By Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.
California isn’t what it used to be. Just ask historian Victor Davis Hanson. He has spent a lifetime in the Golden State and has watched with dismay as the culture has changed for the worse over the past few decades.
Hanson dubbed it “the weirdest place in the world” in his new e-book, a collection of PJ Media essays titled “The Decline and Fall of California.” And who could argue the point when he calls out absurdities like Tiburcio Vasquez Elementary School – an institution of learning named after a 19th century robber and murderer?
That just scratches the surface of his thesis, though. Hanson demonstrates the sweeping impact of liberal elitism on the state’s culture. “California is both more poorly managed than any time in its past, more divided between rich and poor, more fragmented by opportunistic ethnic identity politics, more impoverished by massive illegal immigration – and never more naturally wealthy.”
Here are some of the key takeaways from the culture section of the book:
- The “richerals” rule the roost. Hanson coined that term to describe the rich, cool liberals who can afford to preach progressivism because they don’t have to practice it. Wealth shields them from the effects of the high taxes and regulation they love to impose on others. “Being a richeral apparently means you never have to say you are sorry about the means you used to get your cash, why you mean to keep and expand it, and how you plan to pass it on to your richeral kids,” Hanson said.
- The state now resembles a medieval society. The richerals comprise an aristocracy of a few million elites who live the high life along the Pacific Coast, from San Diego to the Bay area. They keep the clergy beneath them – the public workforce – in line with salaries and benefits that are 30 percent to 40 percent higher than the private sector. Joining that class, where nepotism is rampant, is “like hitting the lottery.” The peasantry in California, meanwhile, is vast. A fourth of the population is officially poor, with the state accounting for one-sixth of the nation’s welfare recipients. “The distant others are nebulous, rarely thought-about souls,” Hanson said.
- The agrarian ideal is dead – and the rural work ethic with it. Small farms have vanished, replaced by huge operations that are owned by rich foreigners who live in huge castles secured by gates. Hanson used to know everyone within a two-mile radius of his family farm, but now doesn’t know any more than 10 percent of the landowners. The upside is more food production now that decisions aren’t based on tradition and morality. The downside, Hanson said, is that California no longer grows “self-reliant, cranky and autonomous citizens, who do not worry much about things like tanning booths, plastic surgery, Botox, male jewelry, tattoos, rap music, waxed-off body hair or social media.”