Excellent exchange between Paul Brest and William Schambra at a Philanthropy Roundtable meeting. Their topic is strategic philanthropy. Paul is for logic models connecting grants with results. Bill is for treating local people with respect, relying on their rooted understandings, and putting money into those local leaders and their practical, small scale, local efforts.
I want, as a literary type, to draw attention to something that may seem secondary or even unfortunate, but which may actually be of the essence. Bill's tone verges on resentment particularly in his opening sentences. Paul is as unflappable as any well educated carpetbagger come South to staighten out the knuckledragging locals, with their ages old stupdity, their Snopes-like commitment to grubby folkways, and their religious zealotry, xenophia, and overall backwardness. Paul knows that logic models are not going to arise organically in the spare soil of these desolate towns. The troglodytes who live there can't hardly spell.
Now the above is not the text; it is the subtext, or a caricature of it. I am sensitive, even overly sensitive, to the body language and tone because I have (after a fine Ivy education) lived in AL, GA, and TX for going on 20 years. That tone of resentment, of being rankled, aggrieved, and fed up is a tone I have heard here often. I have had locals flinch in my presence, because they know, or think they know, from the first Yankee-sounding syllable that I hold them in secret contempt.
"Do you know the difference between a Yankee and a damned Yankee?" I was asked in Estill, SC, within eye's reach of Sherman's candles (old chimneys left standing by Sherman when he burned the town and had the women dance barefoot in the ashes). The answer I was told with a significant glare is, "A damned Yankee comes South and stays." I said, "OK." Then the man pointed to a dilapidated brick department store.
"See that loft up there?" "Yes, I said. "That," he said his voice shaking with resentment, "is where the hippies stayed when they came here to straighten us all out. You were a hippy, Boy?" I said, "Look, Mister, I am just here to sell insurance. Need any?" And then we both laughed. We were both pariahs, I even more than he.
I don't identify with the Old South, but I don't identify with the carpetbaggers either. I generally think people can solve their own problems, that the most effective solutions are created by those closest to the problem, and that ordinary people, with or without money or education, deserve respect. I share Bill's irritation at the know it alls from Corporate Headquarters, the Gummint, or a Foundation, who act like they know better than the locals because they have an MBA, a better suit, a friggin logic model that any moron without an MBA can see will never work because the situation is not Newtonian, but dynamic, and the MBA has only pumped in 3 variables, when the real world has 3,000 that impact this situation. The locals have lived with those variables and have them in their blood. But the bozos and bigshots from HQ, are too smart and too shot in the rear with their own self-importance to listen. They wouldn't be where they are if weren't smarter than us, so why should they listen?
You can hear the simmering resentment for yourself on talk radio.
I would imagine that in a debate Schambra is going to lose to Paul. The first rule of debating is not to let your opponent get your goat. Paul is utterly professional, educated, imperturable, above the fray, a former college professor lecturing the less well read. He is the voice of reason, addressing the voice of barely bridled emotion. He is not going to dirty his hands setting Bill straight. Let Bill strangle in his own spit.
Let it be said that in certain respects the Snopses do need to be refabricated. But it will take more than a civil war, carpetbaggers, hippies on buses, a logic model, a Hewlett Foundation grant, or Barack Obama to do it. Real Americans never surrender. The battle flag may be folded, but the culture war will not end this side of the Rapture.
And so it goes.