Polemics & Exchanges

On Real Comishmen

In "Real Diversity" (Views, September), Dr. Roger McGrath implies that the Cornish are virtuous or otherwise worthy of praise because they could serve their East Anglian, whiggish industrial masters with ant-like aplomb and distinction. He praises just those qualities that a mechanized society of robotic workers would covet. In his mind, the Cornish people were "good" to the extent they obeyed the still, small voice of modernity. Their temperance and their shrewdness served them well. Dr. McGrath argues, in the scramble to build a society that mirrored the machinations of America's industrial dynamo. They receive an additional pat on the head for contributing, through their mining efforts, to the abstraction of all work and commodity value into "money."

I disagree: A true Cornishman doesn't share the vision of such men as Jay Gould, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates. A Cornishman belongs on his own patch of land, no matter how hardscrabble. He deserves to till the miserly mead until it yields enough barley and malt for a keg of beer. He claims a wife, a few healthy animals, and the fish of the stream.

Rendered docile by the directors of America's industrial consolidation, Dr. McGrath's Cornishman probably had little time to reflect on his self-sufficient, honor-bound ancestors: the men who routed...

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