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Whatever Rothman’s full of, it isn’t information

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Rothman essay – May 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine


Rothman’s a crock.

I recently heard St. Lawrence county (New York, adjoining Canada) is a somewhat lawless place where eccentrics can make themselves at home. That there, I thought, is a fine definition of “Out West.” Back East, contrarily, might be defined as a somewhat conformist place where people spend money on clothing and hairstyles which suit them to positions, generally indoors, requiring little exertion of muscles other than mouth and fingers. Thus a history professor from the University of Nevada might be a Back Easter, whatever state he was born in.

Reading the article (April CC) by Professor Rothman one can guess how he angered a normally meek rancher into telling him to go back East. Rothman’s words angered me and I’m no rancher. Lately some Nevada outbackers have made news by harassing Interior Department employees, which may have prompted Rothman’s piece. I’m willing to believe at least some of the allegations are true. Not quite as bloody as the KKK, but nasty, nonetheless.

But Rothman’s assertion that information technologies are “more important than the raw materials the west used to export” is a crock, and that these new industries don’t require subsidies is more of a crock. Uncle Sam just spent over a billion — or some boggling sum — to bail us out of the Y2K doomsday and there’s no knowing when the next mega-subsidy of high-tech may be needed.

And while some techies have no doubt metamorphosed to a state where they absorb all of their nutrition from electronic screens, there remains 50% of the world’s population which has yet to speak on a telephone, and I, for one, would rather see production of some sort of food & metals, even if it’s inefficient, than submit to a flock of University-bred human sheep swiping their plastic through swipe-meters in Rothman’s fantasy-West. Rather let them go virtual-hunting and video-fishing at the Student Union.

Sure there’s a lot of bull in the ranching mythology, but there’s bull everywhere. We subsidize the feds when they re-enact the Branch Davidian fiasco. We subsidize the census and its racial profiling. We subsidized Pinochet in Chile and assisted in the murder of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador. We built concentration camps to house Japanese-Americans, the list goes on.

But who’s got the figures on how much we subsidize information technologies (through research at Universities and elsewhere)? And does anyone believe that this silicon injection is healthy for the global titties?

Yes, Professor Rothman, I’d say you’re from Back East. You’d bulldoze all those hand-hewn cabins on suspicion that they perpetrate ranching mythology and replace them with ATMs and ATV rental shops, and if you get lassoed by the smelliest cowboy in Nevada and forced to shovel stalls for 30 years, it’ll serve you right. I’m not even a beef consumer, but I bet their bullshit biodegrades better than your plastic.

In twenty years living in the rural west, no cowboy has come to my door expecting me to fill out a form and asking me to believe that I can make the world a more equitable place if I’ll own up to being of the Samoan “race” (unless I’m white or black which is good enough, in itself, for gerrymandering).

So if they’re inclined to dress in peasant costume and beggar on public lands, well, what the hell, Rothman. Your upwardly propelled, middle-class taxpayers haven’t stopped overpopulation, global warming, or genocide, and may not have a whole lot of years left to have vacation fantasies. Tra la. Let ’em eat astroturf! Your non-agrarian economy is the problem, not the solution.

Slim Wolfe Mason, luthier, owner-builder Villa Grove