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Works and Days

America in the Age of Myth

April 1st, 2013 - 10:44 pm

But that said, Chavez was not quite the icon we see in the grainy videos walking the vineyards with Robert Kennedy. Perhaps confrontation was inevitable, but the labor organizing around here was hardly non-violent. Secondary boycotts were illegal, but that did not stop picketers from yelling and cursing as you exited the local Safeway with a bag of Emperor grapes. There were the constant union fights with bigger family growers (the 500 acre and above sort), as often demonstrators rushed into fields to mix it up with so-called scabs. Teamsters fought the UAW. The latter often worked with the immigration service to hunt down and deport illegals. The former bused in toughs to crack heads. After-hours UFW vandalism, as in the slashed tire and chain-sawed tree mode, was common.

The politics were explicable by one common theme: Cesar Chavez disliked small farmers and labor contractors, and preferred agribusiness and the idea of a huge union. Otherwise, there were simply too many incongruities in an agrarian checkerboard landscape for him to handle — as if the UAW would have had to deal with an auto industry scattered among thousands of small family-owned factories.

For Chavez, the ideal was a vast, simple us/them, 24/7 fight, albeit beneath an angelic veneer of Catholic suffering. In contrast, small farmers were not rich and hardly cut-out caricatures of grasping exploitation. Too many were unapologetic Armenians, Japanese (cf. the Nisei Farmers League), Portuguese, and Mexican-Americans to guarantee the necessary white/brown binary. Many had their own histories of racism, from the Armenian genocide to the Japanese internment, and had no white guilt of the Kennedy sort.  I cannot imagine a tougher adversary than a Japanese, Armenian, or Punjabi farmer, perched on his own tractor or irrigating his 60 acres — entirely self-created, entirely unapologetic about his achievement, entirely committed to the idea that no one is going to threaten his existence.

The local labor contractors were not villains, but mostly residents who employed their relatives and knew well the 40-acre and 100-acre farmers they served. When there were slow times on the farm, I picked peaches for two summers for a Selma labor contractor, whose kids I went to school with. He was hardly a sellout. The crusty, hard-bitten small farmers (“don’t bruise that fruit,” “you missed three peaches up there on that limb,” “you stopped before it was quite noon”) who monitored personally the orchards we picked looked no different from the men on ladders.

In contrast, Chavez preferred the south and west Central Valley of huge corporate agribusiness. Rich and powerful, these great captains had the ability by fiat to institute labor agreements across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Chavez’s organizing forte was at home in a Tulare, Delano, Shafter, Mendota or Tranquility, not a Reedley, Kingsburg or Selma. In the those days, the former were mostly pyramidal societies of a few corporate kingpins with an underclass of agricultural laborers, the latter were mixed societies in which Mexican-Americans were already ascendant and starting to join the broader middle class of Armenians, Japanese, and Punjabis.

Chavez was to be a Walter Reuther or George Meany, a make-or-breaker who sat across from a land baron, cut a deal for his vast following, and then assumed national stature as he doled out union patronage and quid-pro-quo political endorsements. In that vision, as a 1950s labor magnate Chavez largely failed — but not because agribusiness did not cave in to him. Indeed, it saw the UFW and Chavez as the simple cost of doing business, a tolerable write-off necessary to making all the bad press, vandalism, and violence go away.

Instead, the UFW imploded by its own insider and familial favoritism, corruption, and, to be frank, lunatic paranoia.  The millions of dollars Chavez deducted for pension funds often vanished. Legions of relatives (for a vestigial experience of the inner sanctum, I suggest a visit to the national shrine southeast of Bakersfield) staffed the union administration. There were daily rumors of financial malfeasance, mostly in the sense of farmworkers belatedly discovering that their union deductions did not lead to promised health care or pensions.

Most hagiographies ignore Chavez’s eerie alliance with the unhinged Synanon bunch. In these parts, they had opened a foothill retreat of some sort above Woodlake, not far from here. (I visited the ramshackle Badger enclave once with my mother [I suppose as her informal "security,"], who was invited as a superior court judge to be introduced to their new anti-drug program in their hopes that county officials might save millions of dollars by sentencing supposedly non-violent heroin addicts to Synanon recovery treatments. Needless to say, she smiled, met the creepy  “group,” looked around the place, and we left rather quickly, and that was that.)

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Top Rated Comments   
He won it because he wasn't Bush. The global Left can't admit the real threats facing the world, such as radical Islam, because to do so would reveal what a load of rubbish their entire philosophy is. So, they heaped blame for all that was wrong in the world on the US in general and GW in particular. So, Here was Obama who 1) wasn't Bush and 2) also believed everything was America's fault and would set about fixing that by wrecking the country.

Of course, Leftist can't see anything beyond their own reflection in the mirror. As such they are totally blind to what will happen if the US once again is unable to enforce a degree of peace on the world. That will simply be regional and likely global wars. In short, the world will turn a much nastier place again. Thing is, this time humanity might not rise up again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's been my experience that these Leftist aristocrats are perhaps some of the most helpless people on earth. Most of them are not the self-made men.

If life were equitable from birth and endowment, nepotism and connection not the rule; and riches couldn't buy the influence of the intelligent but corrupted servitude to mask the stench and mislead the masses in the hopes they too can join rank; these Leftists of the coasts would be the first to pass, virtually extinct in one generation.

Money may not buy happiness but it surely can help to sustain influence and buy power. Throw in most of these elite play by a different set of rules and are personally immune for their many failures, a protected class that never has to answer with any real consequence, I'm not sure why millions of Americans would be confused as to why we find ourselves on the brink of collapse. Sadly, millions more don't even realize how fragile America really is, believing America too big to fail. They are like sheep being led willingly to the slaughter.

Don't think these elitists haven't already planned their escape...once again to leave the rest of us to clean up their mess.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rich, white 1-percenter liberals really are feudal-lord wannabees, and they actually manage to get the serfs to vote for them.

Obama and all his friends are 1-percenters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (75)
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In 2012 the U.S. Navy commissioned an underway supply ship named the USS Cesar Chavez. Apparently the Navy no longer does any research into the history of the person they're "honoring." Political correctness run a muck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Will you run for governor of California? You are much needed!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think it would be a grevious error for VDH to do so. The Governor has relatively little power, per the state constitution. Thus, with a democrat-dominated legislature, VDH's term as governor would be a guaranteed failure. For California's government to become capable, it needs to be completely restructured. If VDH ran on such a platform, that might do the trick.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "Ignobles" want to rain down on us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Liberal aristocrats are like the three monkeys who hear no reality, think no reality, and say no reality. They engage in constant self-censorship of thought, word, and deed because any admission that there's a reality outside their closed world threatens their membership in the liberal tribe, and therefore their status, wealth, and prospects. There is zero chance of getting a tenure track faculty position if a young Ph.D. is an out and proud conservative, for example. So it pays to conform.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
and the lip-serviced wards of the 1% are regularly bribed with trinkets, to turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy.

Brilliant article. Thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids, a strawman.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How dare you call our Dear Leader Obama such a thing! You must be a racist!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids, Argumentum ad Ridiculum
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids argumentum ad ridiculum.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize, parlez-vous.
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize, parlez-vous.
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize,
And we all know when, but we don't know whys.
Hinkey-dinkey, parlez-vous.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your faith in the ability, and willingness of the citizens to swallow the pill to heal them of their malaise has yet to be proved. Do they even know they ail?

The path to Obama was built brick by brick over decades, at least two generations of Americans - long before 1971 - by people you describe as aristocrats of the East Coast. Their models in the Massachusetts /Harvard Kennedys and the is it Arkansas/Yale or New York Clintons.

Those same people in charge of the civic institutions that contrived the myths of nobility beginning with their Camelot, their "revolution of the 1960s". Presumptive heir Edward hors de combat for POTUS/monarch? but okay as lifelong Father of the Senate with all inherent powers to CHANGE the nation.

Their dislike of the American Dream for "commoners" with their compulsion to signal their "superiority". Wannabee nobles, aristocrats of the old style in their regressive Progressivism, their ILLIBERAL liberalism, their do as I say not as I do. De haut en bas?

Only thing missiing is the powdered wig.

Their ambitions a regressive Progressivism for control from a central court, monarch, oligarchy of which they are courtiers angling for favoured position. Their New Age Court of Washington, East Coast aristocracy and social power. New Age Replacement of the 18th century Court in Westminster. To replace the model since its creation for the rights and dignity of the common man that Novus Ordo Seclorum of that olde USA.

Their enablers in public information - propaganda, entertainment/education with their 24/7/365 bread and circuses lulled into torpor enough of the citizens to approve their depredations and their models.

Too few citizens understand and care about the real meaning of "we're from the government and we're here to help". Which is only development of universal wisdom that there is no free lunch. Everrything has a price. Nothing is for nothing. But your small farmers, Armenian, Punjabi, Japanese and Americans who tote that bail, haul that barge do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is part of it. But to really understand what we are witnessing, you have to take an even wider perspective: Crazy as it seems, this is nothing less than the first known attempted takeover of the world economic and political system by a secretive group of powerful international conspirators. Furthermore, for decades they have made a careful study of historical processes and trends, of the ebb and tide of human events, and drawn the appropriate lessons that have allowed them to incrementally install controlling mechanisms not only on the world economy, but on how we think, communicate, interact, raise our children, who we love and what we value. In other words they have, by and large, and to greater or lesser degrees, taken control of who we are, and are directing our actions as if we were puppets on a string. This is true totalitarianism because it takes place through mass seduction, rather than terror, transforming many of us into willing slaves. Many of us are awakening to this fact, which is why they are accelerating their efforts. There are ways to combat them, the resistance is underway, but it begins with awareness. Spread the word...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Prof. Hanson, I am surprised a first class mind such as yours has failed to grasp the obvious. Truth, with a capital T , has been replaced with, " Narrative ", with a capital N. That is why we are in the shape we are in. That also explains Obama's Nobel Prize. It was not the accomplishments of Obama that secured the prize, it was the story of Barak Obama that secured the prize. True or not you must admit it was a delightful story indeed!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Prof. Hanson, I am surprised a first class mind such as yours has failed to grasp the obvious. Truth, with a capital T , has been replaced with, " Narrative ", with a capital N. That is why we are in the shape we are in. That also explains Obama's Nobel Prize. It was not the accomplishments of Obama that secured the prize, it was the story of Barak Obama that secured the prize. True or not you must admit it was a delightful story indeed!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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