The war against cities

The larger point is that rural people around the World, like the farmers outside Visby, are at least latently resentful of wealthy city-dwellers, who are often foreigners and minorities, more cosmopolitan and educated than the rural folks. These resentments can be stoked by purposeful leaders, and it happens often in disparate places. Merchants in Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta where I served with the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) in the 1960s, were assumed by the Vietnamese and Cambodian rural population to be ethnically Chinese, and most were. They owned the businesses in town: slaughterhouses, rice mills, duck hatcheries, brick kilns and rice-wine distilleries. Ethnic Chinese, often generations removed from the mainland like those in Vietnam, also dominated urban commercial life in Indonesia and Malaysia and on occasion were attacked by native Indonesians and Malays as a result.

The situation in several eastern European countries was similar. City-dwellers were often Muslims from sophisticated Constantinople or Germans brought in by conquerors, while the rural populations were Slavic and Christian — a combustible mix that could be set aflame. In Lithuania before World Wars I and II, the market towns were overwhelmingly Jewish, with a smattering of Poles and Russian administrators. The poor rural farmers were Lithuanian. Much of the time these peoples got along, but sometimes changing circumstances and leaders enflamed the always latent urban/rural resentments with tragic results, as seems to be the case in the U.S. today.