3-59. What is the nature of the profane in persons or in cultures? I ask the question because it seems that we
live in an increasingly profane culture.
Perhaps one may generalize and say that what really typifies the profane person (in any social or organizational
context) is a glorification of fear. In the realm of action, the profane person glorifies intimidation and waxes
eloquent about coercive forms of social organization and their sometimes brutal practices. In the realm of sexual
behavior, the profane person glorifies the forbidden, because the sexually profane person relishes the perverse
stimulus offered by risk and its attendant fear.
Even in attitudes toward "authority," the profane person goes out of his or her way to antagonize those in power,
not merely to challenge them: he enjoys the game, the sport, of baiting others because he knows that there is risk
and thus a psychological "high" in doing so.
All of this is to be distinguished, of course, from those challenges which are the necessary ingredient of duty and
sport. Life without challenge would not only be dull: it would be meaningless. But where challenge becomes
mixed up with deliberate and unnecessary risk for the sake of the stimulation, even challenge and work itself may
3-60. There is a conservative maxim which says that one should not criticize the existing order of things unless
one is prepared to offer an alternative. This is a very useful maxim, not only for those who control the existing
order, but for those who do not wish to jeopardize their own position of comfort or privilege: the maxim reassures
them that their silence in the face of injustice is not only permissible, but virtuous.
Can one imagine a physician who would not venture a diagnosis unless he already knew the cure? Yet, those
who disparage the critical social analysis of the uses of fear are saying that one should not diagnose a social
pathology unless one can prescribe the cure.
3-61. The maxim which says that one ought not to criticize the existing order of things unless one can offer a
concrete alternative is essentially a southern maxim. It is, to be sure, known and revered beyond the South. In
the South, however, it is the Golden Rule of the slave owners and their spiritual progeny--the arch-terrorists of
legend and fact.
The South has been unadaptable to change, and the prime reason for this is that it has suppressed dissent and
debate. At the same time, southern culture has a strong propensity toward violence and militarism precisely
because it does not know any way to deal with conflict other than to repress it: this has always been the formula
for war. It should be remembered that it was the southerners, not those who wanted to abolish slavery, who fired
the first shots of the Civil War.
The culture of repressed dissent is the culture of war, for it is by fear that dissent is repressed. The South has
been and remains a manifestation of repression and war. The South, whatever else it might be, is the realm of
reverence for fear as the ultimate social regulator.
3-62. In some ways, the culture which we call "Southern" is one of the worst in terms of denying any middle
ground on the issue of criticism and conflict. Southern culture is inherently authoritarian, and in this authoritarian
culture ladies and gentlemen are "bred" to believe that controversy and conflict are dangerous and uncouth.
Southern culture is also the prime recruiting ground for generals and sergeants: the same attitude which
encourages repression of words has never hesitated to use violence and threat to settle conflict. One might even
go so far as to say that Southern culture is backwards and primitive precisely because it does not know how to
handle conflict in any way other than to suppress it, whether by the clucking of tongues or the cracking of skulls.
3-63. What we call "southern culture" is a backward culture, and its ladies and gentlemen are too often
barbarians in Sunday clothes. Its orphans and its disenfranchised are its true aristocrats, but many of them,
being either black, poor, or liberal, are in exile. Many do not wish to return. When they do, they typically wonder
3-64. Ultimately, what one sees when one reviews repressive Southern attitudes toward social criticism is
something akin to the taboo in other primitive cultures: the unspeakable. Whereas the taboo usually proscribes
only actions, however, the Southern attitude toward the unspeakable proscribes words.
The unspeakable: this is that which typifies Southern culture, which gives it its distinctive flavor. Is there a
problem with pregnancy among teenagers? Then let there be no mention of sex education. Is there racial
discrimination? Then let there be no mention of it in polite society, or let it be rationalized away as something
else. There will be time enough after dark to deal with social problems.
The New South will not have been truly reborn until it forsakes its fascination with fear.
3-65. Southern culture has been from its inception military culture. Nowhere is the warrior more revered, nor the
pacifist more hated, than in the South. As in all militerroristic cultures, the use of force and hierarchy is closely
associated with the invocation of formal channels of communication: routinized methods of suppressing dissent.
Bureaucracy as a formal theory originated in Prussia, in what is now East Germany. The agrarian South is the
Prussia of the U.S.A. In hierarchical culture, there can be no communication without permission. (Communication
with permission is what "channels of communication" is all about.) Communication threatens to allow disparate
and dissenting opinion, opinion which might lead to the collapse of the established order.
Joining the military is easy for the southerner because he has been there all along.
3-66. How did the South come to be the South? How did the authoritarian mind-set come to be so deeply
engrained here? The institution of slavery was the prime culprit. So odious an institution could only be
maintained by terror, and only if ordinary moral sentiments were denied, or at least suppressed. Language, which
has the power to evoke such sentiments, was thus the object of repression: only if language could be controlled
could such an odious institution be allowed to persist. Only those opinions which supported the economically
privileged class could be allowed.
This control of opinion created difficulties, of course. The result was an elaborate set of protocols which
established who could speak, when they could speak, and about what they could speak. Whereas in most
cultures such protocols would only be enforced rigidly within the military establishment, in the South they had first
to be established within the home: the children above all had to be taught, and taught well, that all persons in
positions of subservience must know their place, whether they were children, women, or black persons (which is
almost to say the same thing, for all of these were kept in a state of moral infancy against their will).
The natural sentiments and tendencies of children being what they are, however, the potentially most potent
enemies of slavery were indeed within a man's household. Therefore the children were taught first of all respect
for institutionalized authority, as well as belief in the natural superiority of the white man. This latter nonsensical
lie could only be maintained by the strictest control over questioning and discussion: the bigger the lie, the more
severe the repression. The southern child learned quickly that there is no sin greater than speaking back to his
elders. Once the child had learned to constrain his opinions in the home over the institution of slavery, this type
of "discipline" was quickly transferred to other issues and finally to social settings outside of the patriarchal family
setting: the military.
The slave owners were not put out of work by the Civil War. They simply became modern military men.
3-67. It might be thought that Biblical inerrantism, not slavery or the rule of terror, was the source of Southern
authoritarianism. The reverse was true. The lesson of unquestioning obedience learned in conjunction with
protection of the institution of slavery became a deeply ingrained attitude which could be transferred to the study
of history, ethics, anthropology, and theology: everything on which the Bible professed to have the final word.
In like manner, persons socialized to accept received opinion as true beyond question were halfway socialized into
militarism already: all that was lacking was a rifle on the shoulder and a new set of badges of status and servitude.
The difficult part of military socialization--taking away the birthright of independent thinking--had already been
done by Daddy and Sunday school. Southern culture became the breeding ground of every reactionary
The final travesty was, of course, the intrusion of Southern values into the realm of education. Since the conflict
of ideas was dangerous, those sporting souls who insisted upon maintaining their independence of thought were
best advised to get out of the South--and many did. Those who remained promoted, in too many cases, a
conception of education which might be called "the transmission of culture" rather than critical analysis of culture.
Critical attitudes were frankly discouraged. Positive thinking was encouraged.
Whitewashing was even better, if one could achieve it.
3-68. Through a process of unnatural selection, the ideas which flourished in the South were often inferior ideas.
Intellectual waves and currents from other parts of the country, or from those repositories of independence in
Appalachia extending from West Virginia into northern Alabama (buttressed by a few independent souls here and
there), did provide a counterpoint from time to time, but overall every idea (progressive or otherwise) which swept
the country swept the South last. The sixties finally arrived in the South sometime in the early seventies, and the
twentieth century came not with the Wright Brothers in 1902 or the automobile a decade or two later, but with
Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
Every milepost of progress in the South can be measured in terms of triumph over terror. There is reason to
believe that the same thing might be true everywhere.