Plain Livin’

As we begin to discuss Appalachia we must understand complexities that are unclear, debated, and difficult. We often scan history with a birds eye view, when we think of what we learn in a history class we see a long list of dates, people, places, and events. The reality however, is that learning and understanding history as an active subject helps us understand the present. For instance I can better understand Appalachian poverty because I know the factors that brought it about. I have a stronger grasp on present day topics because I learned the history of it, which is why I hope to not only write my experiences as an Appalachian, but also it’s history, because ultimately history is what got us to where we are today.
One of the largest complexities of Appalachia revolves around poverty. Rural poverty in Appalachia is beyond surprising and it begs the question. How did we get here? There are various comments, theories, and discussions on this topic. DISCLAIMER: Below is my opinion, an opinion rooted in evidence and historical exigency, disagreement is easily possible and understood, discussion is encouraged.
I believe that Appalachia is a region that has been continually manipulated and exploited for its labor and raw materials since the colonial period. The exploitation of Appalachia has been carried out in various ways by various outside groups. This geographic exploitation puts Appalachia as the periphery while the rest of the United States is the Metropole. What does this mean? Simply stated, a periphery region is one in which resources are being actively removed, where as the Metropole are where the resources are going. In the case of Appalachia as the periphery resources like timber and coal were being extracted from the region. A periphery is formed when the wealth made off of these resources never reenter the region. Coal companies were sourced from outside the region and the profits were rarely if ever seen in Appalachia. This produces major concern, if a region is being extracted of resources while seeing no economic gains from this extraction what is left when the extraction stops? Nothing. A periphery is unstable because it is inherently dependent on the Metropole. The arrival of this unseen system is difficult to pin point but we can easily say that it was firmly established by means of capitalism. A capitalist society thrives on exploited regions in order to extract resources at lower costs, which is why coal companies experienced major booms in the 1900s (before the United Mine Workers Association). The invisible hand of outsiders pressuring Appalachia as a periphery to the rest of America has developed the poverty we see today as well as the stereotypes impressed on us.
America has created a region that is knowingly exploited and abused and in the next breath demonized and snubbed for being backwards, isolated, and close minded.
Continuing to discuss Appalachia absent of it’s political, economic, and societal complexities would be a grave mistake. I hope to have a new writing posted every Sunday morning.
Stay tuned.