Susan Sontag on ‘Southerners’ (1992)

“Every culture has its southerners – people who work as little as they can, preferring to dance, drink, sing, brawl, kill their unfaithful spouses; who have livelier gestures, more lustrous eyes, more colorful garments, more fancifully decorated vehicles, a wonderful sense of rhythm, and charm, charm, charm; unambitious, no, lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer (how could it be otherwise, say the northerners); who for all their poverty and squalor lead enviable lives – envied, that is, by work-driven, sensually inhibited, less corruptly governed northerners. We are superior to them, say the northerners, clearly superior. We do not shirk our duties or tell lies as a matter of course. We work hard, we are punctual, we keep reliable accounts. But they have more fun than we do. They caution themselves as people do who know they are part of a superior culture. We mustn’t let ourselves go, mustn’t descend to the level of the … jungle, street, bush, bog, hills, outback (take your pick). For if you start dancing on tables, fanning yourself, feeling sleepy when you pick up a book, developing a sense of rhythm, making love whenever you feel like it – then you know. The south has got you.”