What "The Sopranos" Teaches Us About Rural America

An excerpt of dialogue from the HBO series “The Sopranos” illustrates themes discussed in the latest Smart Rural Community white paper, “Steel Sharpens Steel: A Conversation About Regional Thinking for Rural America:”

"I tell ya, we each and every one of us, we're alone in the ring, fighting for our lives . . ."

"Well, that's one way to look at it. It's actually an illusion those two boxers are separate entities. Their separate entities is simply the way we choose to perceive them. It's physics; Schrodinger's equation. The boxers, you, me we're all part of the same quantum field. Think of the two boxers as ocean waves or currents of air, two tornadoes, say. They appear to be two things, right? Two separate things. But they're not. Tornadoes are just wind, the wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is, nothing is separate; everything's connected. The universe is just one big soup of molecules bumping up against one another. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness."


Dusty Johson, Vantage Point Solutions (r) explains opportunities for intra-regional
coordination (at left, Norman Jacknis, Intelligent Community Forum). 

In a panel conversation hosted by NTCA, an executive with an engineering firm (Dusty Johnson, of Vantage Point Solutions), a rural broadband provider (Michael Burke, of Matanuska Telephone Association), and a former Cisco executive who focuses on rural issues (Norman Jacknis, of the Intelligent Community Forum), discussed the benefits of rural communities working together on regional bases, and using broadband to create opportunities and attract new and returning residents. Noting the pull of large metro areas, Mr. Johnson asks, “The question is, for the young people who are in our rural communities, and for those we want to move back, how do we create a world in which they will be productive and feel satisfied?”

The paper is drawn from a transcript of a nearly one-hour discussion that explored historic trends in technology and current conditions across the United States. The panelists discussed the variety of skills and talents needed to promote business, social, and economic development, and acknowledged that, “In a town of 2,000 or 10,000 people, you might not find the world’s greatest expert on marketing of the product that you develop, but among the 52 million people [who live in rural areas of the United States], you will surely find someone who is really good at that, as long as you are connected with them.”

“Steel Sharpens Steel” is the second transcript-based paper published by Smart Rural Community. “Beyond Rural Walls: A Scholars’ Conversation About Rural and Urban Spaces” features noted academics who discuss the role of broadband-enabled rural areas in supporting the National economy and defense. These papers are part of a growing library of Smart Rural Community publications, which can be found here.

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