The United States of California

California1950s

There’s something charming about old photos of California. I like to see those faded Polaroids of a balmy, 72-degree beach in the early half of the 1960s. The bodybuilders are out flexing, the women are in bikinis, everyone has on a pair of Ray-Ban glasses and parked a short distance from the shore are their loudly colored vans and station wagons topped with surfboards. Back then, the whole California aesthetic was cool. Being fit was in. Kids hung out at milkshake shops. Design was going West Coast as bright colors were balanced with sleek and skillful simplicity. There were problems, sure. Maybe this was the start of America’s obsession with casual dress. Flip-flops, tank-tops, and cut-off jeans are all unbearable when worn anywhere outside of the beach. But I’ll cut California a break on this issue. After all, the Beach Boys might have had shaggy hair but they sang in sweet and spotless harmony.

It’s a shame that heaven couldn’t last forever. It’s from this nostalgic vision of California that one can understand just how far from grace the state has fallen. Surf shops have turned into grimy taco stands. The Beach Boys have been replaced by rappers out of Compton. Rebellious teenage greasers are now drugged up, MS-13 jailbirds. The cities have become a Mecca for hobos and illegal aliens looking for a safe haven. San Francisco has so many bums shitting on the street that there’s now a smartphone app that will tell you where the latest dung heaps have been spotted. Date rapists, sex traffickers, and those who’ve committed assault with a deadly weapon are considered “non-violent” criminals thanks to Proposition 57; the state gets to save a few nickels as these criminals skip merrily out of jail and back onto the streets.

And speaking of the almighty dollar, the state’s finances are also a shambles. If you tally up both state and local debt, California is currently 1.3 trillion dollars in the red. It has $78 billion in deferred highway and bridge maintenance costs. This means that once you’ve honed your skills dodging feces and knife-wielding maniacs you can take things to the next level by bounding over sinkholes and gaping crevices. If you have ever fantasized about being a Hollywood action star, I have good news for you: you’ll have to become one to survive in California.

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to its everyday, humdrum debts, California also has a $1 trillion unfunded pension liability and $150 billion liability in retiree health benefits. A little outside cash might be helpful, but the state can forget about attracting fresh investors since California has one of America’s highest corporate income tax rates. And the highest personal income tax rate, too.

It’s a state engineered for failure. Beelzebub himself could not have a pieced together a more sinister perversion.

There are many theories about how the Bear Republic found itself in this sorry state. Baby boomers, judging from their suburban alcoves, distracted momentarily from remodeling their soulless kitchens and watching Netflix, will assure you that the Democrats ruined California. The tattooed barista at Starbucks with a thousand-cock stare and a degree in gender studies will tell you that California is floundering because it isn’t progressive enough. Bernie Sanders would have turned things around, she’d say.

For me, this mystery isn’t very hard to solve. We only need to compare two snapshots in time, two highly relevant statistics, provided to us by the ever-assiduous US Census Bureau. In 1960, during California’s era of tan lines and surfboard shops, the population of the state was 92% white. In 2010, during California’s era of crumbling roads and illegal safe havens, the population was 40% white. This statistic should ring like thunder in the ears of every American under the age of 45. The Hispanics are 40%, the blacks are 6%, and the Asians are 13% — this means that the minorities can work together to squeeze their common enemy, the white Californian, to the point of suffocation. And the future brings no promise of hope. Whites accounted for 27% of all live births in 2016 while Hispanics gave birth to 47% of the new babies in the state.

This demographic truth transcends all party lines. It smashes all other paradigms. It’s true that Democrats opened the human flood gates, but it’s just as true that the Republican party laid down and let the flood roll right over them. Boomer hero, Ronald Reagan, issued America’s first and most damning amnesty. It was aimed primarily at dealing with the staggering number of Mexicans living in California around 1986; instead of giving them the boot, he signed into law their eternal pardon. The Republicans got so caught up in their own conceit, so hypnotized by their own pipe-dream principles, that they forgot all about common sense. When you import the third world, you become the third world.

I focus on the racial, rather than the political factors, for one very simple reason. We see one man as our head of state, one as attorney general, one as governor; we, the voters, imagine ourselves as individuals casting ballots for other individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peel back the hard rind of democracy and there is nothing but demographics at the core.

Put yourself in the place of a mestizo in San Joaquin County. You have black hair and brown skin like most of your neighbors. You speak Spanish with a smattering of English, one or two words you’ve picked up from watching television. You drive a jalopy with an out of date inspection sticker that is just one oil change away from the junkyard. There are three generations of your family living under your roof. You might fancy yourself as being a unique individual, but curiously enough, your individual interests just so happen to align with all the other brown-skinned, black-haired mestizos on your street who speak Spanish. It’s not something you choose consciously. But without a doubt, those neighbors also drive a run-down car and their grandmothers also live in the same home as their drug dealing grandsons. It’s only natural that their interests are more similar to your own than the interests of limousine liberals in Beverly Hills.

This explains the schizophrenic neoliberalism of modern California. The right-wing has become a non-entity due to broad demographic shifts, so now the left is looking for a new cause to rally the troops as its different agendas can’t find coherence together. The mestizos lobby for handouts as the Beverly Hills crowd pushes for more solar panels and easier abortions. The only thing propping up California’s left-wing is its love of spending other people’s money. Even though the left won California decisively, and the state will never again vote right-wing in the purest sense of the term, the demographic laws of democracy remain as true in the City of Angels as they did in ancient Athens.

In a democracy, all politics is identity politics. It just doesn’t become apparent until your demographic shrinks so small that it can never again win an election. It’s only after your voice becomes a whisper in a room full of bullhorns that you realize you’ll never again be heard. There is no civic duty, no melting pot, no greater good in a democracy: there is only the slow, suffocating numbers of the herd.

Juan from San Joaquin doesn’t care about the white working-class losing their jobs to his illegal labor, nor does he care very much about the dollars and cents he skims off the checks of the white middle-class for his WIC assistance and his emergency room visits. Juan most likely isn’t an evil man. He’s just someone following an instinct to satisfy his own self-interest, which if Juan were alone would be no problem at all, but when Juan has millions of other people like him to vote alongside him, he becomes a threat to all those people who aren’t like him, and who don’t vote the way he votes.

Americans could learn a lot from California. Its language complications, its ethnic tension, its sinkhole finances — these will all become more frequent over the coming years. Around 2040, whites will dip down to less than 50% of America’s total population, and of course, when that happens, California will no longer be a warning but a prophesy.

The Golden State in the 1960s had exemplified the American dream: a place focused on fun, freedom, and easy-living. But easy-living isn’t quite as simple as it might seem at first glance. Sometimes it demands more effort to keep out the bad than to keep in the good. After all, the better the jewels a man has the better his lock will have to be to keep out thieves. It’s too bad most Americans didn’t realize that this same principle applies to immigration. America’s future is mirrored darkly in the looking glass of present-day California: corrupt, brown, and bankrupt.

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Clean Streets, USA

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Imagine a hellish landscape. Think of Detroit. Picture the hollow, flaking buildings with graffiti scrawled over them and weeds growing through the pavement. Picture the needles, the crack pipes, the spent shell casings. Picture the thousands of smashed out windows. No, this isn’t a television ad to make you feel sorry for inner-city black children. The black community can blame itself for Detroit. The point I’m trying to make is that when a sensible man thinks of good government, he does not think of Detroit.

He might think of other places, of course. He might think of stately Corinthian pillars or the mirrors of Versailles. If he were feeling especially ironic he might think of Capitol Hill. For a more exotic twist, he might imagine the old emperors of China and their silk banners and seasonal palaces. Whatever he imagines, suffice it to say, he won’t be thinking of a place with crackheads mooching outside of a liquor store.

Good government is rooted in authority, and authority is rooted in good imagery.

This isn’t just a pet theory of mine; there’s science behind this. In a 1982 paper, two sociologists named Wilson and Kelling published what has come to be called the “broken windows” theory of criminology. If an abandoned building at the end of the block has a broken window that doesn’t get repaired, it can invite more broken windows. The shattered glass in turn invites the local graffito to spray his girlfriend’s name over the wall. She’ll have three other children with three other men after he gets thrown in prison, but he’s too young and far too dumb to know that. The gathered graffiti invites squatters. The squatters inevitably draw in the prostitutes, the crack fiends, the gang wars. As the dominoes fall, one small sign of decay invites a dozen others, not just by attracting the kind of people who are comfortable with disorder, but by driving out those who are inclined to be orderly.

Normally I don’t pay much attention to sociologists. I’d probably rather listen to sheep bleat. But unlike most theories dreamed up by nasally professors, the broken windows theory has been put into practice and worked.

In 1993, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed an acolyte of Kelling, a man named William J. Bratton, to serve as police commissioner. Together the two men knuckled down on public drunkenness, graffiti, fare dodging, illegal nightclubs, and panhandling. They went after everything New York had become famous for. As it turned out, the new policy was strikingly effective: not just petty crime, but all crime in New York City declined for more than ten years.

This has ruffled the undies of more than one soy boy commentator. At first glance, a leftist ought to love the broken windows theory because it appears to make men powerless. Men seem to be mere products of their environment; the more broken windows, the more innocent black men who could have been brain surgeons will get thrown in jail. One of the most common dogmas of the left is their pig-headed belief that men are born a blank slate, a tabula rasa, and so if a man is evil, it’s due to his circumstances. So why isn’t the left fawning over the brain child of Wilson and Kelling?

The first reason is one that I mentioned already. The theory does not stipulate that the drafty windows and dilapidated buildings lead to crime; it could just as easily be assumed that those who are criminally inclined will be attracted to such places. It’s the pollen that lures the bees, or the jewel that unmasks the thief, so to speak.

The second reason is that the theory vindicates norms that the scruffy-headed, free-bleeding left would rather not see vindicated. Graffiti, like those tattoos on the neck of your local Whole Foods cashier, is not just another form of cultural expression: it’s a sign of a disorderly mind, the kind of mind that brings about social degradation. The squeegee man on the corner isn’t just trying to make ends meet, he’s most likely a crackhead looking for a quick fix. The woman snorting coke in a nightclub bathroom probably ought to be settling down with a man, having kids, and tucking them in at that hour of the night. The theory makes it clear that communities work best with traditional values, not the kind of values pushed by mewing social justice warriors. Family, church, country clubs, fresh-cut lawns, open windows and unlocked doors — the stuff dreams are made of.

The last reason is that Rudy Giuliani was a Republican. The left hates it when the other side does well because, to the ideologue, his struggle with us has to be all-or-nothing.

Needless to say, a battalion of Sterns and Bergs, doctrinaire professors, and know-nothing journalists have started firing their howitzers at the broken windows theory. It’s racist, of course, like all things these days, because it affects black neighborhoods more than white ones. It’s elitist. It’s bigoted. It’s Hitler. One of their more humorous claims is that cracking down on petty crimes works briefly and then results in a defiant upsurge in convictions for those crimes later.

Singapore canes people for spitting excessively on the street, and to date it has not reported any spates of defiant saliva chuckers. Getting hit by a rattan cane hurts, after all. Nor has Pyeongyang had to arrest too many people for loitering. The few who do are never heard from again. That puts a real damper on the idea of standing on the corner with a squeegee. No, strict laws, strictly enforced don’t lead to sudden and mysterious spikes in crime. That’s more likely to be seen with laissez-faire law enforcement.

Anyway, what is it about the broken windows theory that’s so captivating? It’s not because I care about New York, you could stake your life on that. It’s not because I have any interest in cleaning up black neighborhoods, either. I think it fascinates me because it exemplifies a principle so fundamental to human nature that people tend to overlook it; at least, modern people, raised in the social justice milieu of the post-fascist West. The people of the past were not quite as confused on this matter. Authority, if it is to be an authority at all, must respect itself as an authority.

The West is struggling with this simple truth. A police station with flaking paint and prostitutes milling around outside is a station that sends one message to the world: we do not believe in ourselves. Parents who ask their children how they should be punished say one thing: we do not believe in ourselves. A neighborhood that never sweeps up shattered beer bottles and never mends potholes: no belief.

The left and right are split most clearly in their level of self-confidence. The right-wing is authority that recognizes its own importance and also its responsibilities. The left-wing is a nagging, impetuous doubt of authority. It’s always the same ethic, reimagined and reinterpreted for the times, but ultimately the same: the haves versus the have-nots. The aristocrat, the have, stomps his shiny boots on the peasant, the have-not. The white man takes his whip to the black man. The straight man oppresses the non-conforming genderless she-whale. Historically, this theory is all smoke and mirrors but it makes for good theater.

The left-wing must doubt all authority, even its own. If one of these have-not groups were to seize power the clockwork would spin mechanically to the next target. If a black nationalist party murdered or frightened away every last white man in South Africa, the left would immediately begin with the rich-black versus poor-black dichotomy. Or maybe dark-blacks versus light-blacks. If the blubbery she-whales took over at Yale the various forms of gender non-conforming people would turn on each other, like those with blue hair versus those with braids. It never ends. It never relents. Liberalism is the politics of disharmony.

And if the problem is always the same, the solution is the same, too. Egalitarianism, the great cudgel of the left, is always there to break up good order and harmony. Pull back the silk screen that the left uses to shield their ideas and you find nothing but knives and chains.

The liberal longs for pacifism. But he’ll never campaign to disarm your enemies, he just wants to disarm you. The liberal longs for racial justice. But he’ll bend every law in the book on behalf of his preferred color. The liberal longs for worker’s rights. But he’ll trample the employer’s property rights for a few pennies’ worth of compensation. The liberal longs for gender equality. But he’ll never admit that women are miserable without families and they certainly won’t be opening any peanut butter jars.

The liberal agenda is the cold kiss of the void. His pacifism leaves you vulnerable to invaders. His sense of justice overturns law. His economics is the economics of robbery. His gender equality is the death knell of the family. If you think this is hyperbole, if you think I’m being unreasonable or unfair to the left, just look at Detroit. Or any major American city today.

It’s the same illness, the same medicine, and the same quack doctor rushing there to treat it. What chance does America stand when this is the same disease that leveled Rome, carved up the British Empire, and murdered the Romanovs?

I can’t answer that question. But I can begin to see a solution, dimly, somewhere out there in the misty regions of history.

Maybe it’s time to set aside our apologies and guilt. Maybe it’s time to start cleaning up our streets again.

Sunday Thoughts (2018.01.14)

The worst part about the Allies winning the Second World War is that it caused our culture to mistake a military victory for an ideological victory. We have forgotten that the war was a triumph of the sword, of one combined army breaking the back of another, and that it was not a triumph of liberalism over nationalism. In fact, time has been quite kind to nationalism, while liberalism has started to look more and more like a clown with awkward shoes and devilish makeup.

Cinnamon, Porcelain, & Sacrifice

I spent the past two weeks at sea. The ship I sailed on patiently meandered all the way around the island of Britain and called at various ports in England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. It proved to be a valuable education in that vast and elegant mystery known as the sea. I felt in some childish way as if I were in the company of Melville and Conrad. I had entered a world that, as their stories so often reveal, contained many enchantments as well as an overriding indifference to the affairs of man. There were mists that seemed to hang ominously over the horizon; sea swells that could make the giant ship I was on bob like a cork in a bathtub; strange currents where the ocean felt as still and as silent as the grave; dolphins that leapt beside the bow in the moonlight.

With these wonders in mind, while staring one evening at the gray smudges of the Isle of Skye, I imagined how peculiar the sea must have seemed to our ancestors. These were men who sailed the earth with only the sun and stars to guide them; the luckier ones of later eras had compasses and sextants but nothing half as convenient as a modern satellite positioning system. The bulk of Western civilization was built on the courage of men who were willing to brave the mysteries of the sea. They brought cinnamon from India and delicate blue and white porcelain from the Ming. They introduced Europe to the luxuries of pepper, silk, rice, turquoise, tea, coffee, furs, jade, indigo, diamonds, and a thousand other things that today we enjoy in abundance.

It is a shame that so few wish to understand the sea and its stories. We should not forget the sacrifices of our sailors: the thousands of drowned men, the malnourished deckhands fed for months on hardtack, the legless, one-eyed naval officers left destitute once they retired. We should not forget these things because to do so would be to forget who we are. The story of Western dominance is a story of the sea.