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Works and Days

Beautifully Medieval California

March 6th, 2013 - 10:00 pm

California’s public education curriculum is medieval. There are certain religious tenets that are sacrosanct and indoctrinate the young. A grasping white male Christian culture gave us a burdensome legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia, and nativism. Courageous Latino, black, gay, and female heroes fought on the barricades to ensure us the present utopia. We name new schools after 19th Century Mexican bandits who were hung for murder, not any longer after Father Serra or Luther Burbank.

To the degree there is a Stanford University, or Southern California Edison, or a California oil or farming industry, it was due not to those who designed or invented such institutions, but to the unsung heroes who did the actual manual labor of laying cement and hammering nails. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are largely a curse; wind, solar, and biofuel are our future. Only heretics and reactionary witches doubt the sanctity of gay marriage, or pine for anti-abortion legislation and capital punishment — leftover prejudices from our pre-green government past. When we say “celebrate diversity” at our universities, we do not mean celebrate all sorts of thinking, from radical left to reactionary right, from the atheist mind to the Church of Christ zealot, from the capitalist to the socialist, but rather we define diversity as superficial appearance, and the degree to which different races and genders march in lockstep to a uniform ideological drummer. In medieval California there is no empiricism: the public schools are successful, the CSU system is reaching new academic heights, and high-speed rail is shortly to replace our crowded freeways.

Extra Moenia

Finally, the medieval world was less secure than that of the Renaissance and Enlightenment that followed. It was feudal in the sense of walled cities and castles, and a lack of easy, safe, and cheap transportation that had once been assured in Roman times. When I drive down to Malibu or over to Palo Alto, it can be a feudal experience, even though contemporary cars are safer and more dependable. But the problem is not the machine, but the increasingly medieval mind that pilots it.

Huge trucks stay in the middle lane of the rare three-lane freeway, and often hog the fast lane when there are only two. I count dozens of Highway Patrol officers lasering cars. They seem less interested in the flatbed trucks that have no tarps over their green cuttings, lumber, mattresses, and scrap iron. Every tenth car is weaving, due not to drink but texting.

Some stretches — the 99 south of Visalia, the 101 south of Gilroy, the 152 a mile after Casa de Fruta, the convergence of the 405 and 101 — are truly scary driving experiences. At night on the way home I make it a point not to get gas on the west side of the 99 as it bisects Fresno. I don’t stop in an Inglewood or even Delano at dark. Driving Manning Avenue or Nees Avenue out to I-5 is a sort of Russian Roulette: at which intersection will the cross-traffic driver run the stop sign? I avoid 4-6 p.m., when too many have too many alcoholic beverages on their way home. In feudal California we may liken a drive to Napa or Newport to a sort of medieval pilgrimage to the Middle East, a trip sometimes fraught with danger, in need of careful planning and enormous patience. Some days 180 miles is less than three hours and we are in Renaissance times; at others it is six hours and we are back to the byways of medieval Italy.

Of course, there is an excitement in the medieval World: the clash of a postmodern Palo Alto with premodern Parlier three hours away, or consider the notion of the Stanford legacy student on the I-5 passing the van of the meth lab operator. I never know quite what I’ll see when I go into Selma, only that it will be unexpected, sometimes bizarre, and require all my sensatory talents to make sense of or avoid it. My grandparents talked of their grandparents coming out west to California in the 1870s. I may one day tell my grandkids that I made it to Los Angeles safely and back!

Related: California at Twilight

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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
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