Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nine Nations

If you're looking for a post on political candidates, veeps or conventions, you'll have to go elsewhere. I'm a bit burnt out on politics. With so much coverage being devoted to the imminent Democratic Convention (this year in Denver, the capital of The Empty Quarter -- a reference made clearer in this post), I'm considering today to be a bit of a breather.

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I stumbled on a reference to the map below while thinking about EProf's ideas on how the U.S. might more effectively handle our presidential primary elections. In that post, he posited dividing up our nation into voting regions, which caused me to wonder exactly where those boundaries might be.

The Nine Nations of North America is a book written in 1981 by Joel Garreau. In it, Garreau argues that North America can be divided into nine regions, or "nations", which each have distinctive economic and cultural features. He argues that conventional national and state borders are largely artificial and irrelevant, and that his "nations" provide a more accurate way of understanding the true nature of North American society.

Book Intro (in italics):

"Forget the pious wisdom you've been handed about North America.
Forget the borders dividing the United States, Canada, and Mexico, those pale barriers so thoroughly porous to money, immigrants, and ideas.

Forget the bilge you were taught in sixth-grade geography about East and West, North and South, faint echoes of glorious pasts that never really existed save in sanitized textbooks.

Forget the maze of state and provincial boundaries, those historical accidents and surveyors' mistakes. The reason no one except a trivia expert can name all fifty of the United States is that they hardly matter.

Forget the political almanacs full of useless data on local elections rendered meaningless by strangely carved districts and precincts.

Consider, instead, the way North America really works. It is Nine Nations. Each with its capital and distinctive web of power and influence.... These nations look different, feel different, and sound different from each other, and few of their boundaries match the political lines drawn on current maps....

Most importantly, each nation has a distinctive prism through which it views the world."

Click here to read more of Mr. Garreau's views. "Nine Nations" grew out of his much debated article written in 1979 when he was an assistant national editor for The Washington Post.

Rather interestingly, the “Nine Nations” line up with pre-Columbian culture groups. One critic notes this was probably accidental on Mr. Garreau's part since it is not addressed in his book. Accident or not, isn't it fascinating that his nine regions follow pretty closely what we know about various American Indian regional patterns? Well, maybe it's true that there is nothing new in the world, that we are constantly reliving the past. If so, is there a Columbus in our future ... who will arrive carrying life-altering culture shock to us as well as life-killing disease and mass death? Hmmm ....

For an excellent discussion of the natural cultural bioregions of North America, see The Anthropik Network.

Here are some snips from that site (in italics): There is a curious similarity between Joel Garreau’s “Nine Nations” and the distribution of Native American cultural groups. For instance ...

1. Mexamerica includes not only much of Mexico (Northern Mexico and the Baja penninsula), but also the territories conquered from Mexico by the United States in one of its most blatant imperialist adventures, the Mexican-American War. Today, the “immigration crisis” on the U.S. side of Mexamerica highlights the folly of trying to drive an artificial border through a bioregion. Garreau pointed to Los Angeles as the “capital” of this “nation,” though Mexico City—built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan and today home to 8.7 million people—is clearly the stronger choice. [DK note: this will make perfect sense to Border Explorer, Dada, and others who might wish to further pursue Anthropik's discussion of the mesoamerican topic here]

2. The Longhouse is what Garreau calledthe Foundry,” including the “Rust Belt,” and much of the decaying, post-industrial northeast U.S. around the Great Lakes. These lands were once home to the Iroquoian-speaking confederacies, complex political structures that tried to bring large groups together and respect individual freedom at the same time. Is it any surprise that this region also produced so many of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States, who espoused the same aspirations? Garreau named Detroit as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: Enigma will appreciate the description of her area as "decaying", but also note that both Obama and Biden represent this region that is known for providing great leaders -- yikes, politics rears its head]

3. Atlantica corresponds to Garreau’sNew England.” Atlantica is notable as one of the “Nine Nations” that has made efforts towards regional integration. Garreau named Boston as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: perhaps Jim, the Average Patriot, can explain what regional integration this area has attempted; e.g., do they vote as a bloc?]

4. Dixie is one of the two “Nine Nations” that has ever seriously pursued secession. The old Confederate States of America was put down in the Civil War. While the people of the Longhouse (Foundry) still see that war as a question of freeing slaves, in Dixie, it’s still often seen as a failed struggle for independence from a foreign country. Garreau named Atlanta as the “capital” of this “nation.”

5. The Breadbasket takes up the Great Plains, and produces a huge percentage of the world’s food. Garreau named Kansas City as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: maybe we should rename this area The Ethanol Basket in recognition of our current fixation on using corn for machine fuel rather than human body fuel]

6. The Islands include the Caribbean islands, parts of Venezuela, and southern Florida. Garreau identified Miami as the “capital” of this “nation.[DK note: it's about time someone realized south Florida has more in common with the caribbean islands than the mainland U.S.]

7. Cascadia aligns well with what Garreau calledEcotopia.” Cascadia has a strong sense of itself and has done more to align itself bioregionally than any of the others. The long, thin, coastal corridor of Cascadia is very much defined by salmon, both now and in its past. Today's bioregionalists call their land “Salmon Nation.” Garreau named San Francisco as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: Fran will like to know she is part of The Salmon Nation]

8. The Empty Quarter was named for Rub’ al Khali, the “Empty Quarter” in Saudi Arabia. It covers most of the Rockies, and holds huge energy reserves. Garreau named Denver as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: there is much similarity in the native tribal culture of this "empty" area, such as the Utes, Paiutes, Shoshone and Nez Perce, all of whom lived a marginal existence on mostly non-productive land, thus necessitating small populations and a nomadic hunter lifestyle]

9. Québec is the other “nation” that has actively pursued secession, though it has yet to press the matter to the point of civil war. Garreau named Québec City, obviously enough, as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: to me, growing up in "The Empty Quarter", Quebec seems more foreign than Mexico; same for Dixie, which had dreams of secession in common with Quebec]

I find it fascinating that 400+ years after first contact with Europeans, our current culture is still following the same regional patterns established by the original native inhabitants. It seems to validate the concept of bioregionalism and natural boundaries. A certain commonality develops within a bioregion, where people who are facing many of the same problems tend to adopt many of the same solutions.

To impose artifical boundaries, like state and national lines, across a natural bioregion does not seem sustainable in the long term. Today, we are seeing the fallout of this kind of folly around our artificially imposed borders. When we fought for or purchased or stole this or that latitude and longitude without any consideration of natural borders, we created a legal division which we are attempting to rule with an iron, blood-stained, and inherently racist, fist. Suddenly people who were all part of a similar culture found themselves on one side or the other. Perhaps if our borders more accurately reflected these concerns, we would not be having so many border problems today.

Wow, all that just from wondering about how our presidential primaries might work better if we divided up into voting regions vs the current state-by-state silliness!

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If you haven't already done so and wish to, please see the post below and give One H.E.A.R.T. your vote.


eProf2 said...

DK, this is a really interesting post. I had not seen the work of Joel Garreau but vaguely recall its publication in the early 1980's.

It really surprised me to see my post as the basis of your thinking: That's wonderful, and I thank you for the compliment.

Even if we weren't to follow Garreau's nine nations, doesn't he also point out the folly of building walls between the current nations of the northern hemisphere? The Great Wall of Mexico will come back to haunt us -- big time. As one of the editors for the AZ Republic said this morning, we need to think through not only what we're blocking out but what we're locking in. The editor understood Robert Frost's poem on fences. That was refreshing in itself.

Now, I'll have to study the nine nations concept more indepth in the next couple of days. In the meanwhile, enjoy your time away from the chattering experts on the conventions. I know I'm not going to watch very much of it myself -- a big infomercial.

Interesting post, thanks.

an average patriot said...

The 9 Nations of North America are3 well on the way of becoming one under The North American Union!

D.K. Raed said...

You were the inspiration, so thank you! I don't know if Garreau says much about walls. He seems to be more about defining natural regions of common interest. Walls, as you've said, work both ways, locking in as well as locking out. I will actually be watching the nightly keynotes of the convention this week, but I hope to be on vacation next week, so will miss the repub one. Boo hoo.

Avg Patriot:
See, I KNEW you would say that! I almost included the NAU concept, but decided to let the map speak for itself. Besides, what Garreau seems to be referring to is really more about common regional interests, which can transcend national borders. Not quite the same as what the necons have in mind.

Mariamariacuchita said...

Actually, Texas, not any of the deep south Dixie states, had it written into its state constitution when it became a state that it could legally secede if it didn't like the way the US was governing. But I note that it has been carefully broken into 3 regions. This is very interesting and a possible look at the future.

D.K. Raed said...

well hmmm, I guess TX is just too big to stay in one region!?! I think Garreau had the disparate parts of TX pegged correctly into which region each would have the most affinity with. I have never really thought of TX as part of Dixie, but it seems so different from the parts of the southwest I'm familiar with (NV, UT, AZ).

Maybe the bigger question w/TX is why they never invoked their state constitutional right to legally secede? Either they DO like the way the US is being governed, or else maybe the very act of becoming a state meant they had to give that right up? I know w/UT, they had to (begrudingly) give up polygamy in order to be admitted as a state. So the day before admittance, it was legal, and the day after, a lot of wives were cast out or became hidden & unmentionable. One of my great great grandmas was sent to live in a cave w/her children. They did not all starve or I wouldn't be here.

Dave Dubya said...

If the past elections are a factor, Indiana and Ohio are fast becoming Dixie.

With apologies to Molly Ivans, Bill Moyers, Willie Nelson, and the other handful of enlightened Texans:

As far as Texas is concerned, the US would have been better off if it seceded before 2000.

In fact, the world would be better off if Texas had just gone off to become Bushland.

Cart said...

I've come across a similar breakdown on language (or more precisely accent) which seems similar to this demographic approach.
I have posited that China will break up under it's own weight - population and economic activity - and can see how the same argument could be put for NA.
Great post, thank you.

lindsaylobe said...

Great Post. Presumably the inference would be for very significant reductions in cost? Maybe even similiar time frames to Canada where as you know there is just 2/3 months of campaigning before an election.

Billions of dollars now spent at a Democratic convention is not so interesting or helpful after all?
Best wishes

Utah Savage said...

This is one hell of a great post d.k. My attention span is shrunken due to a drain on my wattage capacity. I need a wind generator just outside my cottage to keep my mind powered up. Despite my diminished capacity, I read every word and think this is a wonderful idea. I'd also like all native peoples to regain some of their original lands and welcomed home from the far flung tribal barren lands they were sent to in exile. I'd be living in the Atlanta zone then, somewhere along the southeastern coast.

Fran said...

Interesting concept, DK.... although we've got to come up with a better name than the empty quarter. It is some of the most beautiful land in the country,
Salmon Nation/Ecotopia... now those are lovely names worthy of the region. Sadly tough, in reality the wild Salmon species are struggling.

D.K. Raed said...

Dave Dub:
But remember Carpetbagger W was born in Maine, so he'd still have been eligible to run for prez. Damn!

The language groupings of native americans follow a similar pattern, which is probably to be expected. I don't think the US is breaking up into 9 Nations (yet) -- this post started out more about the concept of regional voting, but then I got caught up in the idea of doing away with state lines & borders altogether.

No doubt regional voting would cut down on costs. Anything that reduces our long state-by-state primary season would be cheaper. There's much to recommend regions vs states ... which is probably why it will never be seriously considered!

UT Savage:
It's so good to see you finding the energy to get up & about! So you've got some choctaw blood? hmmm, if those w/native blood were allowed to have some of their original land back, I'd still be HERE (paiute).

if you had your own nation, I bet you could nurse the salmon back. and ummm, I hate to say it, but perhaps the reason The Empty Quarter has so much beautiful wild land left is because it is so empty of people. Mining has ripped up some areas here pretty bad, though. Next on the list of ways to destroy the "empty" environment: oil shale!

Border Explorer said...

D.K., I'm bursting with pride to be connected with Mexamerica. I love the originality of this post and I want to read it carefully. It will take me awhile. Utah Savage is way ahead of me. (But I can tell she's a lot smarter than I am. Hope that gives me an excuse to plod along here.) Thank you very much. Your posts always give me something to think about.

Ingrid said...

It's too late for me to read and we're having to wait for the arrival for our printer cartridge but when it comes, I'll print it out and think about it. As a poli sci major this is an interesting concept. One of my poli sci professors (who was my 'boyfriend' for a while ehem, no worries, we're both single at the time and I wasn't taking any classes with him) shared with me that he thought that in the future, an actual devolution would take place and that more localized economies would thrive and work as an entity.

so this is an interesting notion, this nine nation..I'll have to reserve true commentary..


D.K. Raed said...

B. Explorer:
You have much to be proud of!

I tend to print out stuff to read later, too, for when I have time. At first, it seems counterintuitive in this global economy, but localized systems have much to recommend. The benefits to local producers & services alone can make a marginal economy boom. Your poli-sci guy sounds like he provided much food for thought!