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Works and Days

Reading Among the Ruins

October 14th, 2013 - 9:39 pm

This is a beautiful, but also increasingly creepy, state. We are now fighting over whether to allow out-of-work salvage loggers to harvest a billion board feet of burned timber from this summer’s two vast forest fires in the central Sierra. (Some environmentalists argue that the wood should rot to ensure larger populations of bark beetles to help improve the woodpecker population — so much for the human population of unemployed loggers.) Our green elites don’t seem to worry why there was so much fuel in the mostly unlogged Sierra in the first place, and of course consider massive forest fires, rotting logs, and epidemics of beetles part of nature’s process of death and renewal. It is certainly that. Yet why is such a natural cycle somehow interrupted in Hillsborough, the Berkeley Hills, and Pacific Heights, which, in terms of how their food, power, water, fuel, and shelter apparently appear almost by magic, are most unnatural places? Could they not be left alone to revert to the wild modes of growth and decay?

Never mind. I pressed on to reread (I am writing a book on how wars end) W.H Prescott’s classic History of the Conquest of Mexico, a beautifully researched and written, harrowing 19th century classic of narrative history. It is difficult when reading Prescott to fathom which side was more savage. The conquistador class of Hernan Cortés and his hidalgos were unleashed, from a successful 700-year effort of the Reconquista (completed the same year as the discovery of the New World), upon the Mexican peninsula. The New World’s natural wealth offered influence, riches, and saved Christian souls for the impoverished expatriate half-aristocrats of Castile. Or were the Mexica the more vicious? There were over a million subjects of the Triple Alliance headed by Azteca, under whose leadership tens of thousands of sacrificial victims each year were paraded up the great pyramid, hearts torn out and while beating sacrificed to the unending appetites of the gods, most notoriously Huitzilopochtli, with heads on display in the skull rack consisting of some 100,000 specimens and more.

Prescott’s 1843 narrative of the brutal conquest sometimes reads like a 19th century Gothic novel — eerie and often surreal. What were Cortés and 600 conquistadors thinking when they marched into Tenochtitlan in late 1519, as if their Christian faith, long expertise in battle, or superior Western technology might be force multipliers of some sort against a city of 250,000 inhabitants? Two years later, without mercy they leveled the city — thanks in large part to the tens of thousands of indigenous allies who hated the bloodthirsty Aztecs more than they did the bloodthirsty Spanish.

I took a break from that depressing thought and wished to visit a farmer around the corner. But the entire adjacent rural avenue to my own was unexpectedly blocked off. Apparently, yet another drunk or incompetent driver this week (and in broad daylight, no less) had gone off the road and sheared off a power pole (no wonder our power rates are the highest in the nation and our roads are rated among the very lowest of the states).

vdh_article_photo_two_10-13-13-1

Photo by Victor Davis Hanson. Click to enlarge.

Fire trucks were blocking the intersection to prevent access as the power company sought to deal with the wreckage. The same lunacy, a mile away, happened on my own rural street earlier this summer, when a drunk driver veered off the road and took out another power pole, replete with transformer. There are literally thousands of drivers in this most regulated of states who with impunity operate outside of the law, in a cosmos in which DUI or public dumping are abstractions for others more neurotic to worry about. (The odd thing is that where the power crew worked, there were also discarded sofas and mattresses along that avenue, too. I suppose because the refuse is not electrified, it is my neighbor’s, not the state’s, responsibility to clean up those almost daily cast-off furnishings.)

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Top Rated Comments   
I left a long time ago, because of the natural beauty being despoiled by the crime and trash of the welfare/criminal/section 8 class. Now active war is being waged on the environment by the pot growers.
I left because of the elitist-leftist war on private property ownership.
I left because of the collectivist war being waged via taxes and regulations against producers and entrepreneurs.
I left because of the law that enables criminals to victimize the honest and decent while taking away the rights of parents to teach their kids to not be delinquents and deviants and perverts.
I left because of a government that punishes success and rewards criminals and career dependents.
I left because of a state that happily closes budget gaps by selling the future of the rising generation.
I left because of a school system that is more interested in political indoctrination than reading skills.
Good luck living the dream in the pyrite state. You're hemorrhaging businesses to the red states for a reason. If you think a cronyist billion dollar train to nowhere constitutes a "recovery" from anything, we red-staters want you to stay exactly where you're at.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
My parents came to the US from India. We never dumped trash outside of a trash can. We grew up knowing not to do that. I remember feeling a sort of guilty pleasure as a kid when I dropped a candy wrapper on the street - I remember it because it was something unusual and not something I repeated, a bit of personal rebelliousness. I also remember a dare when I was 8 to go steal something from a local store - so I got a pack of gum. I felt so guilty afterwards that the next day I went back and left the payment on the counter.

I went to graduate school in Colorado and when I went hiking I carried a bag to take my trash out so I didn't litter the trails. When I moved to Texas I was upset when I first encountered people littering park trails. The people I saw doing it were white or Hispanic. It still bothers me that people here do that, especially when there are trash cans placed in the parks for trash.

I don't think being law-abiding or not littering are necessarily racial but they are cultural traits. The thing is, America had a certain type of culture and the huge influx of immigrants is changing that culture and not for the better. It's not about racism, but about assimilating the people who have come here. We've had waves of immigration before - the Irish, the Italians, etc. However, each time, there was a pride in being American so that the immigrants WANTED to assimilate, and there was a break in the flow to allow assimilation to take effect. Also, the public schools weren't leftist indoctrination centers once upon a time.

Now, with immigrant kids going to leftist public schools and watching leftist MSM, it's no wonder that they take on leftist values which do not include things like personal responsibility or self-respect. They are taught that they are victims of the white man instead of beneficiaries of the system white men put in place and fought and died for. What's amazing is that so many people manage to resist the brainwashing.

As far as Dr. Hanson - I understand why he doesn't want to move. Family history is important and beautiful. I wish there were more he could do to prevent the barbarians from storming his gates.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Prof. Hanson, Thanks for your wonderful new video lectures over at PJ's Freedom Academy site. http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpid=505

In the first lecture you remind us how the U.S. Constitution is more closely modelled on the Spartan constitution than on the Athenian one, because it provided for a separation of enumerated powers. You also remind us that despite their oppressive and imperial culture, it was, in the end, their military might that saved Greece from the Persian horde, and set the stage for Athens' rise.

Athens (along with the subsequent blending of Judeo-Christian teaching) went on to give us our core social and intellectual forms. But it was the Spartans who taught the Greeks that they could break the old circular, tribal patterns and create a community of will that could either specialize (as the Spartans did), or diversify (as the Athenians did). By some miracle, the U.S. has managed to do both. It has become the world's military super-power, and a source of unprecedented innovation in technology, the arts, the sciences, and in lifestyle and social forms. But the (often maligned) Spartans occupy a unique place in history, being the first to organize themselves according to consensual and rational principles.

Tyrtaeus' poetry also served to constantly remind the young men and women of Sparta that beneath the veneer of stability, lay an ever present reality of violent upheaval and death which can emerge at any moment. I think this is one of the ironies of American culture. It is so prosperous, so diversified, so focused on materialism that by and large (especially among the urban elites) we have lost sight of this fact. In “Civilization and its Enemies”, Lee Harris wrote that we have forgotten that a class of human experience known as “the enemy” still exists. We have a hard time recognizing mortal threats, or deciding what to do about them. Less than half recognize that Obama is a dangerous tyrant working in league with foreign interests and avowed enemies. People like him need to be openly accused and confronted. That is why Ted Cruz struck a chord with so many. We want to see that there are leaders out there who are done with playing games and are ready to fight. That is what will truly ignite the conservative base. But of course, that is only part of it. There are long term structural problems to be addressed too. Either way, we must press on relentlessly until we crush them. This leftist scum is weak. Their positions are shallow and their facades are hollow. Problem is they are everywhere, embedded in our institutions and even in our corporations. So it will get a lot uglier before it gets even a little bit better, because they will make a lot of noise on the way down.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (65)
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Dr Hanson, where do the "elite" of the San Joaquin valley reside? It doesn't sound like they enjoy urban Fresno.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I repeat:
Get a flock of geese. They are loud, alert, protective of their territory, and if you like the flavor, good eating. Eggs, too.
Unfamiliar intruders will be greeted with noise, and if they don't retreat, can be nipped by many beaks.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The citizens of Mexico and the Central American Republics are entitled to pollute California. It's their state now. There is no need for any of us Californians to pick up after ourselves.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Carry a gun and remember the magic steps:

1. He said he was going to kill me
2. I was afraid for my life
3. Having put two rounds into him, he kept coming
4. I'm so upset officer, if you have any other questions, please contact my lawyer...

Better to be judged by 12, than carried by 6.

PS: Life is expensive, bullets are cheap. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting at least twice...
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had the honor to attend a lecture given by Professor Hanson several years ago at the Univ. of St. Thomas in Houston,Texas.(He gave a very erudite, yet highly entertaining and unostentatious discourse on the history of Persia to its current comprise as Islamo-fascist enclave in Iran.) While taking opportunity for him to sign several of his books, I asked him why so many academics displayed such blatant resentment of our nation and (what remains) of its democratic, merit-based, polity. He surprised me when he replied bitterness,envy, lack of money(for their imagined, unrecognized, uncompensated intellectual genius). He did not describe them as the third-rate pseudo-scholars most were, other than to observe that their classroom student bodies were reduced to (like his vineyards) garbage dumps of Howard Zinn-like historical revisionism, blatant racism and comic book diatribes in (Groucho) Marxism. Instead of nurturing intellectual curiosity, these epigones vomited the equivalent of what Mr. Hanson's night riders sowed on his farmland. We see the "fruit" their labor has reaped in our children and young peoples' minds: a generation of ignorant, self-indulgent, resentful, apostles thriving in imagined entitlement, indolence,self-important envy and lust-like, truth denying greed... Per omnia saecula, saecularum?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
GREED,ENVY,INDOLENCE...the Three anti-Theological virtues of Obama's/Hillary Clinton's ALINSKY-ite RULES for RADICALS disciples... reduced to their most common denominator and comprising their most characterizing mode of expression. They have become what they behold and are beholden to: material,ontological, spiritual dreck...
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
California's liberal elites are trapped in a socio-economic paradigm that is no longer valid. The proletariat are not starving, they're not working in sweatshops, and they're not powerless. In fact they're working part time or not at all, living large on public assistance - often to the point of obesity and ennui, and their benefactors rule the very realm that sustains them. But growing the proletariat cannot be the liberal elite's goal unless they intend to create a feudal society in CA, one in which the villeins and freeholders are armed and outnumber the retainers 10,000 to 1. Obviously not sustainable.

Liberals enact laws whose purposes are inimical to their assumed predicates and fail accordingly. For example, if the purpose of a tax law is to efficiently and effectively generate revenue for the state, then it must do so without distorting the ex ante functions of the relevant tax base. To illustrate, such a tax on earned income must generate tax revenue without distorting the incentives to earn income or income earning activities, assuming that such incentives and activities existed for their own sake before the income tax's imposition. Predicate affirmed. Now consider an income tax whose purpose is to minimize wealth gaps but also assumes that the incentives to earn income or income earning activities existed for some other purpose, say, exploiting the proletariat. Predicate denied, and what must result is a tax base whose activities and incentives are distorted and thus yields less tax revenues than anticipated while engendering severe knock-on effects.

Those who currently govern CA do so as if they were governing post-WWII Britain, that is, according to the same socio-economic paradigm. This is why they fail and in doing so immiserate the very people they mean to serve.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Laws only apply to stupid Gringos.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the upper Central Valley, there's no Woodsy Owl, but there are makeshift shrines to the Virgin, which the local law dare not touch.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Doctor Hanson, might I suggest, when reading outside, you keep a trusty "coach gun" at your side. It would surely cut down on needless conversation with interlopers.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey Doc,
You might want to start keeping a big old double barrel 12 gauge handy. You can load it with salt if you want. The important thing is that the people who want to dump garbage or steal metal need to start hearing stories about a crazy old white guy blasting away with a giant blunderbuss, and they'll start going somewhere else to perform their miscreant deeds.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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