Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my past year and a half, almost two years, living in Tallahassee. The often forgotten capital of Florida has served me well and I’ve made friends down here that I wouldn’t sacrifice for anything, yet I already know that my days down here are limited.
After having grown up in Massachusetts and attending undergraduate at Boston College, it took a bit of adjustment when I first moved down here in January of 2015. Since then I’ve gotten to know the city through my weekend adventures, during those beers after work, and on the trips to store after store searching for XYZ. In fact, I can say that I’ve been to the two Home Depots and two Lowes more times that I can count and certainly more than I would care to admit. This, as much as anything, has made Tallahassee my home. So why am I eager to move away?
Over the past few months I’ve become increasingly more disillusioned with the social edifice which people call “southern culture” or “southern charm”, at least in so far as I understand those terms. This cultural flavor of the south is what brings many a visitor down here for vacation (along with the warm water) and has captivated romantic hearts everywhere with classic, cinematographic renderings of southern charm such as sweet tea out on the porch. While all of it is perfectly true, and in many ways the real thing eclipses the full-color, theatrical depiction, there lingers a darker side. Socioeconomically the south tends to be fairly impoverished compared to the more affluent coasts such as New England or California. While there are definite historical underpinnings, many of which have been studied by anthropologists and historians alike, the current state of affairs is what it is and I don’t think there is much I can do to change it. The suppressed incomes and industry does little for the long term problem of education, or lack thereof, and has very much become a culturally degenerative cycle whereby a lack of education leads to a lack of skilled labor and a lack of local jobs. Without jobs and money, education is lost as a ancillary capacity too often ignored.
While I try my best not to be prejudice against a lack of education (I’m not always successful), I am very critical of cultural attitudes supportive of ignorance and bigotry. It is precisely the fact that cultural attitudes shape the ego and thought process (I’m very much a determinist) of the individuals within that culture that I find southern charm so dangerous. By clothing apathy towards self actualization in the guise of tradition not only does cultural stagnation occur; but by the diminishing returns of its bootstrapped nature, progress is nearly impossible to achieve. It is my belief that southern culture supports a disregard for education which in turn reinforces the cultural narrative. This stands against my most cherished values and why I won’t be a resident forever.
Clearly this is only one opinion and perhaps my experience is singular. Let me know if you agree or disagree and why.