The Benefit Of A Lack Of Personal Space

Why social tolerance is inversely proportional to available personal space

Glenn Rocess

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Farmer in a soybean field (United Soybean Board) and a normal crowd at Grand Central Station (Paul Katcher)

A Country Boy’s Fears

He grew up in a place where cars passed by maybe three or four times an hour on a busy day. The closest city was fifteen miles away, and to him, any city with 12,000 residents was almost a metropolis. His family had an acre of land, a large vegetable garden and a deep well for water. Best of all was the quiet — he could hear the doves cooing and the crickets chirping in the late afternoon, and the only unnatural sounds were an occasional car or even a biplane crop-dusting the cotton fields down the road. This was his life till he left to join the Navy to see the world.

There’s an old song by Hank Williams Jr., A Country Boy Can Survive:

I live back in the woods, you see
My woman and the kids, and the dogs, and me
I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk ’til dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke, too
Ain’t too many things these old boys can’t do
We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Whenever he heard that song, his chest would swell with pride, for he knew how very true all that was. Besides, nobody, but nobody worked harder than a country boy, right? But later in the song, the singer describes what happened to a friend in New York City:

But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
I’d love to spit some beech nut in that dude’s eyes
And shoot him with my old .45
’Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

That line always reminded him of just know how violent and dangerous those inner cities must be, with gang battles almost every day. He felt sorry for the people trapped in those cities crowded with all sorts of malcontents, and he knew that if he had to be there, he’d be packing heat every minute of every day. Can’t trust those people on the streets, y’know — so many drug dealers and foreigners, and a lot of time they can’t even speak English.

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Glenn Rocess

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.