I spent some time in rural Cornwall recently and I was struck by how incestuous the environment was. My taxi driver wanted to know why I was going where I was going—yes, he was English (or Cornish, anyway) and that was a novelty to me; but he also wanted my life story, he expected it—because it was a rural area and in a rural area people expect to know your “doings”. There’s security in that—yet it also smothers you, and it’s why people with any intelligence or initiative leave places like rural Cornwall as fast as possible (sadly, they usually adopt another equally rigid, albeit cosmopolitan, belief system).
I was even asked, by an outsider, the immortal question, “Are you local?”. There are definitely locals—and they know things (where people are burned in the wicker man). It would never do for me; but when I lived in London, in the world-city, there was an Afro-Caribbean woman down the road from me who was discovered semi-mummified in her flat after three years. In the village it’s suspicious if you’re not seen for 30 hours, in the world-city you can vanish for three years and nobody cares (it could have been longer—how many undiscovered urban mummies are there?). The media played a clip of the girl at a concert for Nelson Mandela in the early ’90s—just to prove she was a “good person”, a loyal party follower (15 minutes to lament “the loneliness crisis” before we move on to the next thing).
The optimum settlement for gentlemen (not “the folk”) is a city like Oxford or Venice (population 80,000-120,000); it’s big enough so that you can hide away for three days without the old crones hunting for you, yet small enough that you’re not unintentionally mummified—it blends into the countryside, but it has independent philosophical reflection and is not just guided by primitive folk customs (yet it does not renounce these, the Morris dancers come into the city).