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Works and Days

Beautifully Medieval California

March 6th, 2013 - 10:00 pm

Those in Old Pasadena, Pacific Palisades, Montecito, Pacific Grove, Menlo Park, Hillsborough, Piedmont, and Pacific Heights mostly avoid the peasantry in Merced and Tulare. That many of their tax dollars end up there and that billions of their state’s earnings go out of state as remittances to Latin America mean little. There is so much good weather, high life, and money in coastal California that the expense to keep the peasantry content is simply a small cost of being an aristocrat in paradise. Indeed they romanticize the peasantry in a way that they most surely do not the embattled middle class.

The Medieval Mind

But feudal California is more than a sense of bifurcated classes and locations. It adopts a closed medieval state of mind too. The Renaissance marked a lessening of the intolerance and censorship of the medieval clergy. Art, literature, science, and philosophy were freed from shibboleths of Aristotle, Church doctrine, and formalistic conventions. But California has of yet had no such renaissance. In our closed, anti-scientific, and deductive way of thinking, Solyndra was a success. Drilling for cheap natural gas in the Monterey Shale formation would be seen as failure. When our governor told Rick Perry that Californians did not need to cool off in 110 degree heat through “fossil fuel”-fed air conditioning, he did not mean that solar panels were energizing green air conditioners in Barstow, but rather that our elites on the coast have natural air conditioning; it’s called the Pacific Ocean. And although wind and solar provide miniscule amounts of California energy, it matters little, given that coastal elites enjoy 70 degree weather year-round and keep their power bills low. PG&E’s and Southern California Edison’s astronomical energy costs are for “little people,” the middle classes in the hot and cold interior and mountains. The aristocracy sets the regulations that make power soar, and the interior pays far more of the costs.

In medieval California, certain thinking is off-limits, just as during the tenth century in France or in the eighth century in Constantinople. I once wrote, on these pages, that one could not any more determine exactly the racial and ethnic heritage of millions of intermarried and integrated Californians, much less could universities easily determine why particular California ancestries qualified for affirmative action and others did not (e.g., was it due to ongoing racism, skin color, historical claims against the majority culture, purposes of “diversity”? etc.). The next thing I knew the Stanford Daily was calling for me to be disciplined by the Hoover Institution. Indeed, these monthly reflections on California earn on occasion an angry op-ed in a California paper, dozens of hate emails — and even now and then a phone call from an irate state official.

You see, in medieval California the orthodoxy of the clergy and aristocracy must remain unquestioned. Wind and solar are superior energy sources to natural gas or other fossil fuels. The blue-state model of high taxes and big government has been redeemed by the public-approved tax hikes of 2012.

Acres of huge windmills or vast solar-panel farms do not cause as many environmental or aesthetic problems as does a confined natural gas-fed power plant. The degree to which we are not entirely green is due not to science, but to the greed of private enterprise. The problem with illegal immigration is not that it is illegal, much less that the state is overwhelmed in its idealistic mission to provide near instant parity to millions who arrived without legality, capital, education, or English from the abject poverty of central Mexico, but that a largely white, aging, and disappearing nativist class is obstructing multicultural solutions. Our public employees are the most successful and competent in the nation and that is why they make more than others elsewhere, but still not enough to provide a lifestyle commensurate with their talents and industry.

The present baby-boom generation and its offspring are brilliant and are Renaissance figures; they gave us, after all, everything from Facebook to Apple and Google. They are superior moral beings too, and so do not outsource, avoid taxes, bundle campaign donations, seek insider subsidized federal loans, or in general say un-nice things. In contrast, our ancestors were pedestrian and reactionary. After all, they did silly, almost inexplicable things like build Hetch Hetchy, the Big Creek hydroelectric project, the L.A. freeway system, and the California Water Project. We will use these quirky inheritances a bit longer, but would never replicate them.