the nation. This house is remarkable for the contrast it presents to many other houses in these parts. Numerous a house sits protected by a gate and fence, canines, and an army of indications bearing the stern warnings of NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT, BEWARE OF CANINE, and so on. In most cases this produces a genuine eyesore, but, more importantly, it recommends something about the mindsets of the householders in concern, as does the former householder’s cross.

That first guy so values the things of the spirit that he has actually turned his modest estate into a public sanctuary where men may come and modest themselves to beseech God’s favor upon the country. He welcomes complete strangers to his own residential or commercial property to take part in a way of grace for their good and that of the wider society of which they belong. Many others, by contrast, clearly dream to be left alone, and have actually sacrificed all taste in marketing their miserliness to the public. Where our example welcomes others and looks for to use his property for their spiritual great, numerous other individuals omit others, typically with risks– think about those indications that say intruders will be shot– and want to have absolutely nothing to do with them.

It is, undoubtedly, not pristinely respectful to make public remarks upon the property and character of others, and one can consider numerous elements that may alleviate the obvious character of the sundry homeowners in question. That first property owner might be a hypocrite who does his deeds to be seen by others, à la the Pharisees of old (Matthew 23:5), while a number of those others may be otherwise just and neighborly, their signs and barriers set up since of consistent problems with burglars or something like that. Still, as individuals in question have actually purposefully placed their respective indications to reveal their wishes to passerby, and as passerby can just act and think due to what they do know, not what they don’t know, it appears a fair comment to state that these different signs represent different approaches to God and neighbor. Of the 2 it can bit questioned which is more advantageous and proper; but alas, neither can it be questioned which is the most likely to be complied with by the public: appearances suggest that the invitation to hope goes unanswered, while those to stay away are readily complied with.

It is a sad thing that the second way of connecting to others– or rather, of not relating to them– is much more typical, and that it appears to become more so day by day. Hospitality and neighborliness were once the crowning splendors of Southerners. There’s an amusing little remark in B. A. Botkin’s Treasury of Southern Folklore that says the typical action in yesteryear when a stranger knocked on the door was ‘Howdy complete stranger! What’ll you take?’ The notion that a person would welcome a stranger with a drink on the patio is pretty well inconceivable today. It appears to have gone the way of trainee school bus chauffeurs, medieval-style tournaments, eating possum, and rather a lot of other previous features of southern life. Being greeted by a shotgun or pistol pointed at one’s face and told to ‘git’ or getting an awful berating appears, however, rather probable.

What has taken place that an individuals who was as soon as conspicuous for its magnanimity and basic amiability towards complete strangers has concerned so fear them and to so disdain their business that people resort to fortifying their homes and loudly promoting their orneriness to the world? Are ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ and Mormon missionaries and other proselytizers truly that much of a problem? Are burglars so much to be feared? Do we not bear arms? Is not the basic knowledge of that truth deterrent enough to the criminal aspect? Perhaps you will state that much of this is indicated as a defense versus civil liability. Very well; however should a male worry being sued more than the even more most likely consequence of being a bad neighbor by separating himself from others?

Now you might say that a male has every right to cut himself off from the larger world and to take pleasure in unbroken privacy and peace in his house. Possibly; however “to have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be ideal in doing it” (G.K. Chesterton). From the standpoint of the law a guy has every right to drink a half gallon of alcohol daily, to ride a burro down a four-lane highway throughout heavy traffic, or to read grotesque, pornographic literature. But nobody can seriously maintain that any such action is either sensible or just. It is a right only in the legal sense, since we have actually deemed it a far higher threat for the state to criminalize and penalize such habits than to endure them. In a much deeper, that is a moral or spiritual sense, such behaviors are level playing field for criticism as damaging to one’s good and that of others.

So also with this question of isolating oneself from others. It may be a legal right, but that does not suggest it is either sensible or righteous. It is, in fact, the mark of a bad male that he is a misanthrope who disdains charity towards strangers and next-door neighbors. Undoubtedly, this practice has actually gone a long way towards cheapening the concepts of neighbor and community. The previous now implies just ‘one who lives nearby.’ However there was a time when it included the more aspect of ‘and towards whom I have specific social and civil commitments.’ The latter concept now has an almost completely industrial or, shall we say, property character: a neighborhood is merely a place where people live and operate. In its fuller sense it brings with it the ideas of typical heritage and culture, shared history, and a peculiar character that differentiates a location and its homeowners from others. Take the personal aspect of associate out since individuals no longer know their neighbors, and all that is left is the industrial side of it: people deal with each other in organization situations, but not much otherwise.

But to go back to the question, what was it that triggered all of this change in mindset from one of hospitality to one of hostility? A fear of crime most likely has a part, though it is a bad excuse. Criminal activity was a far graver thing in the age of backwoods bandits and primitive techniques of security and detection than now, however individuals of previous times, who understood full well any complete stranger knocking on the door might be a brigand, appear not, for the many part, to have actually enabled that understanding to prevent them from exercising the duties of hospitality. Crime has been succumbing to about thirty years now and is it about at its pre-1960s level prior to the spike of that decade and those following; in a broader historic sense it is thought that this level of crime is the lowest in the history of our country. If it is fear of criminal offense, then, that accounts for the shyness, it is a fear that is significantly overemphasized. The fear of liability has some benefit, certainly, however it little bit accounts for large, enormous dogs and things like indications that state visitors are not welcome or that trespassers ought not to expect alerting shots. Being sued due to the fact that your dog bit somebody or due to the fact that you shot someone without legal reason appears most likely than being taken legal action against due to the fact that somebody traipsing in your woods tripped and sprained his knee. But even if not, the language of the signs and the nature of the barriers do not recommend that avoiding liability is their main purpose.

Possibly we come nearby when we consider preventing being bothered as the main factor for all of this. Many people today have really high viewpoints of their own significance; and lots of people have lives that are currently quite hectic without someone occurring to disrupt one’s peace with a knock on the door and a religious or service solicitation. One can definitely have compassion with a desire for comfort. Yet warding off lawyers is not as practical a procedure as it may seem in the beginning look. In the very first case, personal solicitation is far less regular than solicitation through spam, telemarketing calls, or email spam. Second, it is rather more quickly countered, for you can inform a door-to-door salesman in a polite however firm tone ‘No, thank you’ in such a way that he comprehends he need not trouble coming by again. You might most likely ward off ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ by asking a few pointed questions about the reliability of their New World Translation and the way in which it was equated. Third, in preventing lawyers by indications, pet dogs, barriers, etc. one hinders all people, consisting of individuals whom one ought not to hinder, such as passerby in need of help or neighbors.

Now lying at the root of all of this there is, one suspects, a base cause that animates an inordinate fear of crime, of suits, and of being inconvenienced. Is it not just this, that males put their own desires and satisfaction ahead of the good of others, and of their duties towards them? Is it not that privacy and ownerships are esteemed more highly than other individuals and their requirements or business? Is it not that our society has shifted from one with conventional pursuits such as agriculture towards one which is industrial/commercial, and, appropriately, from relative poverty to one in which product prosperity is both common and esteemed more than anything else whatever, especially more than traditional virtues (as courtesy, hospitality, general neighborliness) and a robust sense of community? It is hard to get away the conclusion that the response to all these questions is ‘yes.’ As the sundry polities of the South see their populations grow and their economies alter rapidly since of the big increase of individuals from other states, it seems they lose their traditional worths, manners, and custom-mades and embrace, a minimum of in part, new ones that are tempered by a materialistic and consumeristic principles that envisions the fantastic things in life can be purchased and sold, which they are rather material than spiritual in character. This belief that commerce and intake are preeminent, and that everything ought to be organized around them has taken its hold in our culture, and its necessary greed is inimical to our old ways and fights versus them. This appears to occur not just amongst beginners and amongst those who profit from the growth in population and GDP, but even to those whose home is long-established and whose material position is about the exact same or even fairly lower than prior to the advent of the increased population and wealth. In short, wealth corrupts both those who have it and those who don’t, as we take our values from society as an entire and not just from the class or station which we inhabit. Particular components of Southern culture are enduring in backwoods and even, to some degree, in more suburban ones. But others are not, and a sense of community seems to be one of those things that are dying as the things which enable it decline in the face of wealth and the greed and arrogance it kindles in guys’s hearts.

Now it does no good to wax philosophical about all of this and not ask the further concern of what practical action can be required to alleviate it. The response is basic: do not embody in your own ideas and conduct those things that are damaging to the good of your neighbor and to the establishment and upkeep of a robust neighborhood, subscription in which is preferable and pleasant. Avoid greed, whether the desire for more belongings or a self-centered hoarding of what you already have (avarice). Abandon all ridicule of others and every concept that your time is too precious to lose with others or that you should put your desires ahead of your neighbor’s good. Determine to provide aid when it is requested or appears needed. Goal to be polite and friendly with all who come your method. Get out of your house and out of the numbing influence of screens, as you have more occasion to meet your neighbor if you’re out on your porch or in your yard than if you are forgetting the broader world while viewing television. Except where there is a true need for the opposite (e.g. your next-door neighbor is a lunatic who has threatened your life), make your property accessible and deal kindly with anyone who pertains to your action, even if their timing is bad or you would rather not handle them. Risk having a dull discussion or a tool not being returned. Don’t yell at kids if you find them playing in your woods however rather count it a far more suitable thing to them sitting in the house and ending up being fat playing video games.

I bid you take idea of your honor and heritage as a Southerner. To worth enjoyment and belongings and self more than the workout of neighborly virtue and neighborhood is, to be rather blunt, a Yankee method of believing and acting. Yankee, not in the general sense of Northern, however rather in the stringent sense of materialistic, conceited, obnoxious, selfish, cold, uncharitable, and individualistic in the incorrect way. Our forefathers styled themselves The Chivalry and conceived of themselves as untitled nobles who were nevertheless required to be noticeable for their magnanimity, graciousness, kindness, courtesy, and affability, all the more so as others (particularly Northerners) succumbed to materialistic, industrial, and democratic excesses that damaged individual character. They did not perfectly achieve to ancient Greco-Roman, medieval/chivalric, or Christian perfects of habits, nor shall we. But we, being their heirs, should make the effort in the hope that, like them, we will meet terrific (if not outright) success. Doing so suggests doing as suggested above and repenting previous, incorrect methods of acting and thinking. Dare we dishonor our predecessors or rob our posterity by failing to follow this summons? We owe it to such past and future kin to do so, so let us all venture to be rather like that little householder who desires the good of the neighbor and invites him instead of like a curmudgeon whose contempt of others is to his own hinderance which of our society.

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