Red Springs North Carolina

Picture taken near Red Springs, North Carolina

The four cardinal points spell out ancient tales, with archetypes shared between many of the cultures of the Northern hemisphere. After all, the definition of the cardinal directions comes from astronomical observations that are universal, only partially modified (with the inversion of the North/South polarity) from the different perception of seasons from the two hemispheres of our planet.

It is common for the Southern archetype, in Europe as much as in America and Asia, to be associated with fire, summer, passion. I don’t believe in geographic determinism, in a direct cause/effect between climate and culture – and yet on the anecdotal level, the similarities are striking between places that have very little in common, besides the southern definition of their position inside their system of reference, be it a continent or a nation.

Especially as far as the Western world is concerned, whether we’re talking of southern Europe or Italy, or South America and the South of the United States, in comparison to an ideal North, the minimum common denominator of these extremely different places is still very clear – an archetypal South that cannot be flattened into a stereotype, considering the consistency of its manifestations.

It is natural to start looking for a hidden link, if the Italian region of Calabria is culturally closer to North Carolina than it is to Rome, or Milan. I know Southern Italy well enough to grasp unexpected similarities with the South of the United States.

Traveling down the Salerno-Reggio Calabria you will not find the passage from the forests to typical crops such as tobacco or cotton – but if we want to talk about free highways, street signs riddled with bullet holes, strong accents, and food portions that become gradually larger as the service becomes slower, towards a more relaxed southern pace… then we’re already finding common ground.

And this by strictly adhering to measurable data, without delving into elements which are objectively harder to define, such as attachment to the land, tradition, hospitality or religious fervor (independently from the religion in question). Baptist preachers broadcasting Christian pop on the radio don’t feel so different from the colorful processions of saints and madonnas we find in so many towns of Southern Europe.

Perhaps the secret of these similarities lie in the absence of rush, in a scenario where a mild climate exercises a push towards the elaboration of a bucolic rather than urban idea, regulated by the cosmic time of the seasons and not by the time market by the clockwork of industrial society.