It can go without saying that the great bulk of who we become is formed in our childhood, or from in utero and on through adolescence, by the end of which we have at last set up like concrete. Some time from our late teens on, the only thing more difficult than meaningful reform is the ability to see that it actually needs to be attempted.
Peoples are similar to individuals because they by nature consist of individuals. You could hardly understand a people if you did not understand basic human nature, any more than you could understand the hive, if you did not understand the bee.
One great difference would appear to be that individuals have a clear beginning and end, i.e. conception and death. Peoples on the other hand can survive centuries or even millennia before vanishing, or more likely being subsumed by other peoples, or perhaps amalgamating with another people to form a whole new people.
It is easy to identify the individual. But how do you identify the people? For the Japanese and Nigerian staring at each other that is easy, though they may not be able to identify the particular kind of Far East Asian or sub-Saharan African they are looking at.
But are physical features the primary indicator of to what people the individual belongs? I imagine the Norwegians and Swedes would strongly disagree. So what then is the indicator?
Well, it may be summed up as culture, that nebulous collection of habits, attitudes, inclinations, customs, mores, and traditions held by groups of individuals, all born to individuals who have lived among each other in the same space for sufficient time to allow for the emergence of these commonalities.
Another way to look at individuals is that we are a continuation and link of our family tree, much like the oldest oak tree in the woods is the descendant of the first oak, and bears all the resemblance, as will its descendants.
We are who we are not just because of our own experiences, but also because of the experiences of our parents, grandparents, their great-great-great grandparents, their great-great-great-greats, and stretching on back into the mist of the forgotten past.
Likewise peoples may be thought of as a chain, each link representing a generation, each bearing strong resemblance to the previous one.
And like the individual, peoples set up like concrete too and change but slowly. And like individuals, peoples are inclined to take the path of least resistance. And as with individuals, this often leads to their degradation. And like individuals, if the people will not face their degradation, repent of it, and reform their ways, they can be assured that their descendants will eventually curse them, that is, unless they vanish and fall off the timeline altogether.
This piece was previously published at Look Away on April 20, 2023.
Mark Atkins has six wee bairns who are all seventh-generation Henry County, Tennessee, and all from the same doe. It is the people of Henry County that he most wants to reach but writes to Southerners generally. He is without credentials but rather dares to speak by the same authority as the little boy who cried 'The king has no clothes!' His core belief and starting point is that like everything, we humans have a nature, it is not so hard to understand, and to pretend that it is other than it is, is to jump off a cliff. Which is what we Americans have in fact done.