The scene is one where Boothe, who had gotten some information from a helpful gas station attendant, discovers said attendant is a white separatist himself. This was a surprise to me, but not my dad. Speaking of the attendant, Dad said “that’s exactly the sort of guy you’d expect to be involved with the separatists.” After some thought, this led me to promulgate Gerrib’s Law of the Totem Pole.
My law says that the person most invested in the rightness and goodness of the totem pole is the guy who is second from the bottom. Now, all disclaimers about trying to judge individuals as members of a group apply here, but this generality offers some insight.
So, according to the Law of the Totem Pole, the second-lowest person is most invested in the whole concept of totem poles. The guy at the bottom – he’s got nothing to lose. The guy at the top – he can lose a lot and still have a nice view. But Mister-Almost-Anchorman (MAA, for short), he’s got a lot to lose. This law has two corollaries.
The first corollary is that the MAA will focus a lot on whatever distinguishes him from the bottom man. It doesn’t matter what that “it” is, be it race, creed, street address, whatever, that factor will get a lot of attention. The second corollary is between MAA and the top man. The MAA will tend to think that the top man is special. I mean, the top man has to be special – how else would he get on top?
This law is why frequently the most reactionary elements of a society are the ones not quite on the bottom. It explains, for example, why poor Southern white farmers followed plantation owners to war to defend slavery, even though slavery seriously depressed white earnings. Other examples are left as an exercise for the reader.