Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Formerly-Communist State Of Texas

Many people don't know the communist history of Texas. Traveling around the state, you see a lot of rangers: cops, trucks, and a baseball team. These are named after cowboys who once drove cattle across the open range to the railroad line for transport. When farmers began fencing off private lands and water sources to facilitate modern agriculture, this stuck a burr in the saddle of "free-ranging" cow pokes. Their traditional culture and lifestyle were under attack.

The Sons Of The Pioneers, who were to country music what Robert Johnson was to the blues, had a classic song called Cool Water. The lyrics are revealing. When a cattle driver sees a farmer's settled life, his buddy advises: "Keep a movin' Dan, don't you listen to him Dan, he's a devil not a man and he spreads the burnin' sand with water. Dan can't you see that big green tree where the waters runnin' free and it's waiting there for me and you."

It's been a while since Texans warned their neighbors about capitalist devils who fence off property and irrigate land. The western communal free-range is long gone. Trying to move your herd across Texas today, consuming whatever water you come across, is a sure fire way to meet the uniformed Texas rangers. Nevertheless, many Texans still wear nostalgic uniforms from the old communist era: cowboy hats.

A similar culture clash exists farther South. Just as communal-land-loving cowboys became a dying breed in North America, communal-land-loving Indians live in ever-shrinking pockets throughout Latin America.

I'd love to tell you that these alternatives to the predominant globalizing culture are thriving mightily. Unfortunately, I'm a nonfiction writer. All I can truthfully say to appease my politically-correct friends is that the free-range Indians seem to have outlasted the free-range cowboys and maybe even the free-range-chicken fad. Does that make you feel better?

Even The Rain (Tambien La Lluvia) is a film that jumps into such a "free-range" conflict in Bolivia. A pragmatic producer (Luis Tosar) and an idealistic director (Gael Garcia Bernal) are making a movie about the Spanish conquest of the Americas. However, shooting in Bolivia during an indigenous water-rights protest makes them face a harsh reality. It seems clashes of European and Native ideology are not ancient history but a continuing part of the story of the Americas.

The film has powerful messages for both liberals and conservatives. To the former, it dares hint that liberal entities like media and government can exploit the poor just as well as conservative ones like business and religion. To the latter, it asks whether conservative zeal for private property should extend to the primal elements.

If people have the right to life and liberty, doesn't that include clean air, clean water, a cooking fire, and enough ground to sleep on plus grow a little food? If all that is fenced off from people, hasn't their right to life and liberty been denied? Putting it bluntly, doesn't everyone on the planet deserve the basic tools to attempt self-sufficient survival before anyone deserves a government-funded college degree or methadone injection? If you disagree with this, I’m not saying you’re wrong – I’m saying you’re totally fucked up!

1 comment:

  1. Great review of a great movie, Lyn. I agree 110%. Thanks for bringing this controversy to light and speaking out about it. Cheers!