Get PJ Media on your Apple

Works and Days

Beautifully Medieval California

March 6th, 2013 - 10:00 pm

Gates Close at Dusk

At about dusk, I close two large metal gates to my driveways. The security lights come on, and I enjoy intramural life. I am not protecting my dogs from coyotes, although there are many in the vineyard, but rather the farmhouse from the odd array of visitors, the lost, and criminals that can make up the now normal nighttime world of central California. If you doubt me, just peruse the Fresno Bee for the sort of things that occur nightly.

From the past year I offer the following catalogue of those who have visited the farm from dusk to dawn outside the walls: A half-dozen noble caballeros riding down the road on magnificent steeds, outfitted in satin and silver with majestic sombreros, who unfortunately timed their ride a bit late and found themselves in the dark, and in need of stables (my lawn had to do). Some female text-messagers sitting in the car presumably giving directions to thieves — perhaps those who on three occasions last year stole copper wire from pumps. A decent enough soul, presumably from Mexico, broke and out of gas, who spoke neither English nor Spanish; a would-be “scavenger” who had all sorts of stolen items in his new truck, seeking cash customers for his wares; and dozens more. A sort of California Canterbury Tales of nocturnal pilgrims, interesting in retrospect, a bit scarifying at 11 p.m. honking or yelling at the closed gate. Sorry, folks, the compound gates close at 9 p.m.

The surrounding landscape was once a checkerboard of small 60-200 acre family farms. The house I live in never had a lock for its seven outside doors. Weeknights were spent in local get-togethers — the Walnut Improvement Club, Eastern Star, the Odd Fellows, the Masons, the Grange, Farm Bureau — exotic names long gone with the breezes. In most cases, the children of the neighboring dead yeomen have long left, and the parcels conglomerated by larger corporations or purchased by absentee owners, or leased. The old farmhouses are mostly rented out to immigrants. Agriculture is booming; but farming is long dead. The land grows food as never before, but no longer families.

The Feudal Pyramid

A medieval society can be defined in a variety of ways. In terms of class, there is more a pyramidal culture. A vast peasantry sits below an elite of clergy and lords above — but with little or no independent middle class in-between.

I think California is getting there quickly — with the U.S. soon to follow.

For our version of the clergy, think public employees, whose salary and benefits are anywhere from 30-40% higher than their counterparts in the private sector. In California, the security guard in the symphony parking lot makes minimum wage and has no pension, even as he faces as much danger as his counterpart in the state police. And like medieval churchmen, our public-employee clergy positions are often nepotic. Families focus on getting the next generation a coveted spot at the DMV, the county assessor’s office, or the local high school. Like the vast tax-free estate of the clergy that both nearly broke feudalism and yet was beyond reproach, so too California’s half-trillion-dollar unfunded pensions and bond liabilities are considered sacrosanct. To question the pay or the performance of a California teacher or prison guard is to win the same scorn that was once earned from ridiculing the local friar. If suggesting that the man of god who was too rotund as a result of living freely on his tax-exempt church land was worthy of stoning, then so too suggesting that our teachers or highway-patrol officers are paid incommensurately with the quality of students in our schools or the safety on our roads is likewise politically incorrect right-wing heresy.

The aristocracy is, of course, our coastal elite, the five or six million high earners who live near the Pacific Ocean from the Bay Area to San Diego. They are more likely to administer both our inherited and natural wealth, symbolized by everything from top universities, Hollywood, and state government to Silicon Valley, Napa Valley, and California finance and natural resources. Their children, if industrious and motivated, are prepped at Stanford and Berkeley, interned at proper law firms and government bureaus, and usually inherit enough of their patrimony and early enough to afford the $1,000 per square foot price that a Newport or Atherton keep costs — along with its flocks of attendant nannies, gardeners, neighborhood security guards, and maintenance people.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (48)
All Comments   (48)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
By the way Dr. Hansen, I very much like the title of your blog. I enjoy Hesiod very much and for someone who is something of a farmer it is an apt title.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think California is more like Late Antiquity Gaul, say late 400s, than Medieval Europe. As in Gaul, the migrating hordes are firmly ensconced, taking over the political life of the state but the old aristocracy is still living in their villas, clinging to a dying way of life. I think that in many ways, we are living in a time very like late antiquity through out this nation and in the west in general.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For anyone as knowledgeable of history and its ways; For Dr. Hanson to stay implanted in that God forsaken place, and face the incessant nibbling away of his cherished ancestral masterpiece is non compos mentis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is the latest and superior iteration of VDH's California dystopianization seen first hand by a man who knows what farm labor is
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Agriculture is booming; but farming is long dead."

Well crafted words speak volumes, they have ... great pith.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Small aside: Petroleum may not be fossil fuel. Mendeleyev disagreed with Western scientists, speculating it may form from olivine and other minerals under deep pressure, such as 25 km beneath the surface. Pressure breaks molecular bonds to make new molecules taking up less space, apparently like diamonds form. It appears at the surface when it leaks up. Saudi sits over the collision of four tectonic plates. The Caribbean basin is full of cracks caused by the giant meteorite hit millions of years ago. The California coast has a subduction zone where the Pacific Plate bends and cracks, hence asphalt pills on the beach (in the old days). The Soviets worked on this and it became the Russian-Ukrainian Theory. Russians drilled where Mendeleyev's idea said there might be oil and Western theories disagreed and they struck oil. One of the first Caribbean wells became exhausted and was capped decades ago. It was a a place called "Green Island" or something, a below-surface mound. If the R-U Theory was valid, then the leak-up process would put some oil back into the well. The oil company uncapped the exhausted well and checked it out. There was a lot more than "some" oil in the well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but they don't find much oil below certain thermally exposed zones (do you know what conodonts are?). There may well be some autochthonous oil, but the aggregate of the evidence says, "not much".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks, some wonderfully useful ideas in there.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dr. Hanson, great but terribly sad and true column. I remember the California I experienced when I was a child and what we have today in no way resembles it. I notice a few people state that if it's so bad, why not move out. My wife and I live in the house my folks built when I was 3 years old. It's a mere 200 feet from the house I was brought home to from the hospital when I was born. It's very difficult to make the decision to pull up stakes and move elsewhere but at the current rate of decay of our once great state, we may have no other choice. Our kids are here, all our friends are here. At our age, the decision to move is not an easy one.

We are faced with a government in this state that in a way, resembles the tale of the emperor's new clothes. Here we have a multi-billion dollar project, high speed rail, that is guaranteed to continue this states financial meltdown. And they continue to promote it as the great savior of California. The governments view has become so narrow and they are so unwilling to entertain any idea that might swerve them from their imagined goal.

The state's government wants to dis-arm us, as well as our federal government, knowing that the criminal element will not disarm. We will be easy prey if they win in their mindless efforts.

I remember the days when we could go outside and play and our parents did not have to worry about our safety. When our grand children visit, they do not go outside without my wife or I being out there with them. Armed home invasions are becoming a regular thing out here in the country because the criminal element knows it takes a long time for law enforcement to answer a 911 call, if the victims even have the chance to make the call.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Here we have a multi-billion dollar project, high speed rail, that is guaranteed to continue this states financial meltdown."

Actually, taxpayers from Pratt, KS and all across the nation help fund those california projects for many decades and continue to do. We lived in Santa Barbara County for a number of years. Our little circle (all transplants) were amazed to see how much federal funding and federal enterprise (military, DOD contractors, government agencies, national forests and parks, etc.) was building the economies of California - especial southern cali. The more central agri portion of cali was heavily federally subsidized. As more and more people followed the dream pie in the sky easy big money, the state became more and more a magnet to every kind of social and economic cancer known to mankind. Now, we all feel fortunate to be from states far away that never experienced californias rise and fall at a tremendous cost to all taxpayers of the nation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
High speed rail. It was originally passed with an estimated cost of 38 billion dollars.. It has been revised to over 80 billion dollars. And I'll bet it goes MUCH higher than that before it's done. It is based on an estimated ridership that has no relationship to reality. It is going to destroy thousands of acres of farmland. This state is in deep financial trouble. Businesses and individuals are leaving the state because it is so hostile to business and to individual rights. We have one of the highest state income tax rates, one of the highest sales tax rates and yet we are in constant danger of going bankrupt. We also have one of the highest, if not the highest welfare rates in the country. We now have a super majority of liberals in both state legislative houses and not one state level administrative position is held by a republican/conservative. If liberals are so damned smart, why are we in such trouble? Basically, this state has been run by democrats for 30+ years and do not tell me Schwarzenegger was a republican.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, I know! When we first come to CA during Pappa Browns era we fell in love with Santa Barbara County in the beatiful Los Olivas area above Santa Barbara and wanted to retire there setting up a quarter horse ranch with cutting training and competition arenas. We made a real estate purchase and then went back to finish up my Marine Corps career. Thirteen years having lived there we seen the writing on the wall, seen a good sellers market and we made an exit.

Wherever great economic success comes, so does eventually, social and economic cancer. What goes up eventually comes down and it appears CA is a victim of its own successes and coming down. SAD!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Steve Sailer noted the irony that heavily Democratic states are most comfortable for the very wealthy (that is, they provide enclaves that keep out the oiks), while Republican states are best for the low and middle income earners.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We aren't actually regressing to the middle ages. We are, in fact, collapsing into a new Dark Age.
I'm glad I won't be here to see it. I've made my plans and am leaving california before memorial day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All